I have a confession: my beloved shih tzu – Jaybles – is not a shelter pup.

He was, however, an incredibly thoughtful gift from my grandparents: who gave him to me as a college graduation present.  Growing up my family always adopted our pets from the local shelter (or rescued them from the street), so getting a dog from an actual breeder seemed…well…somewhat strange!

I raise this topic because October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.  Although my little buddy does not fit the “shelter bill,” I love him despite this shortcoming.  I also remain a firm believer in the need for people to support the initiatives of their local animal rescue centers in whatever way they can.  It is safe to say that I am not alone in this conviction.  One look at the HMA website or Facebook page makes it clear HMA-ers love animals…and nearly all of our pets ARE rescues.

Luckily for me (and the purpose of this blog!), I had my pick of fellow employees to consult for reasons why shelter dogs rock.  One of the first people who came to mind was our Account Director, Zach Satko, whose white German Shepherd, Sophie, was adopted from The Humane League of Lancaster.

When I asked Zach to tell me a little about Sophie, he explained he chose her partly because “white German Shepherds are so unique, and she was quiet compared to the other dogs” in the shelter with her that day.  Zach mentioned Sophie was “super shy,” opting to “stay in the corner of her cage, away from everything.”  Because Zach had recently moved, he didn’t have an updated address or contact information with him when he tried to adopt her.  Despite a confirmed case of love at first sight, Zach was told he would need to obtain the required information before being eligible to adopt Sophie.

To make matters worse, Zach returned soon thereafter with the necessary info, but saw a sign by Sophie’s cage indicating she had already been adopted.  Zach faithfully continued to check the shelter’s site for another week or two- when one fine day! – he noticed Sophie had been re-listed for adoption.  Apparently, whoever had “tried” to adopt Sophie had backed out shortly afterward.  Zach immediately raced back to the shelter to pick her up.  As Zach explained, “it turns out that Sophie is actually exactly the opposite of how she acted in the kennel. She’s the most energetic, nutty dog you will ever meet!  But I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”

Zach isn’t the only HMA-er who has shown some serious love to a shelter dog.  Rita Kissam, HMA’s Business Manager, has actually doubled the love by adopting two dogs (or “puppers”, as she like to call them!) from the PA Shih Tzu Rescue over 3 years ago.  As Rita told me, “a man from a nearby puppy mill had given the dogs to one of the ladies in charge of the rescue group.  The female, Daisy, was about 3 years old at the time and had arrived pregnant and suffering from mange.”

As if it couldn’t get any worse for Daisy, “all but one of her babies died, perhaps because of the mange treatments.”  Daisy’s mate Sam was about 2 years old when Rita first met him, and didn’t show much emotion or even know how to play.  Because the two dogs were a pair, the rescue group was hoping to keep Daisy and Sam together.

Another case of love at first meeting, Rita “held them, feeling them snuggle and looking into their little eyes,” and she couldn’t help but take them home – together.  Rita describes Sam as being like “a little live teddy-bear: the most adorable dog you can imagine!”  More impressive is that he has learned to play and be goofy over the years, with lots of help and dedication from Rita.  Daisy is her own “lady”, having “short little, bowed legs,” and although she “may not be the prettiest girl to look at, there isn’t any pup that’s sweeter.”  Although Daisy sustained abuse that permanently damaged her vocal chords while at the mill, she remains an expressive and vibrant dog who is full of life.

Although this month is nearing its end, I am pleased to announce that November is Adopt an Older Shelter Dog Month!  If you live locally in Lancaster, you might have read our own Humane League of Lancaster recently announced it will become a no-kill shelter.  This means lots and lots of dogs and cats will be waiting for forever homes.

I think Rita put it best when she said, “If you find yourself thinking about bringing a pet into your life and home, please consider adoption and don’t turn away from the ones that aren’t babies. There are so many fabulous little pets out there to adopt, and they’re just waiting to love you back!”

Please show Lancaster’s local shelter some love by checking out their site.  If I may be so bold, to those of you who may be considering a furry addition to the family, I recommend checking out “Abby” (picture featured by this blog!) who caught my eye due to her resemblance to a certain shih tzu I know and love.  Also thanks to Rita for sharing another great link, Blog the Change for Animals.