Living Large tip of the Week: Recycle a Pet

Animals have been a central theme this week at Living Large, so I thought I would continue that on with the Tip of the Week: Recycle a Pet.

Over 5 million healthy dogs and cats are killed in shelters each year in the United States. Millions more struggle to survive on their own on the streets and in the countryside.

If you put all of the animals killed in shelters each year together, it is more than the human population of Los Angeles and they would equal the populations of Chicago and Houston combined.

That’s a lot of animals.

We taxpayers also foot the $2 billion bill to capture, house and ultimately kill these animals.

Homeless, feral cats also have a profound effect on the environment and eco-system, greatly reducing the number of birds in some areas. I couldn’t find any statistics with regards to how much of an environmental footprint shelters leave on our planet, but it must be astounding.

So, why is it necessary to continue to breed pets or buy “new” pets from breeders or pet stores? It isn’t. It’s American consumerism, the need to have the “best,” the “prettiest,” the “fastest” the “biggest,” the “smallest…” whatever descriptor. It is because we see animals as an extension of our lifestyles, instead of living beings with feelings and emotion.

Some may also feel that shelter or rescue pets are “broken,” or have behavioral issues that cannot be fixed.

That is simply not true. We’ve had a total of 7 rescue cats and 9 rescue dogs (including a foster) in our married lives, none of which required anymore training and socializing than I would have put into a “new” puppy. Of these, 3 of them were purebreds, which also proves you can find purebreds, if you so choose, in rescues and shelters.

There’s a saying in animal rescue: “Shelter animals are not broken, they’ve simply experience more life,” and we’ve found that to be true. Our rescues have all also been the most loyal of pets. Emma, our German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix even saved me once from a charging horse.

Dale brought home a new stray last week. He’s a younger Beagle mix. He is very needy and clingy, he needs lots of attention and love. He also doesn’t seem to have been house trained. But I know when he settles in and he knows we won’t leave him or dump him, he’ll be a great dog.

We’re calling him Dexter, because he has “killer” eyes that will melt your heart.

If you cannot adopt a homeless pet, there are other ways you can help the effort:

  • First and foremost, please make sure to spay and neuter those pets in your care. Two unaltered cats and all their descendants can theoretically number 420,000 in just seven years. Two unaltered dogs and all their descendants can theoretically number 67,000 in just six years.
  • Volunteer your time and any unneeded pet toys, beds, blankets, towels, linens and other items your shelter may need. Food and of course, monetary donations, are always welcome too. Many shelter and rescues have sponsorship programs, which are great gifts for the people in your life that have everything and need nothing.

Here at Our Little House, we believe the 3 R’s of Repurpose, Reuse and Recycle is not just limited to “things;” but also to the beings that we, as a species, have domesticated, making all of us responsible for their humane care and the imprint we leave on the environment in doing so.

We would love to hear all about your recycled pets and how they found you.

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39 Responses

  1. Brandy says:

    We’re glad you rescued Dexter. He sounds sweet and pitiful. I love his name and the reason.

    Ours are all strays and everyone is all fixed. We have 4 pups and a house of cats. Rescues always know they are saved and are so grateful for their “new” lives.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Brandy. He really is pitiful. At first, we didn’t think he had been abused, but the other night, I went to scoot him out of my way, you know how you do with your foot, and he started hunkering down and screaming. Yep, he’s been kicked. Thankfully, we found a rescue to help us with vetting, so he will be going in this week for a check up.

  2. I am moved by the work Vida is doing. When we traveled in Greece, we were appalled at the prevalent attitude to dogs. Many of them were even called Turk, or Turkish names which in Greece is an expression of disdain.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks for your comment, Vera. Vida is indeed one special animal lover and we’re so glad she’s a part of Living Large! 🙂

    • Vida says:

      Hello Vera,

      Thank you for your comment. It is true that the most difficult part of our work here is the battle against an ingrained system of cultural and social values that unfortunately does not consider dogs as anything more than tools to be used and thrown away at best, or vermin to be poisoned at worst. Sometimes it is disheartening but each successful rescue gives us hope.

      There is even a phenomena known as “barrel dogs” so called because they are dogs that are tied up permanently in the wild to act as guards for sheep. They live short lives with only a rusty steel barrel for shelter throughout the year and they get food and water only when their “owner” remembers. I have never seen such a terrible and heartbreaking manifestation of cruelty towards animals CONDONED by society. We are trying to fight against this now but it is widespread in rural areas of Greece and many of the islands.

