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The Difference: Rescuing vs Adopting

When I receive an application that states a person wants to rescue on of my shepherds, I want to correct them and clarify what “rescue” truly means. The opportunity to rescue the dogs has come and gone. However, the opportunity to dedicate one’s life is available. The form to apply for a shepherd it titled, “Adoption Application” not “Rescue Application”.

It is important to understand the dynamic between them and the role of each party. Let’s start with the Adopter’s role and thus title. An Adopter has committed to loving the shepherd (in this case) for it’s entire life whether that should be one year or fifteen. Regardless of life’s circumstances, the adopter is promising to include the shepherd in each step, each chapter, and love them as their own family member.

The Adopter is promising to keep them safe from harm for the life of the pet. Sounds simple but reflect back on the incidences in just one week where you are caring for a person or pet. Think about all the considerations you make to ensure that dependent is safe and or comfortable. I am asking an Adopter to take this responsibility for hopefully many, many years.

I am asking the Adopter to love their shepherd each day of their life; to provide the commitment, love, respect, and dedication so many failed to receive prior to being rescued. I am trusting that the Adopter will be present each day, mostly when their shepherd’s take the last breath. What an incredibly noble act! Adopting a shepherd (or any pet) is a respectable act of kindness and compassion. The Adopter, by adopting, has created an open kennel for the Rescuer to pull another shepherd in need. This result is one of the greatest reasons more shepherds are saved.

Let’s now discuss what it really means to Rescue, for this case, a GSD specifically. First, to become a rescue I had to hire an attorney to set up my business. I then had to hire an accountant to assist with my 501(c)(3) Non-Profit application. I had to initiate business relations with several veterinarians and vaccination clinics. I had to purchase insurance. In order to pull shepherds from shelters, I had to become an approved rescue through more applications. I had to set up and manage social media accounts. I designed a website and logo, created a branding strategy, applied to offsite adoption sites, created a legal adoption contract, purchased form builders for more applications, and set up some relic of bookkeeping.

Wait, there’s more. I’ll skip to the fun part. Now, I am at the shelter where I am an approved rescue partner and I want to pull a GSD. The GSD is growling, appears sickly, and it was under investigation for cruelty. I must make the decision on when and how to open the cage to physically save the dog. Most GSDs in shelters are not placed on the adoption floor. Great, let’s pretend I was able to safely remove the dog. By the way, I was at the shelter for likely an hour. Now, I must evaluate for any temperament concerns. Next, I must provide full health care not knowing if the dog is heartworm positive, has any underlying issues such as perianal fistulas, EPI, cancer, Wobbler’s, DM, etc. At some point, the dog will need bathed. Oh, I have to photograph the shepherd and place on the website and other adoption sites. I must have the shepherds spayed or neutered prior to listing them on the website. I have to clean the shepherds’ kennel each day (sometimes three times) and let them outside at least three times a day. I must administer medicine, prepare food, and refill water bowls. I also have to clean the dog bowls, scrub dog beds, wash the laundry, pick up waste, play ball, and the most rewarding aspect…I get to renew their faith that they are worthy of love.

To Rescue an animal is not a one-action event. The time it takes to care for one dog and make it adoptable, is sometimes months in the making. Running a rescue AND a kennel operation is even more responsibility.

Both roles have their importance in helping a dog. I should mention that the very first person (most times) to rescue an animal is the animal control officer who, more times than not, risks their safety to contain/apprehend/confiscate. Then the Rescuer enters the picture; next the Adopter makes the final commitment. We are all responsible for helping them.

Years ago, I adopted a retired greyhound. I still have a senior named Crash who I adopted from Greyhound Pets of America. My first greyhound, Deco, was adopted from USA Greyhound in 1996. Rescues weren’t as popular then. I’ll never forget when I was walking Deco, a person asked me, “Did you rescue her?” I, without hesitation, said, “Oh no, I adopted her.” I didn’t have one role in getting her to Indiana from the racetracks of Daytona, Florida. I didn’t have to manage anything in order for her to be adoptable. I understood my role and it was clear. My role as the adopter was needed in the larger picture of dog racing. Since I adopted her, this allowed another retired racer to be safe. There is no lessened pride or respect in being the Adopter versus the Rescuer. It does take a “village” but the roles and responsibilities are quite different. Each step was needed in order for them to find the love the so desperately deserve.

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