Not to state the glaringly obvious but getting a dog is a decision that requires a lot of thought. Rushing into buying a puppy can mean jumping in feet-first and not researching a breeder, which can in turn, contribute to backyard breeding, incorrect breeding practice, and inflated prices - something that happened widely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such named ‘pandemic pets’ were often returned to their breeders or surrendered to shelters once owners went back to work or decided that their dream dog wasn’t really what they’d expected.
Unfortunately in 2023, shelters are still struggling to keep up with the ongoing influx of surrendered pandemic pets as the cost of living crisis takes its toll on owners across the UK - leaving them with no choice but to give up their four-legged friends.
Though adoption has become more widely encouraged over recent years, many people still sadly dismiss rescuing as a viable option due to fears that they won’t find a dog that matches their lifestyle, the dog they choose will struggle with behavioural issues, or to get the dog they want they’ll have to jump through a series of never-ending hoops.
The reality is that rehoming centres want to help you get the dog of your dreams and work their hardest to make sure you’re matched with a suitable dog that remains your companion for life, not one you’ll return in a month or two.
Though rescue centres and rehoming programmes have high standards, these are in place for a reason and ultimately serve to help you find a dog you’ll own for the rest of their lifetime, however long that may be. So, if you’ve been thinking of welcoming a dog into your life, have you taken the time to consider adopting?
Adopting not only takes the pressure off of rescue centres and rehoming programmes but also allows you to nurture a relationship with a dog who may not have had the best start in life.
The 20th of May marks National Rescue Dog Day so this month we’re here to debunk the myths and stereotypes surrounding rescue dogs by exploring the multitude of benefits involved and by speaking directly with Seth Brunner who emigrated from the US to the UK with his rescue dog, Shoobie.
We’re all familiar with the mental health benefits pets can have on our well-being right? Rescue dogs are no exception to this. In fact, it’s widely discussed that rescuing a dog of any age contributes to increased emotional awareness and empathy levels - something we also touch upon in our post about golden oldies, The Joy of Senior Dogs. Though puppies are undeniably and irresistibly cute, they’re not the only dogs who can give us those intense happy and loving feelings.
Rescuing relieves pressure from shelters and essentially saves a life. It is an exercise of empathy that allows you to form a bond with a dog that, without someone to invest in them, may spend their final days in a shelter. By rescuing, you’re giving a dog a second chance at life.
Rescuing is also considered more cost-effective than purchasing a puppy. This is because most programmes charge one single fee which includes up-to-date vaccinations as well as spaying or neutering. Lots of rescue centres also include a bag of toys, food, and bedding to help your new friend settle into your home.
No matter the severity of their trauma or background, lots of rescue dogs are still open to giving unconditional love to their new owners. Whilst you’re giving them a second chance at being a pet, they’re giving humans a second chance of practising ownership. Granted, with some dogs the bond you envision might take a while to form but the outcome is undeniably worth it.
It’s also worth noting that not all dogs are surrendered because of behavioural issues. Those within the rescue dog community are often unified in acknowledging that surrendering a dog is a systemic issue and runs deeper than if a dog or their owner is ‘bad’. More often than not, dogs who are surrendered to shelters were once family dogs who have had to be given up through no fault of their own.
Many shelters live by the saying ‘adopt don’t shop’ and it’s a saying that continues to ring true. Whilst we recognise that not everyone is in a position to adopt a rescue dog, if you can you can rest assured that there are a multitude of benefits to both you and the dog you choose as you’ll find out below.
After being abused and abandoned over in the United States, Shoobie was taken in and rescued by Seth, an avid animal lover and rescuer. 8 years later Seth and Shoobie now live happily in London.
Looking back on the day they met, Seth shares his story with Waggel - including the challenges the pair faced and how perseverance got them to where they are today (though we’re talking metaphorically, you might actually find them in Shoobie’s new favourite place, the pub).
Seth: Shoobie’s adoptaversary coincides with one of my favourite holidays; July 4th. I was at the vet with my cat on July 3rd 2015 when someone brought him in - a lady had seen him being thrown out of a car at a traffic light and abandoned on the side of the road. At this point, he was about 5-6 months old, emaciated, had a big scrape on his face and a broken tail. (His tail actually never set properly after that so there’s still a little kink at the end that makes it curl up.)
Despite coming from an abusive home, he clearly loved people and started running around the waiting room saying hello to everyone. I offered to foster him until we could find him a home as my partner at the time and I already had another rescue dog and 2 adopted cats.
Shoobie then spent the next day with us running around on the beach, swimming, chasing seagulls, eating hotdogs, and napping in the shade under my beach chair. His name comes from a now-outdated slang term for tourists who wear shoes to the beach (he has white paws).
After that, I don't think I ever actually made any effort to find someone else to adopt him. We've been together 8 years this July.
S: Yes, I'd had two other rescue dogs before Shoobie - I'll always adopt rather than shop. Adoption combats puppy mills and other inhumane breeding practices.
Adopted dogs are usually mixed breeds, otherwise known as mutts. In my opinion, I think mutts have more unique personalities and appearances! They’re also typically less likely to suffer from genetic disorders and health conditions meaning they often live very long and fulfilling lives.
S: It was incredibly nerve-wracking. My now-wife and I moved from the US to the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning there were very limited options for flying Shoobie over. Though with every life change, Shoobie has been a constant.
He moved from Virginia to California with me, then spent 6 months travelling around the US with us in a van, so there was no way we weren't bringing him with us to the UK! Although extensive, the paperwork process is usually pretty straightforward. However, because this was mid-pandemic, it quickly turned into major stress. Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong and resulted in us begging a USDA-registered vet to sign government paperwork because the previous vet who gave Shoobie his rabies vaccine booster didn’t officially record it.
When flying a pet overseas from the US, you have to have them examined by a USDA-registered vet no more than 48 hours before the flight. Within those 48 hours, a USDA agent has to sign, stamp, emboss a form and return it to your vet.
Because our guaranteed overnight delivery of this important paperwork didn’t turn, up we had to drive around Northern Virginia for 6 hours to meet face-to-face with the government official. This meant we almost missed Shoobie’s flight.
Shoobie had to be put into his kennel 4 hours before his 8-hour flight and checked into a cargo warehouse next to the airport. In these warehouses, they measure your dog and the kennel to make sure it's the appropriate size and ask you to provide food that the porter on the plane will feed them. They zip-tied the crate closed meaning Shoobie wouldn’t be able to be let out until he reached animal customs at Heathrow.
Shoobie was so sad and scared he didn't bark or whine when they wheeled his kennel away. It was the first time I ever felt sick to my stomach with worry. Our last glimpse was his kennel on the conveyor belt before it went through a giant X-ray machine. It was terrifying as we'd heard so many horror stories of flying pets abroad.
Upon arrival in London, Shoobie had to wait 8 hours in customs before being released. The staff at Heathrow Airport were amazing though, he had his own run and they kept us updated on how he was doing throughout the day. Because of the rules they had at the time, we had to schedule our flights separately.
We didn't fly to London until a couple of weeks later. Instead, my wife's sister picked him up from the airport which was a whole other ordeal (we were on FaceTime) and it was the only time I'd ever seen him shy or afraid of people. It took quite a while, but she eventually coaxed him out of his crate and into the car. Fortunately, once he walked through the door of his new home he was his usual affectionate and friendly self.
S: He's loving it, especially because people are more relaxed about dogs being off-lead in the parks - and the fact he's always invited to the pub.
S: Incredibly affectionate (he's the cuddliest dog I've ever met), intelligent and emotional. He brings people happiness wherever he goes.
S: He brings us so much joy and love every day - he truly lights up our home. I bring him pretty much everywhere with me, but when we have to leave him behind his presence is truly missed - it feels like I've lost my shadow!
S: Adopt don't shop! I think some breeds and ‘designer dogs’ are fads that attract owners who might not be fully ready for the commitment, responsibility, and sacrifice that a pet requires. This, in turn, attracts disreputable breeders who are looking to cash in on a fad rather than produce healthy animals.
Though it’s a long-term commitment which requires a lot of patience and work, it's unbelievably rewarding. Shelters are full of dogs that need homes and ultimately, I think the biggest reason to adopt is because you're saving a life.
National Rescue Dog Day takes place on the 20th of May every year and allows us to bring focus to dogs in need of a second chance and a forever home. At Waggel, it also gives us the opportunity to celebrate our own rescue dogs and the journey they’ve been on before finding safety and love in our homes.
If you’re interested in adopting a rescue dog in the UK, are looking to foster or simply want to donate to help a dog in need, we recommend taking a look at the following resources:
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