*Disclaimer: I was a child in the early nineties, so my perception may or may not have been the actual perception of the adult world.*
Back in the early nineties, I never heard much about animal overpopulation. Yeah, there was talk about spaying and neutering, but I remember it being an expensive procedure and often female dogs in heat were just kept separate from the rest of the animals. Generally a female was spayed only in an emergency and males weren’t spayed. It was a fact of life that unaltered males roamed.
Generally pets were acquired from friends, or there was a sign in front of someone’s house announcing “Free Puppies” or “Free Kittens,” or people adopted strays. Those with money (definitely not my family) got dogs from breeders, those that didn’t have money, but still wanted purebred dogs got them from “breeders” (or puppy mills or backyard breeders as we call them today). Those with “Pedigree” dogs did have the bragging rights and those with mutts just shrugged and hoped that their dog was better than the pedigrees.
This is where my family got our dogs: from family friends, as strays, from oops litters of our own and others, and from breeders. Despite their origin, our dogs were family and were treated as such. We didn’t think about the fact that taking in a stray was considered a “rescue” or was “saving a life.” We just saw a dog with physical and personality characteristics that we liked and the dog became ours.
Fast forward to a few years ago. I was feeling the pressure to “rescue” because my family had never rescued animals in the past. Then as I read more and more literature, I realized that the term “rescue” is a broad term. The accepted term is used when someone adopts from a shelter or rescue, but I’ve seen people refer to animals they’ve taken in off the street, or those adopted off of Craigslist, or those taken in from a bad neighbor or former tenant.
That made me think about all the animals in the past and some of them could be deemed as “rescues.” Cujo, our Great Pyrenees/St. Bernard mix. He, along with a few other feral dogs, lived on a housing development construction site. My dad and the other workers fed this group of dogs to keep them from starving. Cujo, being a puppy, came home with my dad. Aztec and Muffin, brother and sister cats that we got from the shelter during the shelter’s kitten boom period. Penny, a rat terrier adopted from a shelter in OKC. I also got numerous rats from the same shelter I got Penny from. Zip and Bella, two Blue Heelers that probably got lost, but no one came looking for them. Others were Shaffer, Ares, a couple male rats that were abandoned at Petsmart, and so on. All of these animals can be deemed rescues…
But you know what? I never considered them rescues. They’ve always just been family members. When we adopted Ares we got a packet with coupons and on the packet it thanked us for saving a life. Saving a life? I never thought I was actually saving a life. In fact, Ares came from a no-kill shelter. So how could we save his life if he was in no danger of losing it? I realize that if I think too hard then my brain will explode.
I guess I have a different view on bringing animals into my home. They’re my family. I don’t like to look at where I got them from. I don’t want to know about their past. Their past doesn’t matter to me; only their future…with me.
To be honest, I hate the pressure that society puts on us pet owners to rescue animals because if you don’t you’re a heartless person. They don’t say that, but it is implied. Really, it is. Next time you watch those adoption commercials, pay close attention to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying.
I love my animals equally and I don’t feel that my rescued animals love me more or less than those I got from breeders. I can’t speak for everyone, though.
I apologize if this was a rambling mess. I just wanted to write out my thoughts. I also apologize for my long period of silence. I was ill for three weeks and in bed for most of the time I was sick.
So, until next time save a life and rescue a human. They will love you for it.