Saturday, December 15, 2007

Adopt a stray

"Money will buy you a pretty good dog, but it won't buy the wag of his tail."
Henry Wheeler Shaw

So you are planning to buy a dog. Ever considered adopting? Give it a thought, and when you are at it, go and check out a few dog shelters as well. I can guarantee that if you are a dog lover, you won’t leave the shelter without losing your heart to one of the residents. The dogs put up for adoption by the numerous shelters are either strays or abandoned. These bundles of joy need a loving family and in return they will give you unconditional love for a life time.( a dog lifetime that is!)

People are often hesitant in adopting a street dog. The reasons for this hesitancy are varied. Some people want or love a particular breed. Like a colleague of mine, who is a strict Alsatian person. For her, a dog means an Alsatian. Then there are others who buy pedigreed dogs more out of a need to show off than a love for the animal. But there is a dog loving population out there who is just ignorant or misinformed about stray dogs. There are a number of myths about this unfortunate population of dogs and this article is an honest attempt to lend a hand to the hard working animal shelters in finding a home for these dogs. Read on and you too can find that perfect pet.

What is a ‘street dog’?
Street dogs, or Indian dogs as some people prefer to call them, are mixed breeds and not pedigreed, which have been developed in the West. They are also known as ‘Pariah dogs’. The phrase pariah dog originally referred to the wild dogs of India, but now it indicates any population of stray dogs who live near human settlements. Street dogs consist of stray or abandoned pets, litter born of a stray, or from unwanted litters dumped by some dog owners.

Stray dogs have germs and can pass them on to their human companions.

All dogs, whether strays or pedigreed, carry a variety of germs that can make people sick. It is unlikely, but yes! it can happen. Very young and old people are more likely to get diseases from dogs as they have weak immune systems. This has nothing to do with a dog being a stray and everything to do with hygiene. Just remember what your grandmother told you. ‘Thoroughly wash your hands with running water and soap after contact with dogs.’
The dogs, which are put up for adoption by the animal shelters, are sterilized and immunized, and obviously clean. They are no more likely to give you disease than a pedigreed dog.

Strays are more prone to falling ill.

In Fact, strays have much stronger immune systems than most pedigreed dogs. Many pedigreed foreign dogs have developed genetic weaknesses as a result of generations of inbreeding. For example, Alsatians are prone to hip displacement, bulldogs cannot breathe properly, and so on. Strays, on the other hand, are hardy. A life spent in the streets has given them a stronger survival instinct and a rock solid immune system. That is not to say that your stray won’t fall ill. But when compared to a pedigreed dog, it will fight diseases more successfully.

Strays are wild.

It is a well known fact that dogs share their DNA with wolves. And yes, most dogs have the wild instinct. But it is hidden deep inside, and seldom comes to the surface. These instincts come to the forth when they are eating or after a bitch gives birth. That’s why all dogs have to be trained. Strays are independent and are used to following their instincts, but with the right amount of love and training, you can change that. Moreover, most of the dogs put up for adoption by animal shelters are abandoned pets, and are thus already housebroken and comfortable with people. As far as street dogs are concerned, most of them have lived in the midst of people all their lives, and are more likely to be afraid of humans. For people who don’t want to adopt grown up strays, there is always the choice of adopting from a stray litter. Most shelters test the temperament of the dogs to ensure that they would make good house pets before putting them up for adoption.

India has a huge population of strays, and however cruel it may sound; I am in no way suggesting adopting them straight from the street. If you do decide to adopt a stray, visit your nearest animal shelter. These dogs need a loving family. By adopting a stray and homeless dog you are not just doing an act of compassion, but are also making a friend for life. These furry friends give us their ‘dogged’ devotion, loyalty, and companionship forever. Yes, it takes time and patience, but what they give us in return cannot be quantified.

Every dog lover knows the feeling of having one of these bundles of joy at home. Any dog, whether stray or pedigreed, makes our world a little better.

Before you decide to adopt or buy a dog for your family, do some research about what kind of dog will suit your lifestyle. And remember looking after a pet is a lot of hard work. It is like taking care of a baby. Adopt a dog only if you are ready to invest your time and money into it.

E B White, in his book, The Care and Training of a Dog says, "A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can't get it by breeding for it, and you can't buy it with money. It just happens along." And I can tell you from experience that stray dogs make great pets and these accidents of nature are just waiting for you to come and take them home.