Being an informed owner means being a dog’s best friend. On the other hand, being an uninformed one can often lead to a life of misery, even death, for “man’s” best friend.
Consider the alarming number of dogs being abandoned and abused, surrendered and, all too often, euthanized in this country. Unfortunately, one of the greatest contributing factors is the failure of too many well-meaning, potential dog owners to educate themselves fully BEFORE adding a dog to their household.
The educated ones would know to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the breed they’re considering, including the breed’s physical description and personality; trainability and exercise requirements; health issues, and general care and grooming.
They would know there’s no such thing as TOO much information. The more informed they are, the more informed their ultimate decision.
They would know to choose a breed that fits in with their particular lifestyle, needs and expectations. Several examples: no high-shedding dogs in a home of allergy sufferers; no hyperactive, high-energy dogs in a small apartment; no dogs who can’t get along with cats or other family pets, and no dogs who need constant companionship if no one is home during the day.
They would know that, whatever the breed, raising a dog from puppy hood is like raising a child -- a full time responsibility.
They would know that puppies must be housetrained promptly and socialized early in order for them to mature into well-behaved and friendly dogs with good bite inhibition.
They would know to always be consistent, that discipline does NOT mean punishment, and that love, in and of itself, does NOT conquer all.
They would also know that certified trainers and supervised puppy classes can be of crucial assistance to them in raising calm and balanced dogs if they can’t manage on their own.
The flip side of this equation: the uninformed and the uneducated. The ones who, ruled by their hearts and not their heads, choose poorly from the start. The ones who, sadly and all too frequently, raise dogs who are untrained, ill mannered and often dangerous.
These are the dogs who, over time, will prove too much for their ill-equipped and increasingly frustrated owners to handle. These are the dogs who will ultimately be abandoned in empty lots or left by the side of the road. These are the dogs who will be dumped in secret outside of a local pound or shelter or, if they’re lucky, surrendered in person to a local rescue organization.
These are the dogs who will be adopted – and probably returned – by unsuspecting people intent on doing the right thing by not buying a dog from a pet store or an unscrupulous breeder. These are the dogs who, more than likely, will be euthanized due to overcrowded shelters or because of their people-biting or dog-aggressive behaviors.
These are the unfortunate innocents who will pay with their lives for their owners’ unfortunate ignorance. Thereby perpetuating an all-too-familiar and vicious cycle. And the only way to break that cycle is to turn every potential pet parent into an educated pet parent.
Ignorance never was, or ever will be, an acceptable excuse.
The problem of dog overpopulation is a global one and requires a solution on a global scale. But like every journey that begins with a single step, this particular journey must begin with every dog owner in every town and every city in the country. Those conscientious owners who act responsibly by spaying and neutering their cherished family pets.
Spaying (removing the ovaries and uterus of a female dog) and neutering (removing the testicles of a male dog) are simple procedures, rarely requiring so much as an overnight stay in a veterinary clinic. Because half of all litters are unplanned, and because puppies can conceive puppies of their own, spaying and neutering them before the age of 6 months can help break this cycle.
According to SPAY USA, an unspayed female dog, her unneutered mate and their offspring (if none are spayed or neutered) result in the births of a staggering 12,288 puppies in just 5 years.
The inevitable outcome? Hundreds of thousands of dogs being euthanized through no fault of their own. Why? Because they are the tragic, but avoidable, result of over breeding and overpopulation. Why? Because there are too few shelters to house them and too few homes to either foster or adopt them. Why? Because there are still too many dog owners unwilling to spay and neuter their pets.
The positive effects of spaying and neutering far outweigh the negatives. Females spayed before their first heat are much less likely to develop mammary cancer than those left intact. Early spaying is also their best protection against conditions like pyometritis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the uterus, as well as ovarian and uterine cancers. Early neutering of males protects them against testicular cancer, and helps curb both aggression and other undesirable behaviors. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, 70 to 76 percent of reported dog bite incidents are caused by intact males.
For years, reputable rescue groups have been spaying and neutering the animals in their care before even putting them up for adoption. More recently, in an effort to address at least part of this ongoing problem, various organizations -- large and small, urban and rural, public and private -- have been springing up across the country. From the SPCA to local humane societies, spay/neuter clinics are opening and operating. Mobile spay/neuter clinics are reaching out to those unable to reach them. Many rescue groups now offer their own Spay Neuter Incentive Programs (SNIP), which provide assistance to low income households.
