As a boy I would sit at the kitchen table holding a spoon in my left hand to eat my bowl of cereal while scratching Kody, my German Shepherd, between the ears with my right.
Decades later today, I can still feel his fur.
I suspect some of you know exactly what I am talking about.
“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love and loyalty,” writer and poet Erica Jong reminds us.
Today is National Dog Day, and it brings public awareness to bear on the number of abandoned dogs that need rescue; the dogs that have been left behind.
Founded in 2004 by Colleen Paige, a Pet & Family Lifestyle Expert and Animal Advocate, she picked August 26th because it is the day her family adopted her first dog when she was ten years old.
“All a dog wants to do is love you and be loved by you,” Paige wrote in a press release.
Humans and dogs share some history. The evolution of canines splitting from wolves and becoming domesticated began approximately between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago.
While the story of this evolution is far from clear, what is known is that the bond between people and dogs has surpassed time and culture to become a part of our humanity.
How else to explain the tug at the heart when you look into a puppy’s eyes?
About Those Eyes
A National Dog Day Survey highlights some interesting facts about Americans and their dogs.
- Which States Love Dogs Most: California, 88%; New York, 86%; Washington, 85%; Tennessee, 84%; Florida, 83%; Massachusetts, 83%; Texas, 82%; Missouri, 82%; Ohio, 82%; and Arizona, 81%.
- Puppy Love Across the Nation: Eighty-six percent of Americans tell their dog, “I love you” at least once a month; seventy-three percent purchase their best friend a gift at least once a month; and sixty-eight percent allow their dog to sleep with them at least once a month.
- Top Three Lessons Learned: Seventy percent of dog owners practice “No Dog Left Behind”, as they would simply rather spend time with their dogs; forty percent of women would rather be with their dogs than go out on a date; and almost twenty-five percent of men would rather be with their dogs than with a woman.
Unfortunately, not all of humans’ best friends have a family; many are abused and/or abandoned to a certain fate in a shelter.
“Millions of dogs are killed each year because they are simply unwanted,” Paige wrote, “and they are unwanted because no one realized how to properly care for the demands of the breed.”
No Dog Left Behind
Think carefully before buying or adopting a puppy or full-sized dog; every dog requires a commitment of time and expense from his or her owner.
What follows is a list of the 15 most common dog breeds found in shelters.
1. American Pit Bull Terrier: This dog and other various pit bulls comprise the majority of purebred dogs found in shelters. Contrary to common belief, these dogs are not mean (only people make them that way); in fact, they make excellent companions. When we say no dog left behind, that includes pitties, too.
2. Labrador Retriever: These loving dogs are the most popular breed in the United States, and it comes as no surprise that they are big sellers for illegal puppy mills.
3. Chihuahua: Although popular, this cute dog needs training; otherwise it can become a challenge.
4. Boxer: A great family dog, they are sweet and goofy and require exercise and attention from their owners.
5. German Shepherd: An excellent companion and protector, prolific breeding has led to many of them being dumped into shelters.
6. Beagle: A popular little dog with eyes that say “I love you,” a loving family will curb its tendency to bark and howl.
7. American Staffordshire Terrier: Not as common as the American Pit Bull Terrier, this dog makes a great member of the family willing to work and play with it.
8. Dachshund: Popular and fun, this canine has a strong personality that can be a challenge for those not ready to meet this little dynamo.
9. American Bulldog: Big and strong, this playful and loving animal requires management from an early age. If up for the challenge, this dog is a matchless addition to a family.
10. Border Collie: This dog is very smart, active and pushy, but with the right owners is an obedient, agile, dock diving, disc jumping dog!
11. Australian Cattle Dog: With regular activity and training, they love to play with children, and in the right home they make an excellent companion.
12. Jack Russell Terrier: Small in size, this canine has an outsized personality, which in turn can make it a challenge. In homes where there is lots of activity, these dogs strive.
13. Australian Shepherd: A beautiful herding dog, they require regular grooming and lots of exercise.
14. Shih Tzu: A great lap dog, unscrupulous puppy mill operators have created a glut of these animals, some of which wind up in pounds.
15. Rottweiler: Large, powerful and loyal, they are active dogs that need structure from their owner and lots of exercise.
These – and other – dogs need a home, a place, a sense of belongingness.
How to Practice “No Dog Left Behind”
The point of National Dog day is to return the loyalty and love that all dogs unconditionally give to us.
If you think you can handle a dog in your family, consider the following:
- Adoption: Remember: No Dog Left Behind! Don’t shop for a dog. If you can support an abandoned dog, head over to the local pound and adopt one.
- Fostering: If long-term pet care is not possible, some rescue organizations need help in finding foster homes for dogs.
- Volunteering: Shelters and rescue organizations need assistance in feeding, walking, cleaning and educating the public about spaying/neutering and responsible dog ownership.
- Reporting Abuse: Do not be silent. Report any and all instances of animal abuse to the local animal control officer or police. Dogs – as well as other pets – cannot speak up. You can.
- Advocating for No Dog Left Behind: One bane in society today is the existence of puppy mills. Investigate and support legislation that change the laws to protect dogs in general and end the practices of these mills. If we can stop illegal breeding and promote shelter adoption and rescue, there won’t be a need to euthanize homeless dogs.
- Rehoming: If your life changes and you have to part with your dog, take the time, effort and expense to find a good home for your best friend. Visit the home of the prospective owner; make sure that all of the family’s members are old enough and knowledgeable enough to be around the dog.
As writer and photographer Roger Caras once said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
Just as I feel whole when I remember Kody’s fur in my right hand.
For more information, visit https://www.farmersalmanac.com/celebrate-your-best-friend-on-national-dog-day-17648
For more, read about Sgt. Stubby, the highest-ranking military dog.