Have you heard the story of The Boy and the Starfish? A young boy is walking along a beach filled with thousands of beached starfish, throwing each one back into the ocean and saving its life as he approached it. When an older man pointed out that there were so many starfish that the young boy couldn’t possibly make a difference, to which the boy responded by picking up another starfish, throwing it into the ocean and turning to his companion to say “I made a huge difference to that one!” It’s a beautiful sentiment echoing the difference one kind action can make in someone’s life, and breaking down the barriers created by the belief that if you can’t help everyone you shouldn’t help anyone.
The story is one used time, and time again to motivate the rescue of shelter dogs. It is a lovely story, and a fantastic way to start, but the decision to bring home a new family member rests on much more than a motivational story and a teary eye. There are ethical, emotional and practical elements that need to be considered when deciding upon your new best friend. I believe that, for most people, rescue animals can satisfy the trifecta of those factors.
Why we love rescue dogs: Ethical
Ethical reasoning is a common motivation for deciding to rescue a dog and the reason for the prevalence of motivational tales, such as The Boy and the Starfish, on rescue forums. The ethical reasoning for rescuing are clear and simple:
• rescuing doesn’t support puppy farms
• rescuing will help ease the strain on crowded shelters
• rescuing will help save the life of a shelter animal
Why we love rescue dogs: Emotional
There is now medical evidence that doing a good deed, has positive psychological benefits. Before even touching on the emotional health gained from the pet itself, the knowledge of the ethical decision to adopt over purchasing from a pet store or breeder can improve your emotional wellbeing. More importantly is the unique bond with the pet itself. An abandoned dog is usually very eager to become part of a pack and will bond with its adoptive family almost immediately. Pair this with the temperament testing employed by rescue organisations to assist you to find your perfect match and the emotional benefits of rescue become all the more clear.
Why we love rescue dogs: Practical
There are far too many practical benefits of adoption to comprehensively list in an article such as this one, but they may be the most considerations when deciding on a new pet. Firstly, the pet you rescue will be healthy because shelter animals have generally been examined by a vet, vaccinated and de-sexed. Then there’s the consideration of training, most rescue pets have already received basic training, meaning less puddles on your floor and more time loving your new friend. Adoption is also a very cost effective choice as it generally includes vet checks, vaccination, worming and flea treatments, and sometimes even de-sexing. Many shelters also offer follow up support and advice which can be invaluable for first time dog owners.
According to Spay Aware, 41 dogs a day enter the Irish pound system and 21% will never leave. And figures recently released by local government show us that 3,141 dogs (including Greyhounds) were euthanised in 2014. Deciding to bring a new family member into your life is an important decision and a huge commitment. Many factors such as temperament, breed and your own circumstances should be taken into consideration. Whether you decide upon a Great Dane or a Chihuahua, consider adoption. The impact you make may not change the world, but it will change your dog’s world.