Adopt, don’t shop for pets

By Jennifer Smith | Reporter

I got my first dog at the age of five, when a neighbor dressed head-to-toe as Santa Claus toted in an adorable pure-bred chocolate lab. It didn’t take long for me and my three siblings to fall for her big brown puppy dog eyes and become major “dog people.” We owned two amazing and loyal chocolate labs while I was growing up, but I didn’t find the dog that changed my life until this past year.

I had wanted to get my own dog for about a year and a half, so I started looking at shelters last December. My family had never rescued animals before, so I had no idea what to expect. I had the mindset that if it was cheaper and I was helping an animal, then it sounded like the best route to take. I had no idea the challenges, connections and profoundly deep reward that I would experience in rescuing a pet.

Winston is my beloved pup–– he’s a black and gray speckled miniature schnauzer- terrier-mix and he’s 100 percent cuddly. He’s always there for me on my worst days, and I swear he entertains me more than half of the shows on Netflix. His favorite hobbies are getting belly scratches and chasing after squirrels, but we fought a long way to turn him into the active and healthy dog he is today.

I met Winston the same day I had finally agreed to throw in the towel on finding the dog for me. In a last-hope effort I drove 30 minutes outside of town to the only dog shelter I hadn’t already visited. I scanned the shelter once and noticed every appealing dog had already been claimed. As I was leaving, a man who worked at the shelter came after me and asked if I liked male dogs. I had gone into the pet-finding process without a preference, so I followed him back to see this spectacular male dog worth chasing down a customer for.

Every other dog in the pen had been claimed and was given a cute name by the shelter like “Fluffy” or “Fido,” expect for this poor, scraggly little dog labeled A46702. When I came over to look, his crate-mates jumped up and down licking my hands and greeted me with excitement while A46702 stayed curled up in the corner, shaking. It took several tries to lure him out of the pen, until finally the man picked the dog up and handed him to me. As the little guy laid his head on my chest and stopped shaking, I realized I had just been sold on A46702.

I didn’t know just how sick he was when I got him. As if his botched neutering wasn’t enough, I quickly discovered he had caught kennel cough, a highly contagious sickness, at the shelter. Not long after the kennel cough cleared up, he got worms. He was weak and could barely move or eat for the first couple of weeks. It was one thing after another, but I didn’t even mind because I had this sick, helpless animal depending on me for his livelihood. I knew I would stop at nothing to make sure Winston lived a healthy and happy life.

With every obstacle we went through to get Winston healthy, I saw more and more of his personality come out. This dog that could barely move or use his back two legs now loves to run and play catch. He keeps up just as well with my chocolate labs and has even grown into somewhat of a guard dog. His sweet, sassy attitude has developed immensely as we’ve formed an indescribable owner-pet bond.

Through all the vet bills and treatments, I’m still convinced that I spent less money than I would have had I bought a dog from a breeder. It’s an incredibly humbling feeling to know you nursed a living being back to health and it creates a loving, trusting connection like no other.

Every single day, new animals are brought into shelters around America and locked in cages until someone deems their lives worthy of saving. So when it comes to finding a pet, I urge you to adopt instead of shop because you might just find your very own A46702.

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