I would like to dedicate this column to all the 501(c)3 dog rescues who work so hard, often with very little financial support, to not only save the lives of the voiceless, but to ensure their well-being while in rescue and after. The best of the best rescues exemplify Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s timelessly true words, “You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.” These charity rescue organizations don’t just carry the heavy weights of their own work; they also shoulder the responsibilities society leaves behind.
I’m not saying rescue groups are perfect. They are, after all, humans and members of the same society. Just as some dog guardians may be more careful than others, so may some rescuers be. I would love to see more rescues commit to anti-aversive measures, for example, and so I hereby commit to helping them. Nevertheless, I daresay that most reputable dog rescuers have experienced more heartbreak than anyone else I know, and for nothing in return to themselves. Their only currency is the work itself, to help the helpless, innocent creatures lost, stolen, misunderstood, neglected, abandoned, or abused. This is a currency valuable to no one, except those who respect animals.
I invite you to join me in giving these people a true gift of the heart that will last forever. From this moment on, whenever you talk, or write, about the dog you obtained from a rescue — or a shelter — before you choose your words, remember who rescued that dog from whatever s/he may have suffered. The rescue or shelter rescued that dog. Give them a gift of appreciation for their work and devotion by foregoing such phrasing as “We rescued our dog from…” in favor instead of the more accurate “We adopted our dog from…”
If this seems silly, try imagining yourself as a rescuer. You’re the head of All Dogs Kindred Rescue and you’ve spent the day saving dogs from horrible situations, you’ve seen unforgivable things, you’ve wondered where your mortgage money will come from, since you just paid a huge vet bill with your own money, and when you will find time to sleep between bandage changes, medication times, and your paying job.
Over the years you’ve spent tens of thousands of your hard earned personal dollars to ensure the best care and preparation for the dogs you’ve rescued and that the homes they get are safe, responsible, and loving. You’re completely devoted to doing the very best work for these dogs. Then you notice one, or a few, of the adopters posting about their dogs and you’re so happy, until you see “I just rescued this dog from All Dogs Kindred Rescue!” Or, perhaps worse yet, simply “I just rescued this dog!” One word can make a huge difference.
Rescue: To free from danger, violence, or evil; to save. Unless the rescue organization adopting out dogs is itself abusing or neglecting the dogs, it may be hurtful to the rescuers involved to say that you “rescued” your dog from a rescue. If you have ever been a dog rescuer, you probably know that the very last thing a rescuer needs is more hurt, however small.
This little change of phrasing is one way that even those who cannot afford to donate to charity rescues and who don’t have time to volunteer can still do something very kind and very helpful—you can do this yourself and you can tell everyone else you know to do it too: “I adopted my dog from (name escue group).” Or, if you really feel you want to specify that the dog is a rescue dog: I adopted this amazing rescue dog from (name rescue group).” You get the idea.
Rain Jordan, CBCC-KA, KPA CTP, is a certified canine training & behavior professional. Visit her at www.expertcanine.com.