After recovering from being burned in effigy by readers offended by my Modest Puposal (BTW, if you found my post offensive, don’t read the Jonathan Swift piece that inspired it), I’d like to respond to the passionate comments.
First off, every comment was made by a fabulous person who really cares about dogs and wants their welfare. I’m so proud to be part of this community.
Most commenters suggested stricter requirements for having a dog—training, microchipping, home visits, spay or neuter, etc.
But Amy, of Training Toby, made a different point. If we make adoption too hard, aren’t we condemning more dogs to death or long, stressful lives in shelters?
I agree with Amy. And I agree with everyone else.
What’s the answer? We need to build communities.
Putting Your Dog Online
I know I’m not the only person who spends hours every day writing and reading blogs because I love the community of dog lovers I’ve found here.
I’ve received so much encouragement, answers to my questions, and support in my life with Honey and my new experiences with foster dogs.
But there’s something missing.
I wish I could call Kristine to ask if Shiva could come over for a rough and tumble play date with Honey. I’d love to meet Mel at the dog park with Jasper, Lady, and Daisy and pick her brain about working with a fearful dog. And I’d be thrilled if my friends at Tales and Tails, The Daily Dog Blog, or I Still Want More Puppies could help me take some glamour shots of Chérie.
What I want, is for my virtual community to be actual. (Now you introverts, don’t get scared. I promise I’m not going to move next door just to pester you about dog stuff.)
Some of the friends I’ve made online are living with their first dog. Or their first dog as an adult. They’ve found something helpful online.
Could we take the best parts of the online dog lover’s community, make it live, and help first time dog people have a great experience? Here are my 3 suggestions:
1. Doggy Doulas? Mutt Mentors?
If you don’t live in progressive, child-centric place like my town, you may have never heard of a doula. It’s from the Greek for a “woman who serves” but now describes a trained person who supports women through pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood.
Frankly, I think it’s a wonderful idea.
Could we have a less formal version to help people with their pets?
Perhaps when someone fills out an adoption application at a shelter or rescue, the form would ask if they’d like to be partnered with a mentor, or a DogMother, perhaps.
What would this person do? Well, it depends on the personalities involved. But here are a few possibilities:
- Share information about local resources—the pet supply with smart staff, good groomers, trainers, dog parks, beautiful walks, vets.
- Offer to foster their dog for brief, respite care (which could be fabulous for someone working with a challenging dog or puppy).
- Attend a dog event together, like a fund-raiser or agility competition.
- Take phone calls or emails to commiserate over set backs or celebrate successes.
- Help with puppy socialization.
Is it just extroverted me who thinks that this could be really fun and helpful?
2. Hold a Puppy Party
Invite everyone who adopts an animal to a fun party a couple of weeks after the adoption. Tell them to bring pictures of their new pet in their home.
Make it free. Have food and drinks (yes, you’d have to get local sponsors; no shelter has the budget to do this). Small shelters or rescues could partner together and share the effort.
Show a fun movie about all the things no one told you about having a dog (with an educational aspect, of course).
Have places for adopters to sign up for upcoming training classes or dog sport events. Perhaps a portion of the adoption fee could be refunded to everyone who completes a training class shortly after adopting (once again, find sponsors to fund this).
Have a demonstration by someone who adopted another shelter pet and has taught him all kinds of cool things. Demonstrate the magic of clicker training.
A little bit of fun helps the learning.
3. To Discover What Someone Needs, Ask Them
The other simple way to help new dog adopters successful is to ask them what they need. Once again, it should be right on the adoption form. “What do you most need to help you with your new pet?”
It’s amazing how rarely the helpers ask the people they’re trying to help what they need.
Years ago I read about a development organization that tried to improve the sanitation in a rural Indian village. They built private toilets for every villager. When they came back a year later, nothing had changed. The people were still using the public latrine.
Someone finally got the smart idea to ask why the people didn’t use their personal toilets.
Apparently going to a public latrine was social. Everyone had to do it. You got caught up on all the gossip. It was the one time a day you could just shoot the
Once the development organization built a sanitary public facility (with no dividing walls), the villagers started using it.
And before you get too grossed out by this, think of how many cell phone conversations you’ve overheard in restroom stalls. It may be more universal than you think.
If someone asked you before you brought your first dog home what you needed, what would you say?
Not Everyone Wants a Fulfilled Dog
Shelters and rescues are doing innovative things everywhere to encourage responsible dog care.
Some people won’t listen no matter what.
They’ll have a dog they don’t take places because he pulls too much. They’ll under-exercise their little dog because they don’t understand she needs stimulation and time to run around. They’ll buy cheap dog food because, after all, it’s only a dog. And they’ll miss out on the very best relationship they can have.
But they’ll provide a comfortable home for a dog that’s far better than many have.
And who knows, perhaps that person will have a child who loves that dog. Who grows up wanting more for her own dog. And who finds a community of her own that teaches her new ways to love and respect dogs.
When you think about ensuring dog welfare from the human angle, do you have other ideas you’d suggest? Would you be a mutt mentor? Or could you use one?