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IT'S A DOGGY DOG WORLD

In Defense of Shelter Dogs

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I KNOW WHAT you're thinking. You've finally reached a point in your life where you are at least passably financially stable, your housing situation permits it, and the desire has struck: You want a dog! Okay, great! So you're gonna head on down to the pet store for a brand new, shiny baby puppy, right? No. Or, at least, I would strongly prefer that you didn't, as would the hundreds and hundreds of displaced domestic animals who would like nothing more than to have a home, please.

Oregon is teeming with noble institutions big and small, public and private, whose only mission is to re-home animals who are, shall we say, between situations—often through no fault of their own. (And most of them are no-kill; even Multnomah County Animal Services, AKA "the pound," is working hard—and successfully—to minimize instances of euthanasia.) Some of them are even animals who have been rescued from breeding operations whose "products" sometimes wind up at the local pet shop. Yet despite efforts to educate the pet-seeking public, unfair stereotypes about rescued dogs continue to persist. Here's why they're bogus:

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Rescued dogs are more likely to be emotionally damaged in some way, making them more work and a potential liability.

"We get pets for all kinds of reasons," says Sharon Harmon, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society (OHS). "A new baby might have asthma, or grandma is coming to live with the family. A lot of times it's because people have lost their jobs and can't afford to take care of it anymore."

Most rescued animals, in fact, aren't coming from abusive situations at all, and Harmon says many of the surrendered animals they take in come with detailed dossiers from former owners who want nothing more than for their friend to find a good match. Furthermore, institutions like OHS expend a lot of energy working with animals to overcome behavior issues, and the truth is that even animals who do come from bad situations tend to have a heartbreakingly unlimited well of forgiveness.

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It's very difficult to find specific breeds when you're dealing with rescues, or any kind of purebreds at all.

"That's just not true," says Amy Sacks of the Pixie Project. "A third of my rescue right now is purebred. What I always tell people is that it's also about patience. If you must have a Lab puppy tomorrow, you might have fewer options. But if you must have a Lab puppy, and can wait for it, you will find it."

Harmon, representing one of the area's largest such operations, can cite endless examples that blow this theory out of the water. "About 20 percent of our dogs are purebreds at any given time," she says. "And designer dogs. We just had two Burmese Mountain dogs come through. We had 98 purebred Jack Russells come in from a puppy mill." The list goes on.

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But I want a puppy!

Besides being stupid cute, puppies have their advantages. Like if you have other animals (um, cats), they may be less inclined to murder a helpless puppy in its sleep (no promises) than a full-grown territorial threat. They might even grudgingly help raise it as one of their own! Needless to say, puppies tend to get snatched up pretty quickly, but they're certainly not scarce. And furthermore:

"I would not want to go through puppyhood again," says Harmon. "You know what you're getting with an adult dog—not so much with a puppy."

Tasha Giacomazzi of Family Dogs New Life concurs. "There are so many advantages to adopting an adult dog. You already know the size and the disposition of your pet, something not known of a puppy. And often times adult dogs have had a little training, housebreaking, or other 'good manners'—something that you won't find in a puppy."

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Ready to find your new buddy? See the animals (cats and other creatures too!) available for adoption at multcopets.org, oregonhumane.org, familydogsnewlife.org, pixieproject.org, or petfinder.com.

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