I've mentioned this maybe 127,000 times before: Alice is a shelter dog. We only visited shelters and rescues when we were looking for her. Breeders and pet stores weren't avenues we investigated. And that's basically the end of the story.
But I've been noticing something: quite frequently, people who got their pets from somewhere other than a shelter or rescue group are actually embarrassed to say that when they find out Alice is a shelter dog.
Okay, so...why? Sure, I'm obviously a huge fan of shelter dogs and plan to have many, many more in the years to come. And wouldn't it be awesome if people made a shelter or rescue their first, fifth, seventeenth, twenty-second, and thirtieth stop on their trek to find a dog? Of course! But honestly, it's absolutely no one else's business where you got your dog.
I love that getting your pet from a shelter is bigger than ever. But the downside to that is that I think a lot of people who didn't get theirs that way are being ostracized, or made to feel guilty about it. And I don't think that's right.
Does where you get your dog make your furry-faced buddy any better or worse? Positively not. I know completely fabulous dogs that have come from shelters, breeders, neighbors, coworkers, pet stores, online ads, flyers, or picked up as strays. And I don't think more or less of any of them because of where their owners saw them for the first time.
Do I feel that puppy mill owners and those who are making money off of them have a special place waiting for them in Hell? Truthfully, no-- because Hell's too good for despicable bastards like that. I'm not defending the practice at all-- or trying to drum up any controversy, for that matter. I simply don't feel anyone should be embarrassed because of where they found the right pet for them. As I see it, just like people can't control what their nationality is, dogs have zero control over where they end up before they meet their families.
What I do think is more important? Two things:
1. The dog owner. It doesn't matter where you got your pet if you don't train your dog properly (or train them improperly), don't make alterations to or arrangements in your life to accommodate the dog's needs, got a breed because it's trendy, or treat the dog badly (obviously). Your sole job as an owner is to give a dog a good life-- to take them from wherever they are and make their lives even better. I'm of the belief that there are no bad dogs, but some seriously crapbag owners. And if you are one, be ashamed that you're failing at your job, not of where you found your dog.
2. Dispelling the rumor that shelter dogs are lesser creatures or damaged goods; that good dogs have had only one owner. Shelter dogs end up there for a slew of different reasons, which may have absolutely zero to do with them. If you think shelter dogs are undesirable and nothing but trouble, I personally think you're an ignorant idiot, and it'd do you some good to meet a few.
There's no reason why you can't support shelter and rescue programs if you got your dog from another source. There's no reason to be embarrassed about having a good heart and caring about animals, or wanting and working to see dogs other than your own thrive and have good lives (as an aside, Jorge Garcia-- Hurley from Lost-- just had a good couple of posts on his blog that exemplify how this is aptly handled).
Personally, I don't parade my rescued dog around town to make people feel badly about themselves. But if the opportunity arises to show someone you can get a super cool dog from a rescue or shelter, Alice is an awesome ambassador-- I'm not going to stop her from doing her thing.
In short, basically what I'm saying is, to all good dog owners out there: be proud of your fabulous pooches, defend the other ones out there, and stand up against bad and careless pet owners.