Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

Adopt your new best friend | Editorial

I first let a shelter dog into my heart 12 years ago, and I have never looked back.

Being involved in animal rescue, whether as a volunteer, transporter or dog owner, has been extraordinarily rewarding. Successfully matching a pup in need with the perfect family is the ultimate badge of matchmaking honor.

I live with four rescue dogs whose zest for life brings happiness to my own every single day. They are hilarious and loving and messy and expensive, and my life without them would be several shades darker. While I recognize that I’ve provided them with a really great living situation, I generally feel like the lucky one — until one of them throws up on a nice rug or eats the cookies I just took out of the oven. But truly, I often wonder what I did to deserve the undying love of these creatures who are so pure.

October is adopt a shelter dog month, sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Humane Society. There are millions of homeless dogs, in all shapes and sizes and levels of snuggle needs, waiting to find a loving home.

Approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year: 3.1 million dogs and 3.2 million cats. Each year, approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized, and around 4.1 million shelter animals are adopted (split nearly evenly between dogs and cats). About 810,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners.

According to national statistics, the majority of dogs are still purchased from breeders. And those pets often end up in shelters. The most common reasons people rehome their dogs are: problematic behaviors, growing larger than expected and health problems that are too costly.

Thanks to dedicated volunteers, animal advocates and donors, the San Juans are home to two outstanding no-kill shelters, both of which have available dogs (and cats!). Visit https://www.apsfh.com/ (where you can see such gems as Mimi, a five-month-old retriever mix from Texas) and https://www.orcaspets.org/ (check out Buppy, a young Rottweiler mix).

If you aren’t ready to commit to a lifetime of big brown eyes looking up at you with unconditional love, there are other ways to contribute to the wellbeing of homeless animals. You can donate financially to a local or national organization or give of your time.

On Orcas, the shelter is in need of dog walkers and people to spend time with the animals and clean the facility. Volunteers must be vaccinated and able to wear an appropriately fitted mask while inside the building. Orcas APS is also looking for new board members.

And you could consider fostering. Although I’ll warn you, it takes a special, strong person to care for an animal until it finds a permanent home. Two of my pack members were failed fosters.

The ASPCA is presenting the 31 Days of Rescue Dogs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All you have to do is post one photo a day of your favorite rescue dog for 31 days on your favorite social media channel using the hashtag #31DaysOfRescueDogs.

This October, consider welcoming a fluffy bundle of joy into your home. It’s a serious commitment that comes with enough friendship and affection to lighten even the heaviest of loads. Here’s to saving one dog at a time.