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Let’s be fair…

Ireally thought my head was goingto implode. Or explode. Or both. What is this mindset that dogs who happen to end up in a shelter or rescue are used and damaged goods so their value is less than a dog (or puppy) who is purchased from a breeder? Who taught us to think this way? Where did this idea come from? Was it the American Kennel Club? Walt Disney? Who? Or was it watching one too many Westminster Dog Shows?

Oh dear. This could be a divisive blog post and that’s not my intent. Our small and growing community of readers is made up of many kinds of dog people: fellow rescuers, friends and fellow adopters, veterinarians, trainers, excellent breeders. And, I don’t want this to change. I’m not opposed to the purchase of purebred dogs from highly reputable and responsible breeders. Though admittedly, they’re “few and far between.” This is not a rant against particular breeds. In fact, I’ll put the purchased purebred idea aside for now and speak only to what I know for sure….rescue dogs are not second class citizens and the people who work with them can and should be fairly compensated for the work they do. In fact, I’ve given myself a new job title: Dog life giver. Hmm. What do you think of that title?

Aaron "GoodNose" Foster

Aaron "GoodNose" Foster

A few days ago, I spoke with a woman who was quite interested in our journey with Aaron Foster. And, she happens to be considering a dog for her family. I told her about the job I was doing with Aaron. I told her about all the talents we’ve “awakened” in him. I mentioned the pottying outside nearly on command. The level of recall we’re building. The leash skills. The clicker training games. The grooming. The feeding. The nose work. The acclimating to living in a house. The socializing with cats, other dogs and strangers. My constant and careful observation to figure what makes him happy and excited.” Ah! The tasks are endless. I also offered that many of Aaron’s accomplishments require a bit of skill and training on my part and that all these feats must be practiced daily, sometimes simultaneously. There is science to it. There’s an art to it as well. There’s timing. And, there’s crazy indeterminate patience.

I told her about the South Carolina folks who cared for him, including George, a volunteer at the Darlington County Humane Society. He was Aaron’s first dog life giver, and his kind methods included some ham sandwich therapy. Think about that. Aaron learned a lot from George and George learned a lot from Aaron. I mentioned all the veterinary costs, including the vaccinations, neuter, health certificate, heartworm and other parasite check, the routine de-worming, the transportation costs. All of it. I told her about all of it. I even mentioned my blog and how through writing and networking some interesting community was beginning to take shape centered around this one dog’s journey. Finally, I spoke of the difficulties of letting Aaron go when it’s time for his permanent home. Show me many people who can do THAT job! The toughest one of all.

Aaron the "Collector"

Aaron the "Collector"

The woman inquired about the cost of this rescue dog. And I shared what I thought would be fair, though I still think it’s a bit on the low side. And, she laughed when I told her the fee. “That kind of money for a rescue dog? A dog who technically isn’t worth anything? A dog that was going to be put to sleep doxycycline online pharmacy canada anyway?” she said. “Okay. I’ll do you a favor and take him off your hands for two hundred bucks. But can you keep him until mid September? I’m traveling with my family on a vacation to Greece.”

And I began to seethe a bit with anger and at the same time, I wanted to cry. Which is a hard way to be. That’s when my head began to implode…. or explode. Or both.

“Take…him…off…my………….what? What did you just say??” I asked. The conversation needed to be over.

This is the mindset I’m talking about and it’s a difficult one. It’s the “I’ll do the right thing and adopt a rescue dog….but by golly I shouldn’t have to pay” mindset. It’s the “Gosh! For that amount of money, I can buy a purebred dog” mindset. In my opinion, when you adopt a rescue dog you are getting a purebred dog. Pure in spirit, pure in their willingness to live in the moment, pure in their unconditional love for you. Bred with uniqueness, enriched with quirky genetics, bred with delightful surprises in store for the unique individual who is clever enough to discover them.

"You talkin' about Me?"

"You talkin' about Me?"

It comes down to how we think about dogs and how we think about fair and equitable wages. It’s true that dogs are still considered “property” mostly because you can buy and sell them. But I don’t sell dogs and I don’t consider my resident dogs or my rescue dogs to be “property.” What I do imagine is that my job as a dog life giver should be fairly compensated. This includes my accomplishments with each dog based on my time, level of expertise and the fees I’ve incurred. It’s time well spent. The family who adopts Aaron will have an accurate picture of his strengths and his personality traits based on the care I’ve given him. And through his adoption, I will have achieved the first step toward one of my life goals: a determination to help change the mindset about rescue dogs through my work. I’m good with that.

"Get your own bed!"

"Get your own bed!"

I mentioned to this woman that she could easily acquire a dog for the $200 she’s allocated and perhaps she should. It’s perfectly okay. Chances are she’ll end up with a delightful dog, who like Aaron, will provide a lifetime of loyalty, curiosity, and unconditional love. But I’m going out on a limb here to say that what I’m doing with Aaron Foster and with each Foster after him is worth an extra coupla bucks. : )

Speaking of accomplishments and figuring out what brings a dog joy, check out these videos. There are five of them and they’re quite short. And, I’m still learning how to splice separate videos together into one for ease of use. I knew early on that Aaron was motivated by his nose. Coincidentally, this past week I met Jean MacKenzie, a local Nosework trainer who gave a demonstration at Auburn Montessori’s Dog Week Summer Camp. I was so excited to see Jean’s student dogs at work finding particular odors in boxes that were strewn about the classroom. I came right home and tried some very beginning Nosework games with Aaron, who, I suspected, would “ace” them. Ha! He did. Could this dog have a future as a “sniffer dog?” Or perhaps he’ll make an excellent companion for someone who is interested in pursuing the increasingly popular K-9 Nosework sport. Please comment away and keep it playful!