Wonder of Life

November 5, 2010

Not only do we rescuers advocate for spay and neuter of companion animals, it is the law in the City, as well as the County, of Los Angeles.

After hearing our lecture on spay/neuter, some people still say they want to have their dog breed just one litter of puppies to show their children the wonder of birth. Yet, when asked to adopt an older dog, they say, “Oh, no, we don’t want our children to see a dog die in our house.

You want to show kids wonder of birth, but not death? Aren’t life and death supposed to come as a package?

If your excuse for breeding a litter is educating your children, then hear me out. I’ll tell you where the real education lies.

Firstly, you have to teach your children that as long as there are dogs being killed in the pound, nobody has the right to add to the overpopulation.

“Oh, no, we’ll find home for our dog’s puppies. We won’t dump them in the pound!”

Well, that’s nice, but you are taking those homes from the dogs that can be rescued from the pound. So, when you reproduce and place one puppy, you are killing one dog.

“But my dog is special and we have to carry on the bloodline.”

Most people criticize those who clone themselves as egotistic. What is the difference between that concept and breeding your dog? I want to hear one reason for breeding which is for neither money nor ego.

Unless you are a rancher and need real working dogs to herd your cattle, or some other real job like Police K-9 (even for these tasks, some are starting to use rescued dogs), you do not need purebreds other than for your social status. Speaking of social status, a friend in Manhattan said many people are starting to think you’re not cool unless you are walking a rescued mutt through Central Park. Downtown Los Angeles is becoming a dog city, and adopting dogs seems to be becoming the new black.

The owner of Bark Avenue, which provides dog hotel and daycare services, said in an e-mail to me, “We have seen more and more owners with rescued pets utilizing our services downtown. These pets tend to be various mixes (mutts). Over the last five years downtown there are less purebred pets and more happy and healthy mixes. As many lives are saved with the adoption of various rescues we see this as a very good trend.”

So, if you want to be educational, don’t be a hobby breeder. To teach your children the value of life, adoption is the way to go.

Secondly, adopting an older dog is the way to show your kids what compassion means and how to deal with their loved one’s illness and passing. Day in and day out, we see people dumping their senior dogs at the pound, citing the reason, “The dog got too old.”

If you teach your kids to just breed or buy puppies and dump them when they become “too old,” then that is going to happen to you too — they’ll keep you around while you pay for their college tuitions, and when you are old and sick, they’ll dump you.

When you take care of a dog through their golden years, there’s nothing more which can give you the confidence that you did something very wonderful for a dog. Yes, it’s always sad to lose our dogs to death, but you wouldn’t want them to outlive you either — in fact, I had to make a living trust for my dogs, just in case (living trust for pets was approved by the state a few years ago).

On top of all these rational reason to adopt adult dogs, I’ve started feeling that it may actually be “easier” to care for old dogs and lose them in a few years than to lose a dog who’s been with me for almost two decades. The longer you’ve been together, the harder it is to get over the loss because there’s more history between you and more memories are made together.

Marie Atake is Founder & President of Forte Animal Rescue and a former Commissioner on the Board of L.A. Animal Services.