      Sometimes I wish that I were as rich as Bill Gates so that I could buy a hill and create a paradise for unwanted and mistreated dogs on their way to new homes and new lives….

  3. V Schoenwald says:

    All of mine, cats and dogs have been road animals or gutter animals, literally. Some found in gutters, several in major highway ditches, very badly hurt, but given a chance and medical care, have been precious and very forgiving of their circumstances.
    My last cat was a stray caught in a privacy fence last December and lost his left leg and part of his tail, and in major kidney failure, but I pulled him through and he is a funny and entertaining being. His name is Chester, after the Gunsmoke character.
    I am an ICU nurse for our humane society and I usually get the very badly injured and disabled animals anyway, as people don’t believe that they can be saved or even function, but mine sure can.
    Also, Kerri, did you see the news article about the two-faced cat? And he is twelve years old. I’ve only seen one of these cats and it only lives a few months because of congenital defects, but this one is thriving. They are called “Janus” cats because of the two-faced Roman god Janus.
    Wonderful article. I sure recycle. Literally.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks for all of the wonderful work you do with the injured and forgotten. It’s truly a blessing for these animals. Yes, I saw the article, it is amazing, for sure.

  4. susan says:

    Every animal we’ve had has been a rescue, either off the street or from a shelter. My favorite breed of dog? Mutt. Hands down the best. Cat? Whatever – they’re all good. I love the animal, not the breed. Every animal we’ve had has been a good one, loyal and sweet.

    Before my husband and I married (over 31 years ago) I had a cat and he came from a house that never had cats, only dogs and those only sporadically. He actually found a cat he fell in love with that was going to be sent to the pound and rescued her; brought her to me before we even married.

    I’ve managed to have at least a cat no matter where I lived even if it wasn’t allowed. Even when I was in the Army I snuck a cat into the barracks! I’ve always had animals in my life and always will and I will *never* go to a breeder or a pet shop.

    Your post is spot on.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Susan! It sounds like you are as into pets as I am. Dale and I have always had cats, until we moved here and lost both of our elderly cats shortly after the move. Sade, the pit, didn’t seem very friendly with them, so we didn’t get anymore. I’ve been without a dog only once in my life. That was when my 14-year-old Maltese passed and we didn’t want to get another one until we came home from a week-long 10 year anniversary trip to Orlando. Hershey, our first rescue, had other ideas. We went to look at a truck for sale and came home with her. 🙂 I’ve loved them all!

  5. The thing that makes me most crazy about the people who are desperate for especially toy breed or small breed dogs is that MOST of the ones out there are bred so poorly that they have WAY more medical and behavioral issues. So, sure … you can get a puppy from a breeder, but they’re often a total mess … that you likely paid WAY too much for.

    I did a piece a while back about the “economics of puppies.” It was enlightening to find out which dogs cost what and who benefits from the transactions.

    • Kerri says:

      You’re right, Roxanne. Many of the “toy” breeds were not actually supposed to be that small in the first place, opening them up for many health issues down the road. Our maltese were bred to be so small, their mouths couldn’t hold all of their teeth and we had lifelong issues with all of them and their teeth. Note: This was way back in the 80s, before I was enlightened to rescue! 🙂

    • Vida says:

      Not only the toy breeds, Roxanne. Many purebreds have terrible health problems large or small. Unfortunately they are bred for an aesthetic to win dog shows without a thought for genetic health. Problems include skin allergies, hip displasia, difficulty breathing but to name a few. Great working dogs have been ruined as they were bred to aesthetic standards that destroyed their abilities in the field. I could go on forever…

      The English bulldog can’t even reproduce itself without human intervention! How’s that for a genetic wreck?

      In my own tiny sampling pool of four dogs I have noticed a huge difference in resistance to illnesses and health issues between my adopted mixed breed and my “pure bred” fox terriers. They often come down with the same ailment from close contact (stomach upset from eating stuff or once we had a skin fungus). Well, every single time the “mutt” got better on her own immediately without any medication while the rest needed pills and creams. Talk about a great immune system!

      Now that I work with animal rescue I will certainly never look one way or another for a purebred again. I’ve become a mixed breed snob!

  6. Done. Our little pom mix from a shelter is like another member of our family. Can’t imagine life without him–and neither can my kids.

  7. Well, you know how I feel about this issue, Kerri. I’m glad you covered it in your blog today because I don’t think this message can be overstated. When I was getting my hair done the other day, I started talking to the young hairdresser about dogs. She told me she had a little Bijon that she adored and asked what kind of dog I had.

