I was excited. I was getting my first dog as an adult and could hardly wait.
I dialed the number from the ad: “German Shepherd Rescue of Philadelphia has a handsome, two year old male looking for a home…”
I told the woman who answered why I was calling. She started her list of questions with, “Where is the dog going to sleep?”
I replied, “My husband just build a really cozy dog house under our back porch.”
As a kid our dogs always slept outside. Was this wrong?
How Do You Know if No One Teaches You
For some reason, I took the disappointment pretty well. I only sulked for two days and didn’t spiral downward into a major depression.
I began to ask myself what it meant to be responsible for another life. And I questioned things I had seen growing up.
I took the first step toward entering a relationship instead of owning a living piece of property.
But the process would probably have moved along faster if the rescue volunteer had taken time to educate me.
Yes, I understand that volunteers struggle every day. They never have enough time, money, or support to help all the animals who need it.
But where are the homes for the 3 to 4 million animals killed each year in U.S. shelters going to come from if we don’t encourage new, first time animal adopters?
Educators Ask Good Questions
When I called Golden Retriever Rescue of Central New York to get a breeder referral, I had a very different experience.
Oh, the volunteer made it pretty clear I had to prove I was trustworthy enough to get the information she had to give. And the questions never seemed to end.
But I was being educated, and didn’t feel intimidated.
We talked about common health concerns of Golden Retrievers. We talked about the personality traits that you’ll never see expressed in the dog food commercial where the dog runs toward the children with fur flowing gracefully before stopping calmly on all four feet. We talked…
The volunteer didn’t just ask questions and I didn’t just answer them.
A New Set of Questions
Here are some questions I’d hope to hear if I call a rescue organization in the future:
- Have you had animals before? As a child? As an adult?
- Can you think of any ways your animals could have had a better life? How?
- What training plans do you have to help your animal adjust to successful life in your home?
- Who has taught you the most about caring for animals? What did they teach you?
- Are you willing to have a mentor contact you and spend time with you and your animal after adoption?
Educating, Outside of Blogville
I learn a lot from my fellow bloggers. Being part of this community makes me a better dog person, a better animal person, a better human.
But I’m here because I know there’s a lot to learn. And I’m seeking out new knowledge.
Most people who have animals at home don’t even know what a blog is much less that they might learn something amazing by reading one every once in a while.
So even if we don’t volunteer for a rescue or shelter, we also need to remember to educate instead of intimidate.
When we encounter the clueless (like a certain Pamela, over twenty years ago), are we going to judge and exclude? Or educate and include?
I read two great posts recently by bloggers who made the second choice. I think you’ll like them.
Between now and the next Blog the Change for Animals (October 15), let’s try to find at least one opportunity to turn our desire to judge and intimidate into a way to educate and encourage.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Do you believe this proverb has any relevance in advocating for animals? How do you draw the line when treatment of an animal deserves an angry response or an educational one?