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How a Golden Retriever Morphed into a Mutt:

DIANE ROSE-SOLOMON

SPECIAL TO THE MIRROR

We were newlyweds living on Fifth Street near Ocean Park. Not quite ready for a baby, we thought we’d get some practice in with a dog. Not any old dog, mind you… but a Golden Retriever. Isn’t that what every young suburban couple aspires to prior to having kids? We both grew up with dogs and all of our friends were getting dogs. It was time.

Just as our search for the perfect Golden started, we got a call from our friend Chris who was playing soccer in Silver Lake. There was a stray puppy on the field and no one claimed him after the game. The puppy had no tags – just a choke collar that was getting too tight. So Chris took him home, fed him, and called us asking what he should do.

The first question I asked was, “Is he a Golden Retriever?” He laughed and said, “Well, he’s golden colored, though I don’t think he’s a retriever. But he is really cute. I just can’t keep him and I know you guys were looking for a dog.” So he brought him to my husband’s work the next day. I got a call mid day. “There’s a really cute puppy here. I’ll bring him home for you to meet.” And I said, “Fine, but I’m just taking a look.” After all, we were getting a Golden Retriever right?

That evening my husband pulled into the driveway with a fluff ball riding on his lap. Definitely not a Golden, but that fluff ball was quite possibly the cutest puppy I’d ever seen. I suppose I fell in love pretty quickly. It hit me then, that while I thought I wanted a Golden Retriever, what I really wanted was a cool dog. We named him JJ and he was our faithful pooch for the next 12 and half years.

Meeting JJ opened my eyes and heart to the concept of animal rescue, and pet overpopulation. We have rescued and/or adopted two other dogs and found homes for others. I had no idea that there are literally millions of dogs euthanized each year, and yet people still continue to buy dogs, either from a breeder, or worse, from a pet store.

I know how tempting it can be to see the puppies frolicking in the store window at the mall. Resist temptation. Many of those puppies are from puppy mills where the conditions are deplorable and the dogs have major health issues. Purchasing a dog from a pet store only perpetuates the problem.

At the time we adopted JJ, I was not aware of these issues. I’ve realized that there are many people with the same thinking as I had: “I want a pure-bred dog just like the one I grew up with, with this or that trait.”

I have learned that many people looking for a pure-bred dog don’t realize that many of the animals at the shelters are pure-bred. More importantly, there are breed rescues for almost every breed out there. Why not try a rescue organization for your desired breed if that’s really important to you (www.akc.org/breeds/rescue.cfm)? I have friends who specifically wanted a certain breed and they found fabulous dogs through the breed rescue. These are people who weren’t aware of the problem but when the option was presented they tried the rescues first and were delighted that they did.

People ask me all the time “What kind of dogs do you have?” My reply is, “American Street Dogs!” We can try and guess their lineage based upon their looks but it is only a guess. Some people even choose to have their dogs DNA tested to find out. I’ve learned that mixed breeds are often healthier. I like to think that rescued dogs understand that they are the lucky ones to have made it into a loving home and they are truly grateful.

To be fair, I still look at Golden Retrievers on the street and think they are gorgeous. Since I’ve opened my heart to dogs in general and rescues in particular, I happen to think all (well at least most) dogs are gorgeous in their own way. But I’ll keep on suggesting rescues to my friends and family and anyone else who will listen. So if you find yourself thinking about your next dog, please consider adopting before buying a dog. You would be saving a life. For more information on adopting a rescue animal, you can visit Santa Monica Animal Shelter on 9th Street (www.animalshelter.org/shelters/Santa_Monica_Animal_Shelter_rId647_rS_pC.html).

There are many rescue organizations that hold local adoptions, including Take Me Home Rescue (www.takemehome.tv) and Much Love (www.muchlove.org). There’s always the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue (www.scgrrescue.org) for those of you who are also Golden lovers. Or you can check petfinder.com online to see if your perfect pooch is out there waiting for a home.

Diane Rose Solomon is a Certified Humane Education Specialist. Please visit her website Save Our Pets People and Planet www.sop3.com.

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