The Love/Hate of Holiday Rescue Memes

Homeless Pooch

I’m not using a cute Santa picture tonight, even though my collection probably seems endless to people who don’t know me (and possibly to a few who do). Instead, I want to draw your attention to the photo in this post. I stole it from Facebook, and I think it’s lovely. A hopeful dog face, a Santa hat, a wistful wish for a home.

As an animal lover, a dog person, the human “mother” to three fur-kids and foster-mom to a fourth (not including my own former pets who have gone to the rainbow bridge, and the other fosters who have passed through my home, usually to forever homes of their own), this image makes me want to adopt one more, or hug my own pups super tightly, or buy bones for the entire shelter.

But, as an animal lover, a dog person, etc., it also makes me a little bit angry, for two distinct reasons.

First, it makes those of us who work in rescue sound like hypocrites.

On the one hand, we’re urging people to adopt homeless dogs and cats so they won’t have to be stuck in shelters, or worse, in line for euthanization, over the holidays, holidays, I might add, that they neither understand nor appreciate.

On the other hand, we’re reminding people left and right that puppies and kittens should never be adopted, purchased, or otherwise acquired as gifts. We know, of course, that there’s a difference between parents bringing home a longed-for puppy or kitten, or adult dog or cat, on Christmas Eve, and people buying or adopting animals for other people (boyfriends, girlfriends, etc.) but it’s still a mixed message, especially since every reputable trainer will tell you that the best time to add a pet to your home is when your life is at its most normal, most mundane – a time the holidays are most assuredly NOT.

The other reason I hate images like this is the same reason I dislike the annual holiday drives to remember homeless people, children in need, or soldiers who are deployed overseas. It’s not that I don’t believe these people should be remembered or cared for. I’m a strong believer in supporting those in need (whether it’s emotional or physical need), and my tax returns will prove it.

It’s that we seem to think of them ONLY at the holidays. But what about in January, when our goodwill has been replaced by the grudging return to work and school? What about in July when the summer sun is baking those homeless people?

It’s the same with shelter pets. Of course I don’t want any animal to spend winter in a kennel without a family of his or her own, but that need doesn’t end when the holidays do. It’s ongoing. It will continue to exist as long as we humans refuse to spay and neuter our pets, as long as we purchase pets from retail stores, as long as we treat them as disposable objects to be cast off when they are old, or ill, or grow too big to be ‘cute,’ or become bored, destructive, or aggressive.

There’s another meme going around Facebook, one that suggests that there should be a pound where pets could send bad owners. That meme, I’m completely behind.

As for holiday pet drives…if you’re looking for a pet, consider an adult dog or cat from a shelter or rescue. Many rescue groups are having pet adoption fairs this weekend, not because we’re pushing pets as presents, but because the colder the weather gets, the more lost and unwanted animals show up at shelters that are already overstuffed.

If you aren’t ready to commit to the care of an animal, donate time to a local shelter – help them with social media, with taking pictures of the animals, etc. Donate blankets or pop by CostCo and get a couple huge bags of food, and donate that. Maybe consider fostering a pet – you aren’t responsible for the expenses, then.

This message is approved by Maximus (adopted Feb, 2009), Perry (adopted March, 2009), Teddy (adopted Feb 2013), and Madison the foster pooch, who is available for adoption. For more info, check out her Petfinder profile.