“If you don’t have a dog … there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”
— Vincent van Gogh
So, you’re thinking of getting a dog.
Okay, a noble idea. They’re amazing creatures that laugh, love and feel sad sometimes, just like us.
They need lots of attention, and can sometimes be messy and expensive.
But you’re prepared for that and, besides, dogs can be so cute.
You’ve gone through countless books, magazines and websites and have determined the breed that will match your lifestyle the best.
You want an active dog, one you can take to the park or beach to throw a Frisbee or ball around with.
Your heart will melt when he looks at you with those big brown eyes.
You won’t mind getting up in the middle of the night to take him outside in the cold rain when he has an upset stomach, or paying a few hundred dollars when he needs vet care. And don’t forget to budget for that $80 bag of food it will need every few weeks for the next 10 to 15 years.
You’ll give your dog a kiss when he wakes you up at 6 a.m., like clockwork every day, to go for his morning pee or walk. Some days you’ll even have to go home at lunchtime to let him out, and you’ll have to go home straight from work every night to give him dinner and take him for an evening walk.
Sometimes, you’ll have to cancel your plans with friends because you can’t leave your dog alone for too long – he gets anxious when you’re gone too long and chews on things in your house.
And the vacuuming. You’ll have to vacuum often, and if he likes to go for car rides (what dog doesn’t?), you’ll have to get used to, almost enjoy, those nose prints on the window and hair balls in the back seat.
You’ll also spend a good portion of the day carrying around a bag of poop, or removing it from the yard.
And, if you get a puppy (but not from a store or backyard breeder), don’t forget to invest considerable time in puppy training. It’s probably only one or two nights a week and costs a bit of money, but it will be worth it.
Oh, those spontaneous weekends away, unless you have a great support network of dog sitters, probably won’t happen. If you do take your dog on vacation, you’ll have to plan it around pet-friendly hotels.
And hopefully you know by now that the best way to change a dog’s life is to go through a rescue association – many of which specialize in specific breeds and can provide some details on the dog’s behaviour and needs – or the B.C. SPCA, where thousands of dogs are dropped off each year because owners who set out with the exact same idea you have right now discovered they just weren’t up to the task.
They moved and couldn’t take their dog, realized they don’t have time for it, discovered that they don’t stay puppies forever, or didn’t allow it to be part of the family and it started tearing up the yard, so they abandon it and hope somebody else will take care of it.
For 90 per cent of dogs dropped off at shelters, nobody will ever come for them, especially the larger breeds.
Luckily in Nanaimo, most dogs that are abandoned don’t get euthanized. But across Canada and the U.S. an estimated five million dogs are killed each year because they ended up in a shelter and nobody wanted them. That’s 14,000 dogs a day. Most of them started off on the same journey you’re planning.
But that won’t happen to your dog, will it?
If you decide you truly want to share your life with a dog, start by giving one a second chance by searching rescue associations and shelters first.
There’s probably one waiting to rescue you right now and if you take van Gogh’s advice, your house will be a little dirtier and your wallet will be lighter, but your heart will be full as long as you provide the love and attention it needs.