Let me start this post by saying that I love dogs and I love humans, and there is no “but” to that statement. So if you have a dog from a breeder, and you are in the dog-loving club, don’t stop reading! This is simply my story and my “why.” I hope you love it <3
Cooper Montana Snyder changed our lives. And if this helps you understand, as a family we still can’t talk about Cooper passing away because my Dad gets way too teary-eyed.
I had never been to a shelter, but in high school, I went to visit a friend who was volunteering at the local humane society. I remember that day so vividly, as I walked through the room that echoed with loud barking, and was filled with dogs jumping or looking utterly terrified. I walked by a kennel and could not take another step. There he was. A massive, 90+ pound golden retriever who was sitting like the best boy there ever was, just wagging his tail and looking at me with his
big brown eyes. I. was. in. love. I immediately started plotting how I would convince my parents to get this dog, but luckily, I barely had to do any convincing. See, my dad grew up on a farm, and he hardly considered our family miniature schnauzer a “real dog.” I talked him into coming down to the shelter to meet this dog of his dreams. Hours later, we got [Cooper] in the car and had him home for a two hour “trial.” My mom sat out on our front porch, petting this dog who licked her and put his massive paw on her lap, thanking her for all the pets. She looked at me and said “we can’t take him back to the shelter.” The papers were signed and he was ours forever.
We came to find out that Cooper was found and brought in as a stray. He had two failed adoptions before us, but neither of which were his fault. The first lady brought him back because he was able to jump her 4’ fence, and she couldn’t afford a new fence. The second lady’s other dog was not tolerant of a new, large dog in her home. But both stories had something in common: they both brought him back to the shelter in tears because they loved him so much. Little did I know at the time, but because Cooper was a “senior” (he was around five years old) and had been brought back twice, he was on the to-be-euthanized list. His days were numbered when I found him. I am literally crying as I write this part of the story. This beautiful, perfect dog, was going to be put to sleep because he had no family to call his own.
Less than two years after we got Cooper, I came back to Nebraska for the summer after my freshman year of college. It was the hardest summer of my life. My 20 year old cousin, Linnea, was murdered in her home in Colorado. I remember spending my days lifeguarding, and then I would go home and just sit on my back porch for hours – usually until the sun went down. And Cooper was always sitting right there next to me. When I cried, he would lay on my lap or lick the tears from my face until I stopped. He never left my side. But I ended up not being the only one who needed him. The following winter, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she laid on the couch with her legs elevated from the aching side effects of her chemotherapy, Cooper never left her side, either. He was the epitome of “man’s best friend” until the end. We only had five short years with Cooper, but I cannot imagine what life would have been like without him in those years.
I knew that once I started working, I had to get a dog right away. My heart and home felt lonely not having a dog of my own, and my parents no longer having any dogs when I went to their home. There is an amazing website called “petfinder.com” that you can search all of the local shelter dogs up for adoption. You can even set search criteria for the age of the dog, gender, or breed mix!
Before I had even gotten my first paycheck, I visited a large black lab/shepard mix that was at a shelter just blocks from me. I loved him, but used my better judgment to wait until I actually had the money to pay the adoption fee. By the time I had my first paycheck, that boy had found his forever home. The second dog that I loved was also a lab/shepard mix, and I was convinced I was meant to
get that little guy. But unfortunately, it turned out to be a “foster fail.” His foster mom, sadly, didn’t show up for TWO scheduled meet-ups, and ultimately wanted to keep him. I felt so disheartened. I remember pulling up the website one last time, and telling myself, “okay, if the next one I inquire about doesn’t work out, I need to take a break for awhile.” And that’s when I saw Ford’s picture. He had a small little puppy body with the pinkest nose and the biggest ears I had ever seen. He was awkward-looking and perfect in every way. And two weeks later, Ford was mine forever! He’s laying next to me as I write this blog post, worn out from the only thing that matters in his life, playing fetch <3.
I am not a business person. I took one economics class in college as a GenEd course, and I remember the bare bones of a “supply and demand” economy. So why in the world am I suddenly talking about economics? Here’s why. I will be completely honest, sometimes I struggle with wondering why there are hundreds of thousands of dogs all over the United States who are loving, adorable, fun, and sweet, and they don’t have a home. Sadly, so many of them end up getting put to sleep because of this. And yet, people continue to breed dogs. But the economics of it makes sense. The demand is there for specifically-bred dogs, so the supply has to be, too.
I am not very good about thinking with logic first. Which is likely the reason I had no interest in taking business classes in school. Almost all of my thinking starts with emotion. And these are the reasons why I choose to adopt, and my husband and I choose to foster: I go to the local shelters, and I see these dogs laying on concrete floors, behind a fence, scared, barking, or both. But when I stoop down to eye-level, I see them start to wag their tail. They look at me with hope in their eyes, and momentarily don’t seem so scared anymore. But then, tears come to my eyes. I wish I could take them ALL home, but I know I can’t. And that is exactly why we foster!
After seeing people on instagram who fostered special needs dogs, and a friend/colleague of mine who has been fostering for years, I knew it would be perfect for Jeff and me. Fostering allows us to help more dogs over time, without the financial burden of actually rescuing more dogs ourselves. We give them a safe, comfortable, loving home (in our case, while they’re being monitored medically, or puppies who aren’t old enough to be adopted yet), and we help open up space at the shelter to be able to take more dogs in. We get to smother them with love for a short time, and then when they are ready, we take them back to the shelter to be put up for adoption. So far, all of our former fosters have been adopted within TWO WEEKS!
I am almost certain this is my longest post yet, but I could talk about dogs all of the time, TBH. Here are a few final things I want to leave you with, friends. If you have the same love for dogs as me (or even cats, for that matter!), there are SO many ways you can help!
- The first one I can’t take credit for: I once heard a woman make a really raw, but admirable request of her friend. Her friend wanted a purebred dog, and it was going to cost $1,300+. Without giving her a hard time (being a shelter-dog advocate herself), she simply suggested to the friend to consider donating $100 to the local shelter to cover the adoption fee of another dog, since she was already going to be spending so much money. And the lady did! I thought that was a beautiful way of trying to meet a friend in the middle, when they didn’t necessarily agree in that area.
- Tons of shelters now have Amazon Wishlists – check out if they are in need of food, treats, toys, etc. and send a special delivery their way!
- Volunteer – Take the dogs on walks, get them out of their kennels, help socialize them, read to them (yes, that is a thing and it’s amazing!), etc.
- Foster – it truly saves lives! Give these dogs a home to feel safe and comfortable in, help them socialize and grow into their best selves as they get ready to be adopted.
- Adopt – Save a dog’s life by giving them a loving, forever home.
- Talk about it – Tell people about things like petfinder.com, or local shelters they can go to if they are looking to add a pup to their family. Maybe someone doesn’t know that they can “search” for ages and breeds they want, but still get a rescue dog.
Thank you all for reading this post. I am so passionate about this, but as I started, I will finish: I am never here to judge anyone. I love dogs and humans, and I love them all the same, no matter how they found one another. But I do hope that even in the smallest way, that this post may have given you things to think about. And if one more dog gets adopted, or if someone decides to start fostering or volunteering that in some way that is linked to this post, it will have been worth it.
Much love to you friends,
XoXo Lindsey Sholtis