April 30 is Adopt a Shelter Pet Day
By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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April 30 is Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. This event has special meaning to me, due to my close relationships with animal shelters, and the amazing love that shelter animals (of all species) provide.
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. Volunteerism and experience are highly regarded in the veterinary community, so I wanted to volunteer at shelters to gain valuable experience. And to play with the dogs; I was a teenager so my motives were simple. I greatly enjoyed taking the dogs out for walks and grooming them. At the time, I didn’t have a cat at my home, so I could spend time with cats (as well as rabbits, guinea pigs, and gerbils) without upsetting my mother.
While at Auburn University for college, I continued volunteering at the local shelter. I participated in adoption events, such as taking dogs to locations in the hopes of finding loving homes. I was always so excited when dogs were adopted. Their tails wag, they get excited and prance about…they truly display how we all feel when we make a new friend!
During my second year of vet school, I adopted my own rescued shelter dog. Gus was a 9-week-old puppy in need of a home, and a lot of love. He found both with me. He was a black Lab/Shepherd mixed breed, a true “Heinz 57.” He was wonderful and destructive, with severe anxiety. He ate through walls and floors until we found the correct treatment for him. Though it was frustrating, he loved us unconditionally. That love saved our relationship many times, while I was cleaning up shredded paper, or repairing a table. He had the most expressive eyebrows, and made incredibly funny faces. I often joked that I saved him from a shelter, but in truth he saved me every day. Unconditional love is a gift, no matter how humble the beginnings of the relationship.
Several years later, I was a veterinarian practicing in south Georgia. That is when Sam came along. Sam was a black lab mix, found on the side of a highway. He was tiny, but full of attitude. I convinced my husband that a shelter was no place for this spunky puppy, and that a companion would be good for Gus. After some initial hesitation, Gus and Sam developed a flourishing relationship. When Gus destroyed something, Sam would attempt to hide the evidence, or distract us. And when we had human babies to add to the family, both Sam and Gus, my fur babies, were incredibly welcoming.
The benefits of adopting a shelter dog are boundless. But if you cannot adopt, there is still so much to be done. You can volunteer at your local shelter, or with a local rescue group. Many shelters will allow children to volunteer with an adult. Or you can donate supplies, toys, or dog food to your shelter. Veterinarians often donate medical supplies, or even time. I continue to volunteer with a local shelter group, donating supplies and performing medical examinations when I can. Every little bit helps.
We all need love, no matter what species. I have been blessed to know and care for thousands of shelter dogs, personally and professionally. I encourage you to get involved with your local animal shelters, on April 30, or any day you can. Every visit to the shelter will touch your heart.