Obamadog, and My Dog.
Now is a good time to point out there’s a much less exalted road to pet ownership. Take me: eight months after 9/11, I was in New York City and I wanted a dog. Bad. I needed a reason to go outside three times a day on weekends.
So I started looking at shelter dogs on line. I’m not resentful there was no international search for my dog. Actually, I enjoyed the search a little too much. It got to the point where I was spending hours on line looking at dogs in shelters as far away as Wisconsin.
I was turned down by one rescue league because I had never owned a dog before. Taken aback but undeterred, I showed up at Bideawee, right in Midtown Manhattan. I needed two IDs, a letter from my landlord, a copy of my lease, and a whopping $35. Mishka, a “blue shepherd mix,” came home with me that day. Simple.I’m as interested as anyone at the news of the Obamadog arrival. But those of us who aren’t breed enthusiasts are quietly wondering if the First Family might not have adopted a rescue dog from a shelter had it not been for allergies in the family.
Even if you, as a prospective dog owner, have needs that are satisfied only by certain breeds, there are rescue leagues that can help. Say you yearn for an energetic freak in the house: the Viszla Club can help. Or you have a butcher in the family but you’re a vegetarian—turn to one of many Great Dane Rescue Societies. If you need a portable, four-legged boss, try the Chihuahua Club of America. For a complete listing of breed rescue leagues click here.
You may not get a six-week-old puppy from a rescue league, but you can certainly return stability to the life of a dog whose owner has been forced to stop caring for their pet. And that’s the real problem: home foreclosures, or stays in jail, can leave an animal homeless.
The ASPCA estimates that hundreds of thousands of pets across the country could be abandoned or relinquished to a shelter as a direct result of the subprime mortgage crisis. Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, Executive Vice President of ASPCA Programs, issued a statement saying the potential for serious animal welfare issues is particularly high in states like Nevada, which has three times the foreclosure rate of the rest of the country.
Naturally, shelters are feeling the pinch, too. Bideawee, where I adopted Mishka, is an animal welfare organization founded in 1903; because of a shortfall in donations, it recently closed one of its satellite operations.
With the thousands of dogs all over the country waiting for a home, you don’t need to live in the White House to give them one.
Mame McCutchin keeps a blog about Mishka. Front page photo of Mishka’s nose, by Jen Minary, is titled ‘Welcome to the Holland Tunnel.’