When you adopt a dog from a shelter, they say in the beginning it’s best to spend as much time as you can with them to let them get used to you and their new home. What better time to do that than when you’re social distancing? While on the surface it seems like the phrases ‘adoption’ and ‘pandemic’ may not go together, this may finally be the time you run out of excuses to adopt that dog or cat you saw online and just can’t get off your mind! Whether you’ve been considering it for a long time or all this social distancing has you realizing how lonely you are, right now is a surprisingly great time to adopt. (Some shelters are closing amid this crisis and some remain open by appointment only.)
Saving an animal from life in a shelter feels good because it’s the right thing to do for the animal, but it may be the right thing to do for you and your mental health too. While I can only speak for myself, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I live a happier, healthier, and all around better life being a dog owner. Even if we’re talking about my personal experience through the lens of the Nonviolence Institute’s 4 components- Sustain Life, Grieve, Educate, and Celebrate- this is still undeniable. For example, my dog helps me Sustain Life by forcing me to get out of bed at a decent time in the morning and squashing any dreams I have of sleeping until the afternoon, and in doing so sets me on track for a productive day. One morning of this may not seem like much but weeks turn into months and months turn into years and suddenly you’ve got yourself a healthy habit. He also helps me Sustain Life by diverting what money I would spend on take-out and other things I don’t need, to his mouth for food and his body for vet bills. I think we can all agree that’s money better spent! He’s my consistent and reliable shoulder to cry on when I need to Grieve. He Celebrates my presence with a wagging tail every evening when I come home from work which, I can promise you with my whole heart, never gets old. With every mess from a toy ripped to shreds and every accident on the carpet, he’s Educated me more about patience than any one human has ever taught me. The process of understanding why in the world your dog opted to relieve themselves on their new bed you just bought them home from the shelter to, instills empathetic skills in a person that works with humans and animals alike.
If you don’t think you and your family are ready for a lifelong commitment just yet, consider fostering an animal. Occasionally, shelters seek assistance in the form of fostering because an animal needs to recover from surgery in a quiet, safe environment, or an animal is nursing or pregnant, or maybe they just need some extra socializing before they’re totally ready for their forever home. Shelters often cover all medical and food costs during their time being fostered in your home, all the animal needs is a roof over their heads and some routine love. Who knows, maybe down the road you fall in love and your furry house guest stays forever… or maybe you just help an animal in a way that changes the course of their life for the better. Either way, it’s something to consider if you’re on the fence about becoming a pet owner. One shelter that offers opportunities like this is the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the RI SPCA. They offer many different kinds of fostering opportunities and you can learn more about them here.
One of the shelters that remains open for adoptions by appointment only during this crisis is the Providence Animal Rescue League, or PARL. They are also offering 50% OFF their adoption fees! Dogs 6 months and older are now $112.50, and under 6 months are now $200. Your adoption fee includes Spay/Neuter surgery, numerous vaccinations, a microchip, a free vet exam, and more. Cats 6 months and older are now $50, and under 6 months are now $100. Plus, your adoption fee includes all the same goodies as the dog adoption fee. Small critter fees range from $33 to $5, and come with other benefits as well. Browse their website and check out their animals available for adoption here.
It's also important to note that for your dog's or your foster dog's well-being, you should try to spend some time physically away from them so they don't get too used to you being around 24/7. This is to combat the development of separation anxiety when things finally go back to normal and you're out of the house more often.
Young or old, big or small, animals provide a comfort for us that many could probably use during these crazy, uncertain times. Even if this is for a short time as a Foster Home until the animal and it’s future home can find their ways to each other. So if you think you and your family are ready, do some research and online “window shopping” at local shelters to see if the next furry member of your family is out there.