    I told her TJ is a mix that appears to have german shepherd, maybe golden Lab and who knows what else, but she’s a fantastic dog, adopted from a shelter at seven years old. The young woman said she would like to have rescued a dog, but had her heart set on getting a purebred Bijon, so had to go to a breeder. I explained to her that shelters are full of purebred dogs, and there is a rescue organization for any breed you can name. She was shocked to hear that.

    Many people assume that purebreds are special and wouldn’t ever end up in a dog pound but of course, there are millions of them put to death in shelters every year. She told me that next time she gets a dog, she will definitely check with a shelter and rescue organization before buying. Great blog, great message!

    • Kerri says:

      I know, Kathy. It always kind of shocks me to hear when people don’t know anything about adoption or rescue, but then i remember I was the same way once upon a time. Bless you for getting the word out and for taking in TJ. I know she was a little challenge at first, but she has a great home and she knows it now!

      • Yes, TJ had trouble settling in and learning to trust us. No wonder, somebody dumped her at a shelter after having her for seven years! She just didn’t trust anybody after that. She was able to jump our fence and kept running off. I don’t believe in putting a dog on a chain, no matter what, so just worked on getting her to see that she was in a good place with people who would love her if she gave us the chance. Finally she did, and now is a real homebody, though she does like to go off on a ramble now and then.

        She’s a great dog and I will never have anything other than a rescue. However, nobody lives their principles like you and Dale- never turning your back on a suffering animal even when your household already included five dogs. I don’t blame that little beagle for not wanting to leave your side. Poor little thing has love and shelter for maybe the first time ever and I’m sure is frightened of being alone and hungry again. Like I said before, there surely are a couple of halos in heaven with yours and Dale’s names on them!

        • Kerri says:

          Thank you, Kathy. 🙂 Hopefully, it has earned us some points, but even if it hasn’t, our lives here on this planet are sure richer for our dogs.

  8. Sheryl says:

    Every rescue pet I know seems inherently grateful to their owners. Somehow they know that they were chosen and saved. It is very heartwarming to see. My son, who is 24, told me just yesterday that when he settles down and gets a dog, he will definitely rescue one. That made me very happy. (Plus, I’ll get a grand-dog!)

    • Kerri says:

      Yay, Sheryl on the granddog! My mother always called my dogs her “Granddoggies,” too. 🙂 I’m sure your son knows, but just make sure he researches the type of dog that will fit his lifestyle when the time comes. Good for you, it sounds like you taught him right. 🙂

  9. Rhonda Mock says:

    The nicest thing about rescued animals is that they always seem grateful and have very little sense of entitlement. (I would say NO sense of entitlement, but let me run out of cat treats……)

    • Kerri says:

      LOL, Rhonda. Yes, when Dexter came into the house, Sade ignored, because we say she always thinks, “They just keep comin’!” Abbi and Chloe sniffed and accepted and Dakota and Molly turned their noses up. We joke that we can tell which ones were homeless the longest because they are more accepting of the new kids. 🙂 And treats, I empathize. I better had not run out! 😉

      • Rhonda Mock says:

        The treat thing is a slippery slope! If it weren’t for couponing on Ebay, there would be anarchy in this house!

        We say we rescue these animals, but I have often wondered if it isn’t the other way around.

        • Kerri says:

          I know, Rhonda. That really hit me when Emma saved my life from that horse. The domino effect if we hadn’t taken her in really got to me. She was a very special dog, my mom bonded with her right away and she didn’t normally take to large dogs (due to a bite incident when she was a kid). We were all better for her being in our lives, for sure, as we are for all of our furry ones.

  10. Alexandra says:

    Lots of great ideas in this post! It made me think about my own pet problem right now, what to do with the stray cat that has come around all summer. She was very hungry, so we started feeding her. I knew we could not adopt because my husband is allergic to animals. Then, her owner turned up. He was trying to catch her. Said his brother had brought a bigger cat for the summer that had scared her away. I’m slowly making friends with “Serena.” She trusts me enough to let me pet her while she eats. So, the other day I called her owner to say she was here. The minute she saw him she bolted at 60 miles an hour. My daughter says I should give her back anyway. I cannot keep her. That she will find her way back if really unhappy. But she will hold it against me, won’t she? Any suggestions?

