Here's some great news for dog lovers: the Obamas are getting closer to adopting a dog, AND they will be getting one from a shelter, after all.
In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulous Sunday, President-elect Barack Obama said that his family has narrowed down their choice of the first-dog-to-be to a labradoodle or a Portuguese Water Dog, both breeds known to be less likely to cause allergies because they don't shed as much hair or dander. One of the Obama daughters has allergies, and for a while some of us were a little worried that the need to get a hypoallergenic, purebred dog might send the Obamas shopping from breeders, even though they'd acknowledged that they would prefer to adopt from a shelter.
But Obama told Stephanopoulous that their next step will be to look at shelters to see when one of the dog breeds they have narrowed their choice to might come up.
My heart's singing: by adopting from a shelter, the president-elect will set a wonderful, wonderful example for the country and for the rest of the world about the importance of adopting instead of buying a pet. Each year millions of dogs, cats and other unwanted animals enter shelters, for no fault of their own. Millions are put to sleep because there are not enough homes to take them in. Meanwhile, many so-called animal lovers buy puppies and kittens from breeders who irresponsibly breed more of them.
For some reason, despite all the information and awareness out there, these people still believe that animals in shelters are somehow not good enough, or that they tend to have behavioral problems. Many also want to get home a puppy rather than an adult dog.
As someone who's adopted dogs both as puppies and adults, I can vouch that by bringing home an adult dog, you not only get all the joys of dog-parenting, but you also most often don't have to deal with the headaches of potty training. And yes, there's nothing as beautiful as a puppy or a kitten, but they grow up pretty fast: you'll be surprised how fast. By six months, most dogs and cats start looking pretty much as they will in their adult lives.
It just makes more sense to adopt from shelters because most dogs in shelters are checked for behavioral issues: something no breeder does. In fact, dogs and cats abandoned in shelters are rarely abandoned for behavioral problems: most are left behind by people who are moving, or just don't want to be bothered with taking care of a pet anymore, or find out they have allergies. The recent economic downturn has also led to many more pets being abandoned at shelters.
Besides, even dogs with issues can be trained to change, as we are finding out through the work of amazing groups like the Best Friends Animal Society which works, among other things, to rehabilitate dogs with behavioral problems.
It is so fitting that the president we hope will make our world a better place in the years to come is also sending out a message of hope and change for the world's voiceless animals. Kudos, President Obama: there are many tails wagging their thanks to you right now!