The problem of puppy mills, over-population and not enough homes for dogs and cats is a worldwide issue, despite the best efforts of animal rescue organizations.
With Christmas approaching, some children, and even some adults, are asking Santa for a new puppy or kitten. Many parents, friends or relatives are considering purchasing a puppy or kitten as a gift, not realizing how many wonderful animals can be found at local animal shelters and rescues. Despite increased publicity surrounding puppy mills, many also do not realize the horribly inhumane conditions animals bred for pet stores endure. Organizations like Don't Shop...ADOPT encourage people to adopt unwanted pets instead of buying dogs or cats.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, four million cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters each year. That is an average of one animal every eight seconds.
Many animal shelters and rescues have a variety of breeds and ages available. Whether you are looking for a puppy, adult or even a senior animal, pure breed or a "canine cocktail", you can typically find the animal perfect for you and your family without much effort.
The majority of the pets I have had since childhood have been rescue animals. The animals either "adopted us", or I went to a rescue to find a new four-legged family member. My personal experience has shown that rescue animals are more loving, loyal and appreciative than the two or three animals that were purchased from a breeder.
I have also volunteered as a foster "parent" for dogs from a local rescue. Each one of them had a sweet, loving personality and were a joy to have in my home, even if it was temporarily.
My first foster dog was named Curley. He was a wire-haired terrier, a little over a year old. He loved to play fetch, go for walks and curl up in my lap at the end of the day. He has since been adopted and living a wonderful life.
Curley loved to sit in the window and keep an eye out on the neighbors.
My next foster experience brought two wonderful senior dogs into my home. Nina, an 11-year-old beagle, loved being close to me or anyone who would allow her to curl up next to them. Quiet as could be and very well behaved, she was a joy to be around for the 3 months I fostered her.
Nina, an 11-year-old Beagle, and Nubbi, a 13-year-old Rat Terrier and Jack Russel terrier mix
I began fostering Nubbi the same day I took Nina into my home. Nubbi is a charming little man, full of love and comedy. He enjoys "dancing", turning in circles and hopping from one side to the other to show he is happy and excited. Like Curley, he loves to sit in the window and make sure everything in the neighborhood is safe and secure. He also loves to get his belly rubbed and curl up in my lap and nap while I watch TV. He is also the most well behaved dog I have every had, despite being a terrier. He will come when I call him, sit if I tell him to and even give kisses on demand. He taught himself how to tell me what he wanted. I could not distinguish one "terrier stare" from another, so Nubbi learned to scratch at the front door to tell me he needed to go outside, bring me his food bowl if he was hungry or lip his lips if he was out of water. I had a German Shepherd dog that was very smart, but Nubbi is hands down the the most intelligent and creative dog I have ever been around.
After fostering Nubbi for 6 months, I knew there was no way I could give him up. I officially became a "foster failure" in December of 2010, adopting Nubbi as a permanent member of my family. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Nubbi has a "girlfriend" named Baby Girl, a rescue dog owned by a good friend. They enjoy playing together, going on walks together, hunting moles together and curling up together.
Rescue animals can be a wonderful gift, not only for the holidays, but any time you are ready to invite a four-legged member into the family. They can bring a lot of love, joy and happiness into your life, while you bring the love and security they need into theirs. You can also rest peacefully in the knowledge that you have saved the life of another living creature.