In early 2016, the first dog I ever owned on my own passed away after having nonstop seizures for several days. He was a dachshund named Pablo, and he was 14 years old. I felt bad that his life had to end so abruptly, but I did feel as though I had given him a “doggy dream life” of sorts. He had plenty of food, several cozy beds, people who loved him and a big yard to run around in, after all. What more could a dog want?
After a few months without any pets, my husband and I decided we wanted to get another dog. But, because we are aware of how many unwanted pets are discarded every year, we knew we wanted to adopt a homeless animal, perhaps even one that was deemed “unadoptable” by others.
You see, my dog Pablo was purebred and purchased from a breeder, and I had always felt guilty about that, even though he was given to me as a gift unexpectedly. I wanted to do things differently this time. I wanted to save a life.
Our Search for a New Dog
Since my husband and I work from home, we decided early on that we didn’t want a puppy. I didn’t want to deal with the puppy craziness and energy while I was working all day. Instead, we wanted an older dog that would be happy to nap while we worked.
We visited a few of our local shelters with a singular goal in mind: finding a dog that was 2-3 years old and less than 50 pounds. My husband didn’t want a big dog, he said. And even though we didn’t want a puppy, we did want a dog with many good years left.
But, all that changed when we walked into the Animal Protection League in Anderson, Ind., and locked eyes with our dog, Madge. As a 5-year-old, 85-pound pit bull, she was not exactly what we were looking for. But something about the look on her sweet face told me she was our dog.
While the rest of the dogs in the shelter were barking their heads off, she just sat there and stared at me with a look of love in her eyes. It was as if she was saying that, if we took her home, she promised to be a good girl.
It took a few days to convince my husband that an 85-pound pit bull was our ideal pet, but I eventually broke him down. So, we headed back to the shelter and brought her home. Since we had never had a rescue or a large dog before, we didn’t know what to expect.
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How Adopting Changed Our Outlook
Fortunately, it didn’t take long to realize we had made an excellent choice. Even though Madge had been dumped at the shelter by her previous owner after they had her for five years, she had excellent manners from day one. She was completely house-trained, and she instantly loved our kids and everyone she met. She didn’t beg for food, and she never tried to run away, even if we left our fence or backdoor open. She also slept the day away while we worked, which is exactly what we wanted. She’s basically a big ol’ lug, but one that’s full of love and without a mean bone in her body.
I look at this dog, one who was likely going to be put down if she stayed in the shelter, and I think it’s such a shame she was given up. But, none of that matters now that she’s with us. The problem is, she’s not the only dog that needs to be saved.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says that 6.5 million companion animals wind up in shelters every year and that 1.5 million of those animals are euthanized. While many animals who lose their lives are cats and other dog breeds, a disproportionate number are pit bulls and pit bull mixes just like my dog Madge.
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Now that I know and understand the love these animals have to give, I have become an advocate for pet adoption and responsible pet ownership. I tell everyone my dog is adopted just so they can see how playful, loving and loyal shelter pets can be, and I shout the “#adoptdontshop” mantra from the rooftops.
Animals like Madge are worth saving, but it’s up to us to find a space for them in our homes and our hearts. So, if you’re looking for a pet, before you head to a breeder to buy a dog, think of Madge and dogs like her. They may be “used,” but they have plenty of love left to give.
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