Photo by tore_urnes
The Obamas’ search for a family pet has been generating a fair amount of interest for the last few months. Well, it seems the wait has ended and the first pooch has finally taken his post, but not without controversy. The Obamas had indicated that they intended to rescue a dog, presumably from a shelter or breed rescue organization. But Bo, their new Portuguese Water Dog, is having his street cred challenged by those who don’t believe he fits the image of a true “rescue dog.” I won’t go into all the details (feel free to read this article for a full explanation of the debated intricacies), but what interested me was the wider debate about rescued dogs versus dogs bought from responsible breeders or dog sellers. When did adopting a rescue dog become the only politically correct choice? Why has purchasing a dog from a breeder become so stigmatized?
Certainly, there are many valid and compelling reasons to rescue a pet. Many of the dog pounds and animal shelters in this country are terribly overcrowded, and rescuing a dog helps ease this burden. If you are willing to put in the time and energy, you can find dogs of all sizes, breeds, and temperaments waiting to be matched with suitable owners. Many of the rescued dogs I’ve known have a sweetness and gentility that I’ve not seen in other dogs. In fact, my mom currently lives with a wonderful dachshund named Franny that was adopted from a breed rescue organization. Franny is the sweetest, most appreciative dog I’ve ever known, but she’s not without her issues.
You see, rescuing a dog is not for everyone. Adopters generally know little about their dog’s history and lineage. People looking for specific traits in their pet, like advanced herding skills or a natural ability to retrieve, might be better off purchasing from responsible breeder. Owners with special needs, like those with allergies, small children, or other pets, might also prefer a dog whose health and behavioral traits are more predictable. Furthermore, many rescued dogs need extra training to becoming socialized or housebroken. Franny, for example, is extremely timid and shy of strangers and has a habit of urinating whenever she’s approached by an unfamiliar person or taken to an unfamiliar environment. Fortunately, my mom has the time, patience, and inclination to put in the extra work that Franny requires.
Cornelius Q. Rockefeller III makes a great point: Where President Obama’s dog comes from is not really the issue. What is more important is “that he gets a dog that meets his needs, whether it’s a mutt or purebred.” However you and your dog find each other, what truly matters is the manner in which you care for it. Choosing a compatible dog for your family ensures that you and your pet can coexist peacefully and responsibly, and lessens the chance that the dog will end up needing to be rescued by someone else.
Where do you stand on the rescue vs. breeder debate? And what advice can you offer the Obamas for getting along with their new family member?
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