I saw a t-shirt the other day at a dog fest that had this saying on the front of it: “Who’s Rescuing Who?” It was very fitting that I saw this t-shirt as I have thought about this very thing for a long time. When a person with a dog tells me they rescued their pet from a shelter, I look at the animal and wonder just who needed the rescuing more-the animal or the human… in other words, “Who rescued who?”
Don’t get me wrong, I think getting a pet from an animal shelter is a great thing to do. I’ve adopted pets myself many times. There are lots of animals who need good homes, so adopting a pet that was surrendered by its owner for whatever reason is a great idea. Even taking home a lost dog or cat who’s found at the side of the road is admirable. But it still makes me ask the question “who’s the rescuer and who’s the rescuee?”
One of the reasons that I’m so curious about this “rescue” idea is that sometimes I get the feeling that the person who’s telling me all about how they “rescued” their dog from a shelter seems more interested in pointing out how wonderful they are for having done this marvelous thing. They actually talk more about themselves than the animal they rescued. It’s like they wear this badge of honor on their shoulder that tells everyone what a great person they are for having given this unwanted dog a home. The adopted pet fills a need in this human’s life – a need to be important, to be noticed and counted among those who are generous and loving. So… who rescued who?
Then there is the person who is having a hard time in life and turns to adopting an animal from a shelter as a way of making themselves feel better. And in many cases, the “rescued” pet actually does improve its owner’s life by being a companion who offers unconditional love and acceptance. The pet fills the life of their human with meaning and may even be the reason the once-sad person now gets up in the morning looking forward to their day with hope and excitement. Again… who rescued who?
Of course, most people who adopt pets from shelters just want to give an animal a loving home. These are people who are in a good place in their lives. They’re happy and well-adjusted… they have jobs and back yards and kids who are excited about playing with their new pet. They also love animals and want to give an unwanted dog or cat or rabbit or horse a chance to be a part of a family and to have a stable and forever home. But even in these situations, I still have to ask the question… who’s rescuing who?
My guess is that it makes no difference who we are or where we are in life… when we adopt an animal from a shelter, we’re all being rescued in some way, shape or form. The animal is getting a forever home with people who will love and take care of him in the way he deserves. And we’re getting an adoring, faithful companion who will give us his unconditional love and affection whenever we need it and even when we don’t. In other words, we’re rescuing each other.