I don’t know what I’d do without my dog.

Cliché, but it’s true.

She’s a loveable klutz. Her energy level rivals that of my children. She barks and sheds, licks and wags her tail so hard it hurts my legs.

My daughters adore her. They’ve learned how to take care of something other than themselves. They help feed her, fill her water bowl, and give her baths. They’ve learned how to be gentle with an animal, how to give nice pets behind soft, floppy ears. And our dog has learned how to be just as gentle back.

We named her Zelda. As in, The Legend Of (for my husband) and as in Fitzgerald (for me).

She’s One of the Family. And She’s a Shelter Dog.

When we first got her, she was stick-thin, her ribs protruding through a thin layer of hair. She had been found alone tied up to a pole next to the local shelter. Nothing was known about her—where she came from, her exact age, what she liked. The shelter assumed she was as big as she would get, about 40 pounds, and that she was around a year old. She seemed shy and quiet, scared and lonely. I fell in love with her immediately.

Now, she’s grown to 65 pounds and has seemed to double in size. She quickly came out of her shell and became the big dog we all love today.

October is Adopt-a-Dog Month For Many Organizations and I am All For This.

Since 1981, American Humane has celebrated Adopt-a-Dog Month each October in an effort to help the estimated 3-4 million animals waiting in shelters every year get the forever homes that they deserve.

October is also Adopt a Shelter Dog Month sponsored by American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to promote the adoption of dogs specifically from local shelters.

Both organizations, among others, are wonderful resources in beginning to think about bringing a dog into your home.

Research Abounds Proving the Special Bond Between Humans and Animals.

According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), pet ownership plays a role in alleviating a range of mental health conditions, and that “human-animal interactions can reduce anxiety and depression and help protect against a variety of other negative feelings and emotions.”

HABRI also has information on the benefits of pet ownership for children, as well. In one study, “the mere presence of a family pet during childhood can increase emotional expression and control in children, and research supports that even brief interactions with dogs can lower stress levels in children.”

Just seeing how our world would not be complete without our dog tells me that this research supports what I already know: animals are special creatures.

American Humane offers a few tips on how you can support Adopt-a-Dog Month:

  • Adopt from a shelter or rescue group
  • Spay or neuter your dog
  • ID your current pet
  • Consider adopting an older dog

And if you’re not ready to add an animal to the already delicate makeup of your home, I get it. It’s a big decision and one that deserves a lot of thought.

You Can Still Support Your Local Rescue or Shelter.

Consider donating time, money, or supplies, and also spread awareness of the event on social media.

When we brought Zelda home, it was certainly a transition, but one that I would do over and over again. She needed some extra care because she had been abandoned and we were willing and able to do that for her. She still has anxiety at times stemming from her shelter experience. But as I was pregnant with my two daughters, she would lay her head on my large belly and I could feel her breath next to mine and I knew she would never be replaced.

She’s come a long way in the eight years we’ve had her and she is worth it. There are millions of dogs like Zelda waiting to be rescued. All need care. All need love. All need a home.

Just like us.

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