The End of My Dog Days and Deciding Where To Get A Dog

Last night my husband had a chat about our future and what we would like to see ourselves doing in 5 or 10 years. And while we understand that life has a habit of interrupting the best of plans, we thought it important to lay down at least some general guidelines so we could do what we want with our last years on earth.

One of the conclusions we reached was that there are to be no more dogs.

Before I moved to Florida from Michigan I had 4 dogs, but when I moved my youngest daughter begged me to let her keep the youngest of my pack (top dog above). She couldn’t bear to lose her mother dogs, it seems. In fact, while she argued vehemently why she should be allowed to keep a dog, she never asked me to stay in Michigan at all. 😉

So I moved to Florida with 3 dogs, the youngest of which will be turning 7 in a couple of weeks, making him officially a senior citizen of dogs.

As much as I love my dogs and the joy they bring to my life, being the caretaker of 3 dogs places a lot of limits on your lifestyle. I can’t just leave the house for more than 4 or so hours without deciding how my dogs are going to be fed, watered, and looked after. Trips are logistical nightmares, especially when the oldest dog is struggling with illness and issues. In fact, I am driving to Michigan in a couple of weeks to attend the MISHRM HR conference and conduct some business there. I am driving because I cannot leave the dogs behind, and I have reliable dog care options in Michigan.

This is the reason that my husband and I have decided that we should not consider getting, rescuing, harboring or otherwise become responsible for any more dogs. We know that if we keep our heads down and our wits about us, we will be dog-less in 5-7 years, given the average lifespan of border collies, which is the breed of our youngest dog. Not having any dogs will allow us to concentrate on moving around and traveling at our leisure, both professionally and personally. It’s what we have decided we both need and want.

Deciding that no more dogs will become a part of the household also saves me – at least indirectly – from entering the great debate called “where should you get a dog?”

Many people think that the only appropriate place to get a companion animal is from a shelter, pound, or rescue organization. The argument for this alternative is that there are just so many animals that need homes it is a moral travesty to go elsewhere to get a pet. But a counter argument exists that the huge proliferation of rescue and shelter organizations in fact increases the unwanted animal population, as owners know there is probably somewhere they can leave their unwanted pets, puppies and kitties. So shelters and rescues actually aggravate an unhappy situation, not help it (at least in some opinions).

A similar argument has existed for years to keep people from buying a dog at a commercial pet store. The argument is that buying from a commercial pet store increases the puppy mill problem where a lot of these dogs are bred, and creates a cycle of continued inhumane breeding. I have never been a huge supporter of that argument, seeing that years of complaints about commercial pet stores has done nothing to stop the puppy mill problem. And the dogs in the stores are alive and need homes, right? Where are they to go – to another shelter or rescue organization?

“Buy from a reputable breeder” is the mantra of many. But “reputable” is a pretty loaded word when it comes to breeders – with absolutely no standards as to what constitutes repute or reliability. And the argument that buying from a breeder doesn’t stop the unwanted pet population has a lot of validity. Shelters and rescues are full of pure-bred dogs that just couldn’t make it with the family that bought them. My first dog – a beautiful Brittany boy that I adopted from the Michigan Humane Society – was a dog like that. But buying from a breeder is a sensible alternative, particularly to people who work or hunt their dogs and have very specific needs for their pets to fulfill.

I have always advocated that people should get their pets from whatever type of place their needs, minds, and hearts drives them to. Just make sure that whatever you choose to do, you understand that the commitment to own a pet exists for your life and theirs. That is why, in the picture above, the bottom dog comes from a pet store, the next is a rescue, and the second from top is breeder bought. My last three dogs – and all started their lives in different ways. I’m lucky to have had the pleasure of providing them food, shelter, games, and vet care for their lives.

What about you? Do you have a pet? Do you think people have a moral responsibility to get a pet from a specific place? Where do you stand – and why – in this debate?


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do . . .This Time.

My first career job was as a police officer. I left after 11 years to marry my husband and move to another county. The decision to leave was a no-brainer.

I went to law school and then got my second career job as a litigator in a large law firm. They wanted me to work 80 hour weeks and wear nothing but skirt suits to work. I left after less than 2 years; also a no-brainer.

I became a law professor at the law school I had recently attended; a three year contract. After 3 years, the law school left me. I didn’t have a choice and there was no thought involved.

When I left the meat processing plant where I was general counsel and HR manager, it was my job or my marriage. Although hindsight and a lot of personal development since then has made me wish I could go back and re-do some things, leaving – at least at the time – was another no-brainer.

So when the news broke locally that the non-profit Michigan Humane Society euthanized almost 70% of  the animals that came to its facilities last year, I was plunged into a sea of indecisiveness and dilemma that I had never experienced.

Don’t follow? Well, here’s the problem: After years of financial support, I decided to begin volunteering for MHS last year. I became a Facility Ambassador at one of their facilities, helping customers navigate the facility and make sure that people ,particularly potential animal adopters, knew the procedures and didn’t leave out of frustration or the inability to get their questions answered. I worked a regular, weekly shift and ultimately helped train other volunteers. I believed in the adage that the best way to help animals was to help people.

But I saw things I didn’t like, particularly management practices (or lack thereof) that seemed old-fashioned and ineffective. I was angered by the poor communication between the management, staff, and volunteers.  I was heartbroken, though, by the number of people who surrendered their animals to the facility because they no longer had the financial resources to care for them.

So when two members of the Board of Directors quit when the other members refused to submit to an outside audit about the euthanasia practices, I knew somewhere in my heart that it was time to withdraw my physical, emotional, and financial support for this organization.  My head didn’t follow as quickly, though, and I spent hours trying to run down information, checking charity ratings on, comparing salaries, practices, and transparency with similar shelters, trying to turn my original, emotional decision into an intellectual one. I even asked for my friends’ opinions on Facebook. It worked, though, and now both my head and heart agree: it’s time to leave.

For the first time, making a career break of some kind was a hard, hard thing to do. Neil Sedaka must have been forseeing my future when he took his jaunty, doobie-do 1962 hit and turned it into a soulful ballad in 1975.




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