Like nearly 55 million other Americans since March, my wife Michelle and I recently became unemployed and our morale was low due to the daily struggle to find work and soul. On the positive side, the quarantine provided time to bond more closely. Without the jobs that once kept us too busy and away for a good time, there were new ways to reconnect.
Since our dating, we’d talked about getting a dog. We both grew up with dogs and have always wanted to adopt one as a couple. But as two professionals who were away from home ten to twelve hours a day, we weren’t the best candidates for owning dogs. However, as the idea of working remotely seemed more achievable than ever, we decided the time had come.
Hopefully we made our way to local emergency shelters and rescue centers. To our surprise, most of the dogs in these locations were either adopted or on hold, waiting for their new humans to be admitted. We then went online, examined organizations’ websites and filled in application after application, only to be met with silence. Eventually we got so desperate that we stopped by a local puppy shop – an option we originally didn’t want to entertain. The smart-speaking salesman accompanied us from one Plexiglas stand to another and presented puppies of different breeds, almost all of which were less than three months old. When we finally found one we were interested in, he exclaimed, “And it’s yours for only $ 4,900!”
“Are you kidding me?” Michelle noticed. “It’s like buying a car!”
“Well, we also have excellent funding opportunities,” he replied in a serious but personable tone.
The concept of buying a puppy like a commodity was unsettling. I started to wonder where these puppies actually came from and how I could tell if a store or a breeder could be trusted. And what happened to the unsold puppies or the young dogs that were too old for the showroom?
In the US, approximately two million puppies are bred by licensed and unlicensed puppy mills each year. How many will end up in shelters when pandemic trends and consumer demand decline? Are some of these dogs abandoned or given up on return to work because they no longer meet the needs of their owners? Will there be an increase in the 1.2 million shelter dogs euthanized annually by 2021? Questions like these reinforced our commitment to adopting from a shelter.
Michelle and I spent more than a month of our free time staying in touch with our favorite local animal shelter and regularly checking for newcomers. They called our references and did a virtual home visit beforehand to make sure we were good candidates.
Raj and Maisie-Mae (left); Michelle on her way home from the shelter with her new dog (right)
Then it happened. We were notified that a “Ownership” puppy had arrived at the shelter: a beautiful five month old Yorkie mix that happened to be born in March the day after Michelle was lost. We were open to adopting an adult dog, but ideally wanted a puppy that we could train to suit our lifestyle, both remotely and returning to a full-time work schedule. Once the puppy was examined by the shelter’s volunteer vet, we were welcomed to meet her.
Meeting a dog is like a first date. Would she like us? Would we live well together? To our amazement, she was everything we wanted in a dog: the cutest disposition, well trained and lively. We were in love. Two days after our first meeting, we were able to take her home. Since then she has got used to her new life well.
The addition of a new furry family member has also influenced future life choices. We begin to imagine a life that revolves around our home rather than a formal office location. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been able to place more value on family life than on the career path and we actually prefer it.
Perhaps the dog adoption rate has been higher lately because more Americans are finally learning how to build healthy lives: caring for something beyond us, camaraderie, affection, unconditional love, loyalty, mutual respect. Perhaps dogs teach us more about ourselves than our jobs. By enjoying the basic needs of daily life – a nap, a meal, a walk, a hug, an occasional bath, earned trust, sense of duty, and belonging – dogs show us what matters. And if we learn from dogs, we may also learn more from each other.
Are you ready to add a new dog to your life or did you just do it? Here is some information to get you started.
How to choose a new dog.
Learn more about dog behavior.
Insights from experienced dog lovers.
Dog training at a time of social distancing.
Ways to safely socialize the puppy.
Tips to freshen up walking your dog.
Stroke your dog the way he likes.