Back when I worked at a previous shelter, there was a dog I met, we’ll call him C. C was a big guy, a shepsky larger than most. He lived at this shelter I used to work at, he had been there for about a month before I started there, and he was there for about eight months with me. C did not get a lot of attention when I first met him. He was a quiet dog, kept to himself mostly, took treats a bit hard, was known to occasionally growl when he was stared at in his kennel for too long. He was a big boy, strong on the leash, liked to run, and wasn’t really interested in training. C was often overlooked by other humans, neglect born from understaffed, overworked, and underpaid employees (a rant for another article). To many onlookers, he often wasn’t interesting enough to give attention to.
C was originally found roaming city streets with another dog. That other dog never made it out of the shelter. A lot of dogs don’t make it out of shelters. Especially big dogs, big quiet dogs, and big quiet dogs that keep to themselves, that don’t seek attention. Dogs like C. Those dogs aren’t what people want to see at a shelter. Many people have an ideal dog in mind when they go to the shelter, and many dogs fail to meet that ideal. Those dogs are the ones that need help the most. Those dogs need a home as much as any other dog.
Give shelter dogs a chance. Oftentimes, visitors to shelters come looking for the cute dogs, the small dogs, the puppies. The friendly, unafraid, immediately affectionate dogs. And absolutely, those dogs deserve to get out of the shelter just as much as any other dog. But those dogs also don’t typically have to live at shelters nearly as long as other dogs. The big dogs, the old dogs, the disabled, the stressed, the shy, those dogs can sit there for years before they’re free. And sit there they often do. I enjoy working at shelters, I’m proud to be able to help in the ways I can. But shelters suck, they really do. And dogs sitting in kennels for 24 hours a day for weeks on end is suffering.
I’ve been to inpatient facilities. I know what it’s like to be confined to a box of a room, perhaps a hallway or an open area with a tv. Surrounded by constant stress, cries, and yelling. To only be allowed out a few times a day for meals, or perhaps recreational activities. And yet, even that is more comfort than these shelter dogs get. For a lot of these dogs, they’re lucky to even get out every two to three days, sometimes less.
It can be easy to judge that dog throwing themself against the kennel bars, the dog who jumps all over you, who bites your arm a bit too hard, pulls you around the block and back, or the dog who sits in the back of their kennel, avoiding all eye contact, who screams or bears their teeth when you try and connect with them. Those dogs all have a story, though. All of them. And for the most part? They’re all terrified. Terrified, stressed, bored, and frustrated. Just waiting to be free, to be comfortable, to be safe, to be happy. They all need someone to show them love and attention. They all need patience, and for someone to see them for who they are. Someone to understand that regardless of their actions at the shelter, they deserve love unconditionally.
There’s a lot of issues shelters face, a lot of issues shelters create or participate in. But that doesn’t mean the animals in those shelters should suffer. Shelter animals, and really all animals, need as much help as they can get. From employees, to volunteers, to donators, everyone is valuable when it comes to improving the lives of shelter animals. If you have the means, you should offer your time, educate yourself on dog behavior and how shelters affect dogs, then offer that education to others. The more we do for animals, the less animals will have to end up in shelters. Offering any amount of your time or energy you can to helping animals is worth so much. And though it doesn't need to be restated here, consider seeking out your next animal companion from a shelter, not from a breeder. Do what you can, even if you don't support the shelter system at all. For shelter dogs, anything is anything, and any effort makes a world of difference to the dogs and other animals at shelters, and it's an effort they deserve.
And C, our friend from before? We live together now. He’s an amazing partner, companion, lover, mate. He’s a completely different dog than he was at the shelter, full of life, full of love, full of happiness. He’s given me a bond I couldn’t ever have imagined possible. And I hope I’m able to do the same. I’m proud, happy, grateful to be with him. And there’s endless amounts of dogs like C just waiting. They're waiting for their time to be happy, to be loved. Give shelter dogs a chance.
Article written by Demon Dog (November 2023)
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