The headline was everything a rescue group doesn’t want to see: Why I’d Never Adopt a Shelter Dog Again.
It went downhill from there. The writer, Erin Auerbach, had adopted several dogs from shelters over the years, including a Boston Terrier and a pug. They eventually got sick and – stop the presses – over the years (in once case after a decade) all three eventually died. Apparently this was a shocking development to Erin. She came to the conclusion shelter dogs are inherently more prone to illness and to die prematurely. So now she will only get a dog from a breeder.
Good luck with that. While many breeders are conscientious about studying pedigrees and trying to breed healthy, long-lived dogs, that is certainly not always the case. Even with careful breeding, there is no guarantee that just because a dog has papers from a breeder it will live a long life. In many cases the AKC's official "breed standards" contribute to the dogs' health issues. A glaring example are the short-nosed breeds' respiratory issues that are so common now most airlines refuse them passage. Congenital diseases from over-breeding have plagued some of the most popular breeds, like the Golden Retrievers and Great Danes. And everyone in the Sighthound world has seen the devastation that osteosarcoma has caused in Greyhounds.
Erin Auerbach also seems to have missed the fact that MANY of the dogs ending up in shelters started life out as a breeder’s success with papers attesting to their lineage and pedigree. They ended in the shelter any way due to the variety of misfortunes that seem too common for even the best-bred dog today. Check out Petfinder. Look at the hundreds – thousands – of wonderful, healthy, beautiful dogs waiting for homes.
To recap, just like people dogs will get illnesses, particularly as they age, and you will have to take them to the vet. Because they don’t live as long as humans, you will have to watch them age and eventually pass away. It is the price we pay to enjoy the love of a dog. Pedigree is no insurance policy.
We offer Erin our condolences on her losses over the years. And we wish her the best of luck with her new purebred pup . . . but we also hope that what readers take from her story is the companionship she felt for her dogs and the love they shared over the years. When her new pup inevitably gets sick or just old, we hope that Erin will revisit her column. Dogs don't come with guarantees, and neither do people. If Erin gets sick or hurt and can't take care of her new pup he might find himself with a rescue or in a shelter, too. And he'll be just as a great a dog as he is now.
The Washington Post is a powerful platform for a writer and with that power comes responsibility. We understand Erin's desire to defend her decision to purchase a dog, but discouraging the public from adoption is not the responsible thing to do.