About six months ago, I met an amazing girl with a personality to match, and we quickly became best friends. Like a best friend should, she doesn’t care what I look like in the morning, she supports every decision I make, and she’s there for me between laughter and tears. My only complaints about our friendship are that she can’t go shopping with me, we’re unable to go out for fancy vegan dinners, and the strangest of all? She doesn’t talk. All of this might sound a little off, but it makes a little more sense when I let you know that my best friend is a dog.
As a regular volunteer at the city animal shelter, Norfolk Animal Care Center, I see a lot of animals come and go, and my best friend is really no different. She came to the shelter as a stray from one of the worst neighborhoods in Norfolk. She was lethargic, scared, had visible scars on her legs and neck, and was a little skinny. While I genuinely love each and every dog that comes through the shelter doors, there was just something different about Zoe. In the beginning, Zoe didn’t even want to leave her kennel to go on walks, and she curled up on her bed and slept for the entire day. There was no doubt in my mind that she was depressed, and I wanted to do everything I could to change that for her. Over the weeks, I spent more and more time with Zoe and eventually gained her trust. We went on long walks, played fetch, and the amazing staff made sure that she got her favorite pink comforter to lay on every night at bedtime.
Over the next few months, I showed Zoe to just about every family that walked through the doors looking for a new companion. Unfortunately, a lot of people judged Zoe by her appearance and opted to look at smaller dogs, puppies, or purebreds. After multiple rejections, I started to feel like I was letting Zoe down. More than anything, I wanted someone to give her a chance and a forever home, but little did I know … that person would be me. After about three months in the shelter, I heard word that Zoe had a chance of being euthanized as no one seemed to be interested, and the shelter was full of other dogs who also needed forever homes. At that moment, I knew I had to do something. I scribbled a note for the shelter manager on a post-it and stuck it on his office door. On May 8th, 2009, I picked up my new companion and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
It feels so great to know that Zoe has a second chance in life, but more than anything, I wish that so many other dogs in shelters could have that same chance. Every year, approximately 6 to 8 million animals are turned into shelters, and 4 million of those animals are either euthanized or end up in no-kill shelters where they may spend years living in a cage. Many animals come in as strays, but some are even surrendered by their guardians for reasons like “allergies,” “we’re moving,” “can’t keep anymore,” “too expensive”—there are just too many to list. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Zoe and volunteering at the shelter, it’s the importance of spaying and neutering (the world doesn’t need any more puppies, trust me!), only getting an animal companion if you have the time, money, and means to do so, and avoiding pet stores and breeders at all costs. With 4 million shelter animals unable to find a home every year, it blows my mind that people are finding their companions anywhere else.
So if you’re looking for a friend and have the time and the means to do so, please adopt a companion from your local shelter—they will thank you with a lifetime of unconditional love.
P.S. In her new life, Zoe loves the PETA dog park, cuddling on the couch, peanut butter biscuits, playgrounds filled with children (she absolutely adores kids), car rides, trying to play with my cats—Mr. Chow and Bean, and grooming my bunny, Princess Bun-Bun. I’m also happy to say that Zoe is now a PETA office dog and comes to work with me every day! In fact, she’s curled up at my feet as I type this.