January 15, 2023

Let’s Lower our Idealistic Standards: Why we Can all Adopt a Homeless Dog Today.

By now, we’ve all heard how overwhelmed animal shelters have become with dogs routinely dumped by people returning to work, economic pressures, or other reasons unknown.

Within the past year, shelters are overflowing, animal welfare professionals are stressed and beleaguered, and thousands of dogs in states with less resources, utilitarian value systems, lower education, or inadequate funding are under threat. Daily, dog lovers learn through the assaulting flow of interminable need of another victim in harm’s way.

It begs the question:

When is a home good enough for any one dog? If you’re a dog lover without a canine in your living room, is there space to offer it? (And the corollary: Isn’t a good enough home better than death-by-shelter?)

If you’re like me, you run into dogless dog lovers all the time. They’re quick to stop in their tracks at the coffee shop or McGuckin’s Hardware, kneeling down to ask “Can I pet your dog? What’s her name?”

I’m a self-proclaimed extrovert. For better or worse, my husband is left to stand by patiently listening while I engage one more dogless, dog-loving spirit into considering taking one in.

I’ll get a dog again someday when I have a yard. I grew up with a dog, and I loved her.

I work full-time. I’m not home enough.

Dogs are so, well, expensive. I need to earn six figures a year before I can consider…

Sighing and smiling, I always offer the news most unwelcome: Shelters are overflowing with dogs in need, and thousands are at risk for every dog lover’s worst-case scenario.

We part, I wish them well, then move on to buy Bully Bites for our three Southern rescues. Our wheelchair dog prances happily behind, and I leave the conversation with an uncertain thought:

Will they consider adopting a dog, even if their situation isn’t ideal? What does it take to motivate a dogless dog lover to adopt a dog?

Absent outright restrictions from which we can always extricate ourselves in time, every dogless dog lover can do one thing to move a step closer to helping dogs in a state of flux:

Lower our standards for having one.

It’s a vestige of the Madmen era to have the ubiquitous Golden Retriever with the flowing fur cantering around in a suburban backyard or lying by the fireplace. In reality, how many of us do?

Self-confession: I live on 10 acres in an old mining townsite that I pioneered with my former 30 years ago. I did things with plastic bags and coffee cans I’d rather not speak of, as I had an outhouse and the winters here are, well, frigid. It was one of the last pieces of affordable land, and it took 10 years to have running water and real electricity.

Before that, I lived in Chicago apartments, walked my shelter mutts Folsom and George around the block after working a full-time job at Baker & McKenzie. Folsom routinely chewed through all my high-heeled shoes, and I availed myself of new ones at Marshall Field’s.

That was before I learned of rawhides and the need of a one-year-old Labrador mutt to chew on them.

The point is that there was no such thing as doggie daycare, much less dog parks at the time. And yet, Folsom and George were all quite content.

We don’t all need a big backyard, copious amounts of time to rival a Bohemian lifestyle, or an abundant trust fund to have a dog. We can fit them into our existing lifestyle and they’ll adjust.

I can almost guarantee it.

But the conversation can deepen, given time and grace:

I can’t afford a dog. Food, vet care, it’s all so, well, pricey…

Garbage. Ever watched Randy Quaid on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when he piles bags of Ol’ Roy into Chevy Chase’s shopping cart at WalMart for $10.99 per bag?

Okay, I’m kidding. I’m not promoting such chicken-beaked, garbage fillers for your dog. But do we all need an $89 bag of Fromm kibble, or a $59 bag of Marty’s Meals? There’s a middle ground: Pedigree can be reasonable, and their foundation funds grants to save dogs’ lives. (No endorsements or kickbacks are paid here!)

The point is dogs just need a reasonable quality of healthy dog food. We’re not all living on a six-figure income in the Tesla-populated City of Boulder.

But you say “I don’t have time.”

Okay. Now doggie daycares can enter into the conversation. They’re as ubiquitous as Starbucks in Seattle. Once or twice a week even can socialize and tire out your pup so that you can work on your brief/app/term paper, and so on. Or, maybe you have a friend with a dog and the two of you can switch off daycare stayovers or overnights.

The list of creative, resourceful ways goes on. Whether you’re a 22-year-old law student with a full schedule (dogs are excellent therapy for stress relief) or a 50-hour weekly Google geek, there are always ways in which you can have a dog in our life. Adopting a homeless dog shows your friends that you’re a compassionate, enlightened, and educated citizen devoted to making a difference in a society in which dogs are at risk for surviving the precious lives to which they were born.

Another bennie: They’re chic magnets. And I don’t mean the purebred puppy either!

So, how about it? Can we drop our idealized, outdated Madmen-era standard of having a dog and adopt a homeless dog in need today?


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