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Save a dog

12:04 AM August 02, 2016

ADOPTING A stray dog is better than buying a puppy. It’s cheap, it makes you a hero, it helps the environment and the dog in many ways.

How do stray dogs get by every day? They almost never do. Their life is full of risks, but they call the streets home. How do they end up there, in the first place? Some are born in the streets and grow up there. Many live their whole lives there. Some were pets once upon a time and were given food and affection every day, but for some reason, their humans didn’t want them any more. Maybe the humans had to move to a place where dogs aren’t allowed, or maybe a family member developed a dog allergy. Maybe they think it’s easier to abandon sick, old dogs that require more attention, or aggressive dogs that are hard to control. Then there’s the money. The humans didn’t realize that having a dog is like having a newborn baby. It requires food, trips to the vet, and things to spoil their dog with.

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It is unacceptable to leave unwanted dogs in an unfamiliar place. The humane thing is to take them to a shelter. Responsible people can care for them there. Humans who dispose of their pets in places where life is uncertain are heartless and irresponsible. They think only of themselves, not of what will happen to their pets.

When strays are out in the streets, many enemies await them. The first is hunger. If they’re lucky, kind humans will give them scraps of meat and clean water. But most strays have to rummage through trash bins. Many human foods are harmful to a dog’s digestive system. Strays do not know what they can and cannot digest; they eat what they see.

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When they eat too much of what is lethal, they die. And most die of starvation.

The weather is another enemy. Strays get cold, hot or wet easily. In tropical countries, dogs die in floods and typhoons because of lack of shelter. They must find a temporary home, such as an abandoned vehicle, or behind a trash bin.

Reckless drivers run over strays crossing the street, killing them or causing injuries. Some drivers even do it for fun.

Strays always feel threatened, lost and anxious. They are exhausted by self-preservation. Abandoned dogs feel confused and miserable. They wonder where their humans have gone, and why. No matter how comfortable strays seem in the streets, they look for one thing: a home.

According to yahoo.com, strays are seen as misbehaved, dangerous rabies-carriers that bark at night. They wake everyone in the neighborhood up with their loud woofs. They cause road accidents. Humans walk faster when spotting a stray. Those with pets carry them in their arms, afraid that strays might attack them. Most people don’t know that strays do not attack unless threatened or provoked. They smell fear and mean no harm, unless they’ve turned into doggy zombies.

What people do not see is that strays help the environment. They chase rats and other pests away. When strays do their business on the soil, the poop acts as fertilizer. They can become well-trained pets with a high sense of survival.

Why adopt a dog? Obviously, because you want one. So why not buy one from a pet shop? Here’s why: Go outside, look around the street. You’ll see at least one stray dog walking around, looking for food. Adopting lessens the number of homeless animals and encourages people to adopt, not shop.

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Pet shops get pets from breeders who produce thousands of animals a year. These breeders dispose of the “bad” ones, leaving them to die in the open. They don’t care about animals; they care about money, their business and themselves. They make a ton of money because buying from pet shops is more popular than adopting from shelters. What people do not know is whenever they buy from pet shops, they support a breeding industry that does not treat pets well.

Two animal shelters allow people to adopt dogs: Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Compassion and Responsibility for Animals Philippines (Caraphil). Both rescue animals from the streets and give them a greater chance of surviving and getting a home.

The two groups’ goals are: Prevent animal cruelty, educate people on the horrors of the breeding business, rehabilitate animals, and look for loving families for them. PAWS’ motto is: “Don’t shop. Adopt!”

These shelters encourage owners to spay and neuter their pets, and advise new owners on antirabies shots and other treatment for strays.

Studies have shown that people who have pets, especially dogs, are physically and mentally healthier. Pets help humans look on the brighter side of things, keep them company, and ease their loneliness. Pet dogs also make humans feel safe as they guard the house and are loyal to their masters.

Because dogs need to be walked and exercised daily, their humans are forced to be more active, to go outdoors and enjoy the day. They’re great conversation starters.

Caraphil.org says you must consider these when thinking of adopting a dog, to save you and your future pet a lot of trouble:

  • Are you financially stable to provide for a dog’s needs? There are expenses for vet bills, dog food, grooming, etc. Can you provide for these for the next 15 years or so?
  • Does your place allow dogs? Can your dog run around safely for its daily exercise?
  • Will your whole family accept and love a new dog?
  • Are you responsible enough to give time for your dog and provide for its daily needs?

My classmate Nicole Macapagal adopts dogs. Most of those she brings home take only a few minutes to adjust to the new environment. But some take days, even weeks. At first they hiss and hide in corners and refuse to eat. Their adaptability depends on their experiences with humans while living in the streets. If the dog was abandoned or harmed by humans as a young pup, adjusting takes longer.

Nicole’s advice to owners is to leave the dog for a few minutes to adjust on its own. It must be held close and wrapped in an embrace to let it know that the owner means no harm. This lessens the dog’s anxiety. It must be given a comfortable place to rest in, and two bowls with food and water. Silence is important, to calm the dog and help it adjust faster to its new family and home.

Make a dog happy. Pick up one from the street. Take it home with you. Simple acts of kindness will bring hope to stray dogs. There will come a day when there will no longer be victims of animal cruelty. It is nearer than we think.

Gabrielle Nina Apilado, 17, graduated from the Community of Learners and is entering Ateneo University as a psychology freshman.

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