RICHMOND COUNTY – Every year across the globe little boys and girls answer the age old question, “what would you like for Christmas this year?” with a simple exclamation of “a puppy!” or “a kitten!”
Many of these children are then quick to follow up their requests with thoroughly rehearsed lines of logic and reason that include everything from “it builds responsibility,” to “I promise to take care of it” or even desperate proclamations of “but they’re so cute!”
Regardless of the validity of these arguments, there is one, or rather 83, undisputable reasons why citizens of Richmond County should consider answering this childhood wish by gifting their family an adopted pet this Christmas season.
Holistically, the number of stray animals in Richmond County is incredibly high.
People see these poor strays and call Animal Control or local law enforcement agencies to have the animals picked up and taken to the local shelter, where they will presumably be patched up and put up for adoption.
But as explained by Bonnie Wilde, Director of the Richmond County Animal Shelter, this is an occurrence that happens far more than what people would expect.
“This is one of the worst seasons as far as what comes into the building versus what leaves,” expressed Wilde.
The shelter, which currently has 83 animals under their care, receives nearly daily deliveries of stray dogs and cats from Animal Control, and the Rockingham and Hamlet Police Departments.
“This is the time of year when shelters see a lot of animals coming in, but not a lot of animals going out,” echoed Allison Story, Director of the Richmond County Animal Advocates.
Story also explained that reported strays are only half of the reason why the RCAS is consistently so full.
According to Story, there are also many people who drop their pets off at the shelter because they are no longer able to afford them. She said that owners feel that the price of dog or cat food, pet medical bills, or other supplies become too much to handle, so they pass their pet on for someone else to care for.
Such a phenomenon is only heightened during the holiday season when family pet(s) get pushed down on the priority list and the expenses of boxed gifts are selected over boxes of pet food.
But fortunately for these animals, Wilde and her team are there to help them get back on their four furry feet and find their new forever home.
Every day, the staff and volunteers of the RCAS work one-on-one with the shelter’s 80 plus dogs and cats. These animals, ranging in age from litters of puppies and kittens who are born in the shelter to older animals who are in their senior stages of life, are all individually examined, treated, and vaccinated as necessary upon their arrival to the shelter. Wilde’s team then works diligently to feed, bathe, and of course, play with the cute canines and cats on a daily basis.
Perhaps the most critical of these services, though, is the regular and positive interaction with people that these animals are given. With dogs and cats all coming from different backgrounds, some of which are more positive than others, the relationship that forms between each animal and their caregivers becomes a transformative piece in their healing process, that in time, prepares them for adoption into a new and loving home.
And although all of these animals are special and loved dearly by the staff and volunteers alike, the ones most special to both Story and Wilde are by far the older ones.
“Make a commitment to an older dog,” encouraged Story. “Puppies get adopted every day, dogs do not. So why not make a commitment to an older dog who needs a loving home?”
Wilde, who reiterated Story’s sentiments, couldn’t help but glow when speaking of the priceless moments and bonds that can only be experienced when adopting an older dog.
“Sometimes I think that the dogs pick their owners instead of the owners picking their dog,” Wilde stated humorously. “They know who they want to take them home. It’s instinctual for them.”
As if such an instinctual connection wasn’t enough reason to adopt an older dog, Story spoke of numerous benefits of adopting an older pup over a younger, energetic ball of fur.
Contrary to popular believe, not every older dog is scared and comes from a feral past. Many of the older dogs in the RCAS have lived in a home at some point in their lives and already have experience with people and may even be house trained.
Plus, as added by Wilde, older dogs are more mature, attentive, and have a temperament that is already formed, allowing potential owners to see the dog’s true demeanor. Not to mention, “their love is unconditional” and “they are forever grateful.”
An additional benefit of adding an older canine to the home is that they are typically calmer; a tremendous benefit to any family who is busy and on the go, especially during the holiday season.
“Christmas season is a tough time for a family. You’ve got all of that traveling, you’ve got family coming in, it’s very busy,” Wilde noted. “You’ve got new things going on that they’ve not be a part of before so you have to adjust. But sometimes that older dog can help adjust, where as a puppy is going to get right in the middle of it.”
The majority of these characteristics can be seen in RCAS’s dogs upon their first interaction with perspective adoptive families. Wilde, who strongly advocates for a family to take some time to get to know a dog before they adopt him or her, happily offers potential adoptive pet “meet and greet” sessions. During this time the family is able to explore their potential fur baby’s personality a bit further, and see how they react to all members of the family, child, adult, and four-legged alike.
In instances where all visitations go well, as Wilde and Story hope will be the case very often this Christmas season, the family or individual will then be able to adopt the animal from the shelter for a fee of $10, which covers the costs of necessary immunizations.
Currently, the RCAS has 15 older dogs who are up for adoption at this time, along with 8 puppies and a near equivalent number of cats.
And yes, Wilde and her team hope for every animal to be adopted, but, she confesses that they “would really love to see all of our older dogs get adopted.”
But, Story cautions, adopting a dog or cat is a commitment, a responsibility, and should be a decision that is made by the entire family so that the cycle of dog abandonment is not continued.
For those interested in adopting an animal this holiday season, or would like to learn more about available services, are invited to visit the Richmond County Animal Shelter during their normal business hours, Tuesday through Friday, 12 to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. They may also be reached by phone at (910) 895 – 0335.
Below are some more photos of pets who need adopted.