I recently received a panicky Facebook message from an old friend. From the tone of the message, I knew something was wrong. Calling her on the phone, I learned that her son had purchased a puppy off of an ad on Craigslist. The ad was for cockapoos and since they already had one they bought online earlier in the year, they thought they should get another. It was a deal, she stated, costing them only $350. The dog even came with papers.
They fell in love immediately. Soon they introduced the new pup to their dog at home, took her to the dog park to meet all of their other dog friends and gave her the whole run of the house. The first two days were fun, and the family was excited to have a new four-legged family member. On day three the dog refused to eat her breakfast. By the time they came home from work, she was listless. They rushed her to the emergency veterinarian where she was diagnosed with Parvo and given a slim chance to live. My friend knew she that she couldn’t afford the treatment to even try to keep her alive. She was heartbroken. That’s when I got the call. With tears in her voice, my friend asked if I knew of a place that could help.
My immediate thought was to lecture her on being an irresponsible pet owner. I was really frustrated. My mind swirled with things like, “Why would she buy a dog online when I had shared with her the plight of animals bought from backyard breeders and puppy mills?” We had multiple conversations about pet adoption and I felt that I had failed somehow as an animal educator and a friend when she bought not one but two dogs from an unknown and unreliable place. Why she would bring a puppy that was not fully vaccinated around other animals when she didn’t know their medical history was confusing to me. Puppies are not fully vaccinated until they are at least 12 weeks of age and need multiple vaccinations starting at age 8 weeks, 10 weeks and again at 12 weeks. By taking her new dog to the veterinarian and putting them on a vaccination plan and schedule she could have avoided this whole drama. I even thought to myself that she should never have gotten a second dog in the first place if she couldn’t afford to care for its needs. And those papers that everyone is so excited about mean nothing when it comes to an animal’s health and behavior.
I realized pretty quickly, however, how judgmental I was being. So I took a different approach before I spoke. I remembered that my friend was an amazing pet owner to the dog she had at home and if this wouldn’t have happened she would have been amazing to this one too. The dog was spