Thursday, January 16, 2014

On My Soapbox: Doggies

Hey y'all.  This topic has been on the forefront my mind for about two weeks now and I've been trying to think of a way to talk about it without getting all fired up.  So this is my attempt at being level-minded about something I feel super strongly about.

Many of you may know that I work at a fancy private school.  Most of the families that are part of the school are very well-off and in a socioeconomic realm that I will never relate to, much less be a part of.  Since coming back from winter break, there have been several instances of these families bringing in their new pure-bred 10 week old puppies to show off at school.

Now, I love puppies and dogs.  How could you not?  They're puppies.  But every time I see these families and kids drooling over their new family members and parading them around campus, it makes me kind of sick to my stomach.

Why?  My first instinct is because they are showing off something that is more of a trophy than anything else.  That's just gross no matter what it is, puppy or not.  And any time someone starts a sentence with "well, the breeder told us to do this and this and this..."  Makes me annoyed more than anything.  I don't know...  The families are rich enough to have probably gone to a reputable breeder.  Those puppies are probably happy, healthy puppies not from a puppy mill.  There's must be something else bothering me.

(Let me just say a few words about puppy mills since that's not what I really want to discuss.  Puppy mills are hellholes.  They are like CAFOs for dogs.  They are mistreated, over-bred, and neglected.  Oftentimes the dogs from puppy mills are sick, and will develop issues later on in their lives.  Don't buy a dog from a pet store.  It is likely a puppy mill dog.  Don't support puppy mills.  If you want to know more, just google it and you'll probably puke.)

So what's wrong with buying a dog from a reputable breeder that takes care of their animals and has the animals' best interests at heart?  Nothing, really.  It's the most ethical way to acquire something very specific.  But there is something about the fact that there are already SO MANY dogs (and cats) out there in this world with no home, and being euthanized by the dozens a day in shelters across the country, that makes my heart hurt beyond words.

Let's think about the true reasons most people want a dog.  (Other than the trophy factor. That can't be helped, unfortunately.)  They probably want a new fuzzy member of the family that will bring them joy, entertainment, companionship, and to be a good friend.  Are fancy breed puppies from breeders the only dogs that will bring all of these things?  Absolutely not.  Dogs are dogs.  Sure, with a puppy or a specific breed you can start with a clean slate, and you get some specialized traits that some people prefer over others.  But shelter dogs have those traits too.  There are all kinds of dogs stuck at shelters.  There are pure breeds and mixed breeds, young and old.  True, some have been neglected and/or abused and have some serious behavioral issues that are unsafe for children and are a lot of work to rehabilitate.  I am by no means saying that everyone should go out and adopt a messed up dog and fix it.  Though it would be awesome if that happened, I know the reality of it and many people don't have the time, energy, or skill to do it well.

Let's talk a bit about the differences between mixed vs. pure breeds, shall we?

Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  With pure breeds, you're often getting a dog that has had their genes specifically chosen over many generations to have certain traits and characteristics.  You pretty much know what you're getting into.  It's a pretty good guarantee that a golden retriever is going to be an amazingly loving, social family dog.  It's also a pretty good guarantee that with a pug you're going to get an alien-looking thing with a heart of gold that snorts a lot.  For these reasons, people go for pure breeds.  (Also, if you need a dog for a certain job like hunting, a pure breed is probably a better option.)

With pure breeds though, you often get many more health issues because of the specialized breeding.  Goldens often have skin and allergy issues and don't live very long.  Pugs often have issues with their eyes and skin as well, among other things.  My years of working in the veterinary industry has opened by eyes to the various health issues that come from pure breeding.  On top if that, over the last hundred years, breeds have gotten more and more manipulated by humans that some breeds can't even reproduce on their own.  Take the Old English Bulldog for example.  They have been so over-bred that the shape of their bodies doesn't allow them to be able to mate.  The bitches can't even give birth because the babies' heads are so big and their hips are too narrow for them to pass through the birth canal.  So all of the OEB's that you see out in the world are the result of artificial insemination and c-section birth.  If all humans just died off today, which breeds would disappear too?  Dudes.

Now let's talk about those mixed mutts.  Do you always know what you're getting?  Nope.  Sometimes the breeds that are mixed are known, sometimes not.  I guess this is where the uncertainty comes in and why some people aren't as open to them as a pet.  But, if you know that the dog is mixed with beagle, then you can expect a little bit of asshole behavior and a tendency to run away.  If you don't, then you will still find out sooner or later.  I am of the mind that when you mix breeds together, you generally get all the good traits of each breed without the bad ones.  I've met many lab/border collie mixes that have the friendliness of the lab, but the brains and poise of the border collie.  I've known a golden/german shepherd mix that had the sweetness of the golden and the strong loyalty of the shepherd.  This dog lived to be 16.  No pure golden or shepherd is likely to live that long.  They had no major health issues either.  And mixed breeds are adorable.  Have you seen a corgi/shepherd mix?  How about a bulldog/great Dane mix?  Adorbs.  I'll bet each and every one of you can think back to a mixed breed dog that was or is amazing and cute to boot.

I'm not saying that you should feel bad if you purchased a dog from a breeder.  All I'm hoping to accomplish here is to open the eyes of some people to the possibilities of adopting a dog from a shelter (or a person who's finding a new home for their own dog) before going out and purchasing one from a breeder.  There are so many dogs and cats out there that are perfectly good and capable of bringing so much joy to families who want it.  And it's totally possible to adopt a pure breed dog as well.  When I was younger and our family decided we wanted a border collie, we found one that was four years old to adopt on  She was having some issues with her doggie roommate and had to spend a lot of her time in a large dog run to avoid getting into fights.  We were able to give her a home for the next 12 years to live out her slightly neurotic life in peace.

Shel was a little crazy but we loved her.
My parents now have another pure breed pug that they also adopted from a sad, neglectful situation.  He's so great and we don't care that he's a pure breed or that he has an extra curly tail that marks a high quality pug.  He could have no tail for all we care since we love him for who he is on the inside and not for his physical characteristics. (Though I love playing with his big puggy lips.)

Look at those irresistible lips...
So are you thinking about getting a dog? Please do your research. Think about the physical and personality traits that work well for your lifestyle and head to the shelter or find one that needs a home on Petfinder.  I guarantee your doggie soulmate is out there, just waiting for you to come rescue it and give it a forever home.  One final thought: puppies are cute, but so are dogs.  Give 'em a chance, y'all.

Oh and as Bob Barker says, help control the pet population.  Have your pet spayed or neutered!

Looking out for squirrels.
Nikolai was rescued from a cat hoarder's house.

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