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Home / Articles / Columnists / Healthy Living /  Countering the Stigmas of Animal Adoption
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Thursday, August 2,2018

Countering the Stigmas of Animal Adoption

By Karen Ellis-Ritter  
On July 8, I went to Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in West Palm Beach, because our family was finally ready to bring a new dog into our home and lives.

We have six-year-old twin boys who are on the Autism Spectrum. They experience sensory issues, anxiety and meltdowns. Though they are sweet and loving, they can be unpredictable and loud. We also have two very entitled feline companions who were pretty content having a dog-less household.

There are always anxieties surrounding introducing new beings (of any species) into an established household dynamic. They bring their personalities, preferences, hangups and former life experiences; and then those new elements must be integrated into the fold. As hard as one may try to control outcomes through research and training, at the end of the day, we are all individual beings, regardless of our species or earth suit, and there are no guarantees that things will go smoothly.

Many people are apprehensive about animal adoption. There is a commonly-held belief that rescue dogs might have “too much baggage” or that it is better to adopt a fresh-faced puppy who isn’t set in their ways. That apprehension would skyrocket in some when I would mention that we were looking to adopt a Pit Bull. I know with certainty that stigmatizing a dog based on her breed is unjust; just as it is unjust to place stigmas based on anyone’s appearance.

Fiona is about two years old. She was found wandering the streets of Wellington as a stray and had recently given birth to puppies. Her mammaries hung low and there were no puppies in sight.

No one knew what circumstances led her here. When I met her, I could tell she was an old soul – sweet, calm, ever-so-gentle and ready to move on with her life. Contrary to the unfair stigmas attached to her breed, Fiona is a Pit Bull who is as gentle as a lamb. She is our newest family member. She is amazing with my boys and loves every person she meets.

What I already learned from our departed canine son, Liam, is that animals are resilient in ways that humans rarely are. He had previously been abused, homeless, on death row at a high-kill shelter, pulled in the 11th hour … and then he spent a trying six months in a (very poorly-run) no-kill shelter which neglected his health and wellbeing. From the depths of all that trauma, he found his way into our home - and Liam was perfect. He was older. He had boundless gratitude.

He loved us all with such a sincere passion. When he died, the loss blew a hole in my heart – and I still ache for him. Despite that pain, I know that adoption is not only ethically sound, it is immeasurably rewarding. Animal adoption leaves a greater and brighter space for new hope and healing – because shelter dogs will always need us.

ALL animals need us to advocate for them. And whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we need them too.


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