You don’t have to be a cockapoo, labradoodle, puggle or schnoodle to be adorable. All puppies start out looking irresistible, especially those who arch their eyebrows.

But unfortunately it seems that for some people only a trendy “designer” or purebred dog will suit them and their designer handbags, Canada Goose coats and $350 Montcler fur pom pom beanies.

Case in point: My Connecticut town’s dog park is a pretty, social green space for lots of playful dogs, including our family’s.The dog park has a Facebook page, and all too often someone posts about acquiring a dog, with the same provocation. The writer has a photo with her Golden Retriever or another purebred dog, saying she adopted her dog from a rescue, but her co-worker wants the name of a good dog breeder for a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, or some such breed. But, beware: The dog HAS to be non-rescue.

Apparently, there’s no problem with spending $700—$2,000 to purchase the puppy from a Ridgeback breeder, yet it’s unacceptable to recommend a shelter or rescue group that actually goes to great lengths to make the right match so dogs find their forever homes, not just their for now home. Maybe the co-worker can only fall in love with an adorable purebred puppy, but do know that in this world, all dogs who lose their homes were all puppies once, and regardless of the good or bad hobby breeder, they were all sought-after to complete someone’s lifestyle.

Truth is, once puppies get leggy, and close to a year old, reality sets in. Folks add up the time it takes to clean the folds in a bulldog’s face, rescue a chewed sofa cushion or exercise a gung-ho lab. A Bully-Basset mix who chews a six-inch hole in your office desk drawer to fetch dog treats reveals a trait undiscovered earlier when people stopped you on the street to tell you how adorable he was.

Younger generations who once treated their dogs like surrogate children are often not invested in the longterm maintenance, or the complications that develop when they expand their household with human children, or move, change jobs, or experience other life changes. Their once loved dogs become hassles and are ultimately deposited with rescue groups or shelters.

Of course, these situations are never reasons for dropping human children off at adoption agencies, yet it happens to dogs and cats because pet abandonment isn’t enough of a taboo.

Are so-called dog-lovers looking for perfect dogs to complete their unfulfilled lives? Bob Dylan is right, we don’t find ourselves; we create our lives. Adopting a dog or cat isn’t the same as adopting a fashion trend, trying a latest hairstyle or joining the newest boutique fitness studio.

I found the insistence that the co-worker wanted a non-rescue dog obnoxious, so I questioned the person who posted. In turn, she promptly complained to the page administrator that I was “trashing” breeders. I replied that I objected to the dog park page being used as a recruitment site for commercial breeders. My efforts decades ago helped create that dog park in a bustling village of 11,000 residents with increasing numbers of soccer dads and moms who thought every inch of open space should be off-limits to everything other than children’s outdoor sports. Athletic fields for those activities already existed.

You can’t count on dog breeders shaking down a would-be customer to determine whether someone purchasing a puppy is equipped to responsibly care for a Ridgeback – a rather wired dog who needs lots of exercise and is known to delight in chasing cats. Rescue groups are the ones who evaluate individual dogs traits for placement so they can let people know why a particular dog is a good choice for a family’s lifestyle. They know making the right match is critical to ensure retention.

In poring through listings on a bulldog rescue group I follow, recently I noticed five-year-old Royce, clearly once purchased from a breeder, who was offered to a rescue group because he didn’t like a toddler pulling his ears. The owner had become pregnant again, so she decided she couldn’t cope. Fathers usually don’t figure into these stories at all because they don’t make dogs or children their priorities unless they fit into their work and lifestyle. Instead of the parents controlling the child, which is doable with a toddler, Royce had to go. I always wonder, “How do these people live with themselves,” before thanking the rescue group for performing miracles.

Another miracle occurred on June 9, when Royce found a wonderful new, better home. But moments later, I read about Coco, “good with everyone, sweet, healthy,” but the owner was moving and can’t keep more than one dog. So, the work is underway by the rescue to place Coco, which brings me back to the dog park post about someone’s snobbish co-worker desiring a non-rescue.

Really, where’s the humanity?

One can only hope people are adding dogs to their family, not because they want another status symbol, but because they want to give and receive love, loyalty and companionship.

I am thankful to the miracle-workers—the rescue groups—who are making that happen.


Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, has presided over the international, non-profit animal advocacy organization since 1987. She has also served as president of the San Antonio-based sanctuary Primarily Primates and is a food activist and author of three vegan cookbooks.