By Susan-Katherine Corkran, Columnist
My mother allowed me to volunteer for a day with the SPCA on a Girl Scout outing on the condition that we were not going to be bringing home a new dog. We already had a family poodle, and she firmly, repeatedly warned me that there wasn’t going to be a second dog as a result of this day playing with puppies. Then we met Ollie.
He was a six-month-old scrap of fur with terrified brown eyes. I didn’t know why I was so drawn to his face, but something about his gaze held me beside him. Slowly, over the course of the day, he went from curling up at my feet to resting in my arms. I held him with as much joy as if I were holding a baby, and he nuzzled his face against me as he relaxed for the first time. I never wanted to let him go.
Adopting a dog is a connection between the family and the animal, not a one-way decision. We chose Ollie but Ollie also chose us. The first time my father took him for a walk, he slipped out of the leash. Ollie was so scared at having done so that he bolted away. We all frantically looked for him for several hours, and I can’t describe how heartbroken I was. Later that night, I sat on the front step of my house calling his name softly, because I had lost my voice from shouting and sobbing. Calmed by the quiet, when he realized that I was the only one there, Ollie emerged from behind a thick patch of bushes and came running up to me. In utter disbelief, I started weeping with joy instead of sadness the second I scooped him up into my arms and pressed him against my heart. He’s never left us since.
It’s the ten year anniversary of Ollie’s adoption. It amazes me how quickly the time has passed, and how much we have both grown up since our lives came together. I was a twelve-year-old child when we met that day at the SPCA. We were each feeling alone and scared in our own ways—perhaps that’s what drew us together. Yet we also learned how to be brave in the decade since then, and the difference that a loving family can make to a dog in need is just breathtaking. Ollie has taught me patience, perseverance, responsibility, and the importance of never giving up on causes that seem lost to others.
The next time an adorable dog catches your eyes on campus and you start to wonder if you want to make the commitment of becoming a dog owner, don’t search for that companion in a puppy mill. Don’t buy a dog who has been inbred from caged dogs treated like puppy machines for the sake of a profit. The Humane Society’s research shows that 3 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters every year in the US. While hundreds of thousands of dogs are mistreated and forced to bred to make profitable purebreds, millions of mutts like Ollie are being ending their days alone– given poison in a sharp syringe.
Instead of supporting a puppy mill, look into the adoption organizations trying to find families for pups like Ollie to save them from euthanasia or a lifetime of loneliness. There are so many good dogs just waiting for a chance to be loved and to give their love in return. Saving a dog’s life is never a choice you will regret. While love is not available for purchase, it is very much available for adoption.
Photo Courtesy of Evan Cantwell, Creative Services