Just about this time last year, my husband and I decided we were ready to add a new addition to our already growing family of a 3-year-old and two senior cats. We decided we were going to adopt a dog.
I believe like most families with small children and other pets, we were under the impression that a small dog would work best for our family. One that would not be too intimidating to our young daughter or to our somewhat snobbish cats.
And so our quest for what we thought was the perfect family dog began, and now I hope to share with other families what I've learned and discovered along the way.
First and foremost: Our shelters are overrun with dogs and cats who desperately deserve a good home. My husband and I visited quite a few local shelters in the area including the Town of Hempstead, Town Of North Hempstead, Save-a-pet, and the Town of Oyster Bay. We really had good experiences at all of the shelters. The staff was friendly, helpful, and made us feel quite comfortable. While my husband and I fell in love with almost every dog we met, my 3 year old daughter did not. We thought she was perhaps intimidated by the size of the breeds you tend to find at a shelter. That's when we decided to bring her to a pet store to see how she would react with a smaller breed.
The experiment was a success. Turns out my daughter was just as unimpressed with the small breed as she was with a large one. At that point, we were relieved to learn that we could continue our adoption search.
One final stop: We soon found ourselves at Last Hope Shelter in Wantagh. When you first walk in, you are approached by a lovely member of their staff who allows you to familiarize yourself with what I refer to as their adoption wall. You will find several pictures of dogs and cats up for adoption, and you are able to request those that you would like to meet in a clean, safe environment with a member of their staff to assist and supervise. The whole experience was wonderful. So on our first visit, we interacted with quite a few dogs, but none that we really felt like a perfect fit. But no worries- the staff invited us back on several occasions to meet the new dogs they save every week, until we were able to find our perfect match. With the help of their amazing staff working with our daughter by teaching her to feel comfortable with a larger dog, we eventually adopted our now 1 1/2 year old lab mix, Pepper.
The moral of my story: Especially after Superstorm Sandy, our shelters are overrun with pets who desperately need homes. It saddens me that with everything we know about puppy mills and pet stores, Long Islanders still support such horrible practices. To the people who say "well someone has to adopt them", I would say I have learned that puppy mills cant exist without income they generate from pet stores who purchase their "products", and when a pet store shuts down, those animals are sent to shelters anyway- some high-kill. Even worse, a large percent of puppies never even make it out of puppy mills or stores due to the poor quality of life they must suffer through. Before you convince yourself of the size or type of breed you think you "need", open your minds and hearts to the wonderful pets available at our local shelters right here on Long Island.
Good luck and remember...Don't shop- Adopt!!