Adopt or Shop: Making An Informed Decision

You know what I’m going to say.


I could pull out gut-wrenching pictures that tug at your heartstrings (and your pocketbook). I could tell you that the demand for purebreds spawns "reputable" and not-so-reputable breeding. I could plant questions in your head about what really happens to those animals not fortunate enough to be dubbed “pick of the litter.”

I could. And I did.

But I’m not here to “guilt” you into rescuing a pet instead of buying one. Rescuing a pet out of guilt is just as irresponsible as impulse purchasing a pet you imagine is “perfect” for you. Guilt can easily churn into resentment when challenges arise and the unsuspecting “savior” realizes that he or she underestimated the responsibilities involved in adding a pet to the family.

Challenges will arise. Rescues often (but not necessarily) involve more work than pets purchased from a “reputable” breeder (RB). This may especially be true when little or nothing is known about a rescued pet’s history or if there is a known history of abuse and/or neglect. But I think we do a serious disservice to shelter/rescue pets in underestimating their ability to adapt to new surroundings. Adult dog rescues in particular can readily thrive in an unfamiliar but loving home because the pet often has some foundation for connecting with humans.

And don’t think for a minute that a pet purchased from a RB will be free of challenges. While you statistically may stack the deck in the “progeny lottery” with known qualities (the bred animals are healthy and of good temperament), inherited traits cannot be predicted with certainty. The “blank slate” so sought after by prospective pet parents concerned about behavioral problems in rescued pets does not exist by virtue of the simple mixing of gene pools. Additionally, the limited gene pool variety arising from exclusionary breeding carries the heightened risk of genetic defects in newborn pups.

Many people don’t consider a fundamental piece of the pet-family puzzle: themselves. Dogs need early and appropriate socialization and training. We must guide them and teach them with consistency and enthusiasm. 

People need to want a pet in their lives for the right reasons: they want to expand their circle of love and to give everything they have to integrate that pet into their families. Toward that end, I believe people who rescue - for the right reasons - have an edge in providing a pet with the greater chance for a forever home.

People who rescue responsibly understand the investment they are making in their companion AND in themselves. They anticipate that challenges may be more likely to arise, that the nature and intensity of these challenges may be different than those of a commercially-bred animal and they possess the thoughtfulness and resolve to see them through. They understand that pets - just like people - have “issues.” Dedicated people work out their “issues” with others in their family. Above all, they strive for the spiritual alchemy that occurs when two lives collide and transform each other into more than they were before.

The inescapable fact is that happily owning/parenting a pet is work, whether that pet is a rescue or not. We can approach that work with delight - or drudgery. Before acquiring a pet, I think it is important to ask oneself three questions:

  • How much time am I willing to invest?
  • What are my expectations?
  • What is my threshold of tolerance?

If you favor a pet purchased from a RB because you want a high-performance, low-maintenance companion, perhaps you should re-consider whether or not a pet is right for you in the first place. This is not a judgement, rather it is an insight that could save you from a lot of aggravation - and potentially save an animal’s life.