Imagine if there were more regional, local and mobile spay/neuter clinics. More Spay Neuter Incentive Programs. Imagine entire communities across the country, where every pet owner took personal responsibility for spaying and neutering their pets. Imagine what we, as part of the global community, could accomplish then.
Why Foster a Dog?
“Fostering a dog is not a lifetime commitment, it is a commitment to saving a life.”
This is the watchword of rescue groups everywhere.
To foster a dog is, quite simply, to save that dog’s life. A foster home provides that same dog with a safe, temporary place of refuge until he is ultimately placed in a permanent, adoptive home.
Most rescues rely solely on a network of dedicated, volunteer foster homes, and could not survive without them. And rescues NEVER have enough foster homes.
Why? Because there are more dogs in need than there are foster homes available to meet that need.
There are many benefits to fostering, many pleasant surprises and many unexpected rewards. Foster parents, past and present, describe it as one of the most memorable and gratifying experiences of their lives.
Fostering is both a way of enriching the lives of the dogs and people involved, and a constructive way for people to give back to their communities. Fostered dogs can provide hours of entertainment and love for their humans, and provide valuable life lessons for adults and children alike.
By taking a deserving dog into their homes, fosters increase that dog’s chances of being adopted. Foster families have the time and the ability to transform their foster dog, through one-on-one contact, exercise and training, into a pet any person or family would be proud to call their own.
Fostering provides a needy dog with a stable environment, coupled with love, attention and affection. While the foster family provides the food, the rescue usually provides everything else, including payment of all medical costs to ensure the dog’s ongoing health and wellbeing.
Fosters are the essential eyes and ears of rescue. By spending every day with their foster dog, fosters will learn all they can about his particular personality. They will be able to identify any behavioral issues that need to be addressed, then work on addressing them.
If fosters already have a dog – either their own or another foster -- in residence, all the better. The more animals their foster dog meets, the more socialized he will become, the more easily he will handle stress, and the more relaxed he will be around strangers. And it’s a simple matter to add another warm, furry body to their own dog’s daily walks, meal and potty schedules.
For those who have never owned a dog, fostering provides them with the unique opportunity of seeing if they themselves are suited for permanent pet parenthood.
But fostering a dog is NOT a form of trial adoption for that particular dog. There is even a term for it: foster failure. The most successful fosters are those who, despite being emotionally invested, know that they are a stepping stone towards their foster dog’s future. And that as one successfully fostered dog leaves their home, another needy and deserving dog is waiting to enter it.
Ultimately, then, fostering a dog saves not just one life, but two.
Sadder words were never spoken.
Because an errand meant to take that proverbial minute is 60 seconds too long when a dog is left unattended in a hot car.
Because, even on mild summer days, with a car parked in the shade and the windows cracked, the INSIDE temperature can rapidly reach dangerous levels.
Because a car acts like a greenhouse, trapping and magnifying the sun’s strength and heat. Both the air and upholstery temperature can rise so rapidly that a dog can’t cool down.
Because a dog’s normal body temperature is about 102° F. Raise it briefly by only two degrees, and heat exhaustion, brain damage, even death may occur.
Because, unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat. They can only cool themselves by panting and releasing heat through their paws.
Despite repeated warnings in the media, flyers distributed by animal welfare groups, and word of mouth, countless animals still die needlessly each year from heatstroke. Despite the axiom that one person can’t make a difference, in this type of situation, one person can make ALL the difference. And that person may be YOU.
If you see a dog in distress inside a car parked on the street or in a parking lot, note the make and model of the car, as well as its license plate number. Call the police, your local SPCA branch, Humane Society or animal control immediately.
Watch the dog for the more obvious signs of heatstroke: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting); an anxious or staring expression; restlessness; excessive salivation, tremors and vomiting. While waiting for help, you may – wherever possible, but being mindful of the possible legal ramifications – choose to act on your own.
If a window is opened or a door unlocked, extricate the dog cautiously and carefully -- either alone or with assistance. Then, get him into an air-conditioned car or nearby building. Otherwise, lay him down in a cool, shady place. Wet him with cool water, but never apply ice to his body. Fan him vigorously to speed the evaporation process, which, in turn, will cool the blood and reduce his temperature. Give him cool water to drink or even ice cream to lick.
Hopefully, by now, help will have arrived, and you may have saved some neglectful owner’s pet.
A gentle reminder: don’t YOU become that same neglectful owner.
Remember there’s no such thing as ”just for a minute.“