Expert Conversations: Who, exactly, is rescuing whom?
Welcome to a special National Dog Week edition of “Expert Conversations!” Today we offer a special Q&A with Samantha Randall, YouTuber, podcaster and editor-in-chief at Top Dog Tips. Samantha is an experienced rescuer of dogs and cats, priding herself on providing furrever families to pets in need. There’s no better expert to chat with this week.
Tell us about your family of rescues.
Right now we have two dogs and five cats! We just got our newest feline rescue about two weeks ago. Our chocolate Labrador, Sadie, is three years old. She came from a group of 48 dogs and puppies that were rescued from a puppy mill. We also have a beagle/cocker spaniel mix, Molly. She is two years old and came to us as a foster puppy after her litter was dropped off at a local shelter in the middle of the night. After a few days with Molly, we knew she had found her forever home and we contacted the shelter to start the adoption process.
The cats were a happy accident. We never had pet cats when I was a child. When my daughter first asked for a cat, we didn’t know what to say. At the time, we were living in an apartment, so we told her we didn’t have enough room for a cat. The following year we bought our own home out in the country on 15 acres of land. Not surprisingly, my daughter asked for a cat when we were tucking her in on our very first night in the new house. Of course, she had to point out that we now had plenty of room for a cat. That weekend we went to a local shelter that was overrun with cats at the time. That’s how we got Oliver. Two months after we adopted him, our youngest daughter, a fan of Minnie Mouse, really wanted a black-and-white cat that she would name Figaro. So, my husband and I set out to find a black and white Christmas kitty, and we found our Figaro at a shelter a few towns away. He’d been mistreated in his previous home and was very shy. I’m sure our daughter would have been much happier if we had brought home a cat that was loving and affectionate, but we knew Figgy needed some TLC. We have now had him for four years. About six months later we adopted Anna. Elsa came to us terribly malnourished and had the worst case of fleas I had ever seen. Our newest edition is Otis, who had a stable home until he was five, then was in and out of the shelter multiple times because of bad luck.
Why did you first rescue a dog?
My family rescued many dogs when I was a child. I got to see firsthand how love and affection can change the life of a dog (and a human for that matter!) Many of our rescue dogs touched my life, and I will never forget the impact that our family had on them and the impact they had on our family. Someone once gave me a bumper sticker that said, “Who rescued who?” with a bunch of paw prints on it. That bumper sticker is still stuck to the mirror of my vanity and I look at it every day. The first couple of years that I lived on my own, I didn’t have the time to care for a dog. As soon as I graduated college and got my first teaching job, I knew I wanted another rescue dog in my life. That spiraled out of control quite quickly, as you can tell! Thankfully, I married a wonderful man who cares about animals as much as I do. Our “farm” grows bigger every year, but each of our rescues have their own needs and their own personalities. We love them all equally and each one plays their own special role in our family.
Do you see yourself ever stopping the rescue effort?
I don’t think our days of rescuing animals are anywhere close to being over. I always think that our home and our budget aren’t big enough for any more animals. But, the truth is, if there is an animal in need that we can help, we’ll probably do it. As long as the animal is a good fit for our family, they’re welcome in our home. We’ve fostered a lot of animals over the years as well, because some just aren’t a good match for us. The sense of pride and the satisfaction that you feel when you rescue an animal cannot be compared to anything else, whether you keep the animal in your home forever or foster it until the right forever family comes along. It really is the gift that keeps on giving. When you rescue an animal, you will feel good about it every single day for the rest of your life. Every time you look at your pet, you’ll know that you saved his or her life. Sometimes, I tear up just thinking about where some of our pets would be if we hadn’t rescued them. Would anyone else have paid the vet bills to help little Elsa or would she have died? Would our dogs have found a forever home or been bounced around from one place to the next? Knowing that we are making a difference for these animals is the best feeling in the world!
Why is rescuing dogs and working with shelters helpful in the greater scheme?
When you rescue a dog, you’re actually saving two dogs. Not only are you taking one animal into your home, you’re also making room for the shelter to help another homeless pet. Shelters cannot do the good work that they do every day without help from their community and volunteers. These are nonprofit organizations. All the money and donated items that they receive goes back to helping the animals that they care for. Even if you don’t have the time or money to adopt a pet, you can give back by volunteering at your local shelter for a few hours per week or donating some supplies on their wish list. Even if you’re allergic to animals, you can still help out a shelter. They need volunteers to clean, organize fundraisers, do clerical work in the office, etc… You can help out without actually interacting with the animals. The bottom line is that ANYONE can be of help to a shelter or animal rescue organization!
Is it hard to convince someone to adopt from a shelter instead of a breeder or mill?
It depends on the person, but yes, it can be difficult. I find that the people who are hardest to convince are the ones who have their heart set on a purebred dog. Many of them don’t even realize that they can adopt a purebred dog instead of purchasing one from a breeder. Yes, it will probably take longer to find the right dog for you, but it can be done. There are rescue organization all around the country that specialize in certain breeds. If you really want a Labrador retriever, look for a rescue organization that only takes in Labs. The only way to stop irresponsible breeders and puppy mills is to stop buying their animals. When you do that, you’re just giving that breeder more money and incentive to breed more dogs.
How will you celebrate National Dog Week?
With my dogs, of course! We live in Maine, and the nice weather will soon be leaving us. Within the next eight weeks or so, we’ll be snowed in and temperatures will be too cold to spend a lot of time outside. We’ll be celebrating National Dog Week by taking a hike to check out the beautiful fall foliage and probably taking our Labrador for one last swim before the ice comes. Our dogs also love going to our local ice cream shop for a “dog bone sundae,” so we’ll likely spoil them with one to celebrate.
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