It was an adoption event in New England. A man approached Pansy, a fit, attractive tan and white Boston pup. “She’s cute,” he commented. “I’m looking for a Boston. But why is her adoption fee so high?” Pansy’s foster mom wanted to answer him. “Well, she’s a purebred Boston terrier puppy who has been vaccinated, spayed, heartworm tested and micro chipped, not to mention transported across nine states to get here. None of that was free, and the adoption fee you think is so high is actually considerably less than you’d pay for a fully vetted puppy bought from a breeder. That’s why!” But we do get tired of explaining ourselves to people who, rather than commit a charitable act, simply want to buy a desirable dog for a great price. So I thought, I could blog the Pansy incident and… Wait! I digress! This blog is not about Pansy. It’s really about Betty. Betty is an eight year-old black pug from a puppy mill. Most rescues that see Betty carried off by anyone-but-them can sigh and say they dodged a bullet. Betty came into rescue direct from a “commercial breeder” in Missouri with a case of heartworms, rotten teeth, and a couple of small tumors. Like most puppy mill survivors, Betty has never heard of housetraining. Most people would probably not be astounded to hear that eight year-old dogs who pee everywhere are not hot commodities on the adoption circuit, but Betty doesn’t know that. After spending her entire life churning out litter after litter for greedy humans who withheld affection and medical attention, she has embraced pet hood wholeheartedly. She now lives in a rescue house with her foster parents, who love her no matter what. Betty needs no special incentive to do the full-butt wag for anyone who looks the least bit interested in her. In short, Betty is a charmer and a money pit. Betty has a chance to be what she always should have been – a beloved, physically well-cared-for family member. We want her to have that chance. But how do we pay for it? Admittedly, we pray a lot. God always seems to take pity on fools, so our prayers are answered, sometimes with donations from caring people. More often, the answer comes in the form of dogs like Pansy. That’s right – back to Pansy, the beautiful 10 month-old purebred Boston Terrier with the exorbitant adoption fee. She didn’t “show well” in the shelter, so she was sent to the same rescue where Betty resides. Pansy has no health issues, and no major behavioral issues. After a bit of one-on one in a foster home, she’s ready for a permanent family. The inequity: This highly desirable puppy’s adoption fee is roughly double the fee asked for Betty, whose medical care cost three times as much. Here’s a truism for folks looking for cheap dogs: Healthy puppies rarely need rescue. We can place Pansy and dogs like her all day long. If that was what rescue was all about, it would be an easy task, wouldn’t it?
But we think rescue should be more about the Bettys than the Pansys. While adopting cute, healthy puppies is certainly an option, anyone can do that. It’s the rare breed of humans who adopt the senior dog, the blind, deaf, or wheelie dog, the puppy mill survivor so afraid of human hands she won’t take food from them, the unhouse trained, the asocial… those adopters are the humans I treasure! The dog they adopt will probably have cost considerably more than the adoption fee asked. That dog will likely go on to incur an even greater cost in time, patience, and sometimes in ongoing veterinary care. But for humans who are willing and able to open their hearts and homes for these special dogs, the reward is worth it a thousand times over. The folks carrying away those cute little puppies can tell their friends they “rescued” their dogs. What does it matter that they don’t comprehend the lot of all the Bettys of the world? How can we expect them to? It would be like trying to teach a table leg to play piano, don’t you think? So we let people think they are rescuing healthy young dogs and we listen to them gripe about the adoption fee with a secret smile. We know the truth. They are actually rescuing an old puppy mill survivor with a long list of health issues. We don’t need to tell them. But sometimes, we’re so tempted.