It’s not always easy to find the perfect place to live, a place where you have all the space and amenities you need, where you feel secure and are in pleasant surroundings and above all, a place you can afford. As a baby boomer, I lived in a modest but comfortable childhood home with a decent sized backyard and when I was 17, we got a dog — a poodle named Trixie. We had the space for her and since the pet supply industry had yet to explode on the scene, we could afford the basic necessities of food and veterinarian care. Her bed was a cardboard box with a pillow in it and her toys were simple — a sock with a ball in it and a rubber bone. We had the choice of feeding her either Purina Dog Chow dry kibble or Dr. Ballard’s stews in the can.
For the past 35 years I have lived in another modest but comfortable home with a decent sized backyard and 10 years ago we got our 12 lb. poodle, Donny, from Animatch. He has plush pillows, a comfy crate, squeaky toys and food that cost more than ours but we have the space for him and can afford all the doggy necessities that life today requires. We are lucky and we know it as so many people would love a dog but for various reasons must forgo this privilege.
The desire to bring a dog into your family is often quickly extinguished when you realize you can’t afford all the costs associated with pet ownership nor do you have sufficient space for a dog to fit in comfortably. The skyrocketing prices in the housing market have forced many a prospective house buyer to end up in a condo or apartment, dwellings that more often than not forbid dogs. Seniors are downsizing into units that are not necessarily dog friendly or practical for pets and many millennials are not yet financially able to purchase a house.
These circumstances will be detrimental to the future of dog adoptions as there may be fewer potential adopters with appropriate living space to offer a dog a good home.
Dog adoption agencies such as Animatch, where I volunteer, are not looking to shed inventory as quickly as possible nor adopt out dogs without considering their specific needs. As a result, we are often told we are too picky when choosing an adopting family but we want each adoption to be a success. Many people who apply to us live in a condo or apartment and fall in love with one of our little barky dogs and are angry when we deny them. Or they insist on an athletic breed that needs space to run but have none to offer. Many dogs thrive in small spaces but the match has to be ideal for both the dog and adopter or, much to our disappointment, the dog is returned to us.
As this planet we live on runs out of adequate space to build dwellings with sufficient square footage for dogs and as we reach for the sky with high rises, I ponder whether there will soon be a shortage of homes for abandoned animals. It seems, though, that there is never a shortage of dogs looking for new homes.
If apartments and condos could be situated near parks and green spaces that allow dogs, and if condo associations and landlords could ease pet restrictions, there would be some relief for those wanting to adopt. The best solution, in a perfect world, is spaying and neutering, shutting down puppy mills and not getting a dog on a whim only to surrender it when it becomes too much work. This would reduce the number of dogs needing homes.
Attitudes have improved in recent years due to education and awareness but there still exists some of the old mentality that an animal is a disposable commodity that is simply jettisoned when no longer wanted. There is still much work to do so let’s hope that for those unfortunate dogs that find themselves in need of a good home, there is enough space for them not only in someone’s life but in a physical dwelling, too.
Judie Amyot is a volunteer with Animatch, a non-profit dog adoption service. For more information, visit www.animatch.ca