    • Kerri says:

      Hmm, Alexandra, I don’t want to pass judgement on that owner, but it seems a little strange to me that the cat bolts everytime she sees him. It seems to me you have two options. The first being to allow the cat to remain at your home as an outside cat. I’ve know many people to do this with feral cats. They fix up warm shelters for them so they have a nice place to sleep at night. As for Sven, it is typically the chemicals released in the spit of dogs and cats which make people allergic. There are remedies for this. Of course, you would also need to make sure the cat is spayed and has its shots. The other option is to get a humane cat trap, possibly from a vet in your area or a shelter or humane society and catch her and return her to the owner. If she will come to you, you can put her in the trap until the owner comes for her (surely he has a cat carrier). I don’t know, it’s a tough call. We’re fairly sure that Dexter was a stray. He was skinny, not neutered and covered in ticks and fleas (and bites). I looked for his owner for about a day and then wondered if actually returning him, if we did find him, would be the best for him. I hope this helps. Email me offline if I can answer any more questions or help.

      • Rhonda Mock says:

        May I pipe in here, please? One of my cats, Sir Lancelot, adopted me. He came from across the street where he was being badly neglected by his owners. About six months later, the woman from across the street came over (loaded as usual), said she had seen “her cat” in the window and wanted him back. By then, I had paid to have him fixed, gotten his shots, had him wormed, tested for diseases, and had him at a healthy weight. I was holding Lancelot when she came to the door. He saw her and tried to bury himself in me. Hard. He was shaking. I realized then that I would protect that boy with my life. I was willing to put a whole new definition to “cat fight”. Once she figured that out, she left us alone. There are reasons that animals bolt from someone that “owned” them.

        It is something VERY special when an animal adopts you….

        • Kerri says:

          Thanks for sharing that, Rhonda. We’ve always felt our dogs adopted us, coming into our lives for some reason. Yes, it doesn’t bode well for an owner when the animal is scared at the sight of them.

      • If that cat had a loving home, it would not be spending all its time at your house. I would not make any attempts to return it, especially since it runs when it sees the owner. That tells you something is wrong, they might be abusing it and as cats do, it has chosen someone it feels safer with – you! Have you asked the owner if they even still want the cat? Sometimes people lose interest in a pet and neglect it or abandon it, maybe they would be happy for you to take it off their hands. As Kerri said, there are ways to deal with the allergy problem. I am allergic to cats too, and have two of them living with me! It can be done and this little kitty needs a rescue!

        • Kerri says:

          Agree on all counts, Kathy!

          • Alexandra says:

            Thanks to everyone for the advice. He is a young yoga teacher and brought over food. The only reason I have to doubt the cat would be happy back there is the way she ran from him. I will give this some more thought. I really would love to have this cat as an outdoor cat, but we may be away for a month or two.

  11. Alisa Bowman says:

    I cannot even begin to express how much I love this post. I adopted our dog who is now 12 years old and I will adopt every dog that comes after him. There is zero reason to buy new in the pet world. Zero. Save the homeless pets!

  12. Vida says:

    Hi Kerri,

    Well that is certainly a post that resonates with me as I work with animal rescue too, here in our corner of Greece. It is an uphill battle, especially with regard to cultural attitudes.

    My recycled rescues include a fox terrier who had been returned twice to her breeder and a Korthal’s Griffon mix breed who had been cruelly fed poisoned sausages when she was 6 months old and living on the streets.

    But let me tell you of another dog that we’d rescued this spring. She is a big Rottweiler mix and she had a broken hind leg. To cut a long (and beautiful) story short, she ended up being sent to Germany where she was adopted. Her new family had to pay thousands of Euros in vet bills to fix her leg. But she amply repaid them and all of us by saving the life of an old man with Alzheimer’s who had fallen down in the mud deep in the woods and could not get up. He had been missing overnight and his family were frantic. She wasn’t looking for him, she just suddenly insisted on veering off the path and tugged her owner behind her. Well she became the local heroine and even got on TV and had articles written about her in the German national news! Isn’t that great? A Greek dog that nobody wanted saves a human life in Germany!

    So lest anyone says that rescues or dogs from shelter are problematic, I would say it depends on the dog, it really does. Tara the Rottweiler proves my point. Inspite of having been mistreated all her life she never showed anything but love and affection towards all of us who came into contact with her.

    • Kerri says:

      Vida, Tara’s story brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful, loving dog. My own Emma was part Rottie, a breed that has been terribly maligned here. Yet, we hadn’t taken her in, I would hate to think what that horse would have done to me. I remember when you sent Tara to Germany and how bittersweet it was for you. You played such a huge part in her rehab and ultimately, helping save that life there in Germany because you’re the one who got the ball rolling!