Column: Man’s Best Friend

Published 10:53 am Sunday, April 21, 2024

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This past Friday, April 12, I disappointed all of my coworkers by skipping our standing Friday lunch in favor of a trip to the Shelby Humane Society.

There has never been a point in my life when my family didn’t have a dog, and now that I live a state away, I have desperately missed having a canine companion. An animal to care for, nurture and love.

After several weeks of consideration and staring longingly at the Shelby Humane Society’s website, I finally felt like I was at a point where I could bring a new dog into my life. I had a potential plan brewing in mind of how I would adapt my schedule and a rough budget for all necessary purchases.

On that fateful Friday, I decided to stop by the humane society on my way home from work to inquire about the adoption process. I had a list of requirements: I wanted an adult dog, preferably a small breed, but no larger than 30 pounds. I know small dogs are more rare at shelters, so I was willing to wait.

Pushing open the front doors, I was prepared to start adoption paperwork and inform them of my requirements. For some reason, I had it in my head that they would consider my application and call me when they found dog that fit my situation.  That’s not what happened.

The Shelby Humane Society is currently at critical capacity. People are surrendering dogs and finding strays at a far greater rate than the shelter can find willing homes.

After I explained that I was thinking of adopting soon, they handed me a clip board and invited me to tour the animals. I agreed, thinking “what could it hurt?”

I meandered row after row of dogs. Some elated to see any human being. Some shying away from the crate doors. Some staring up at me with mournful eyes, as if they had already given up hope.

I want to clarify, the shelter isn’t poorly maintained. But to see so many dogs who didn’t have anyone who loved them enough to save them, well, it was gut wrenching.

As I made my way to the small dog section, I was drawn to one cage in particular. A black dog with a white belly, curled up in a medium crate. She seemed so small. I found myself writing her name on my clip board before I really knew I was doing it.

After playing with a few of the small dogs, I asked about her. Maybe I could just see her? The worker met me in an outside play area and let me spend a few minutes alone with her. And I fell in love.

She was a bigger dog than I had imagine myself getting, but she was so gentle and sweet. And her eyes? Big, brown and expressive. I maybe played with her for two minutes before I asked her, “Hey, girl, do you want to go home with me?”

I left the shelter that afternoon in a frenzy. Like a whirlwind, I tore through PetSmart on the way home buying everything I could think of. Collar, shampoo, bowls, crate? Check. Same food as the shelter? Check. Toys? Oh my god, what kind of toys does she like? Why didn’t I ask?

The next day, after frantically cleaning and dog proofing my apartment, I welcomed her home. I decided to name her Sadie.

As I am writing this, Sadie and I have now been together for six days. She’s already crate trained and (mostly) housetrained. Her favorite toy is her stuffed duck and her favorite activity is eating. I’m tired, stressed and so, so happy.

Because Sadie came from the Shelby Humane Society, her adoption fee was only $50 dollars. That fee included all of her vaccinations, her spay surgery, her harness and her leash. In addition, they gave me a list of local veterinarians that would give Sadie a free checkup.

According to its website, the Shelby Humane Society’s mission is “to care for homeless, abused, neglected and abandoned animals, and educate the community to instill an increased awareness and commitment to the responsibility of animal ownership and protection.”

In addition to operating as a pet shelter, the Shelby Humane Society also works to provide low cost vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries through their program Shelby Spay Neuter. Since its inception in 2008, Shelby Spay Neuter has provided thousands of surgeries to pets at a low cost.

Not only did the Shelby Humane Society give me my new companion, they also serve as a public good for the entirety of Shelby County. I can’t thank them enough for the gift that they have given me and everything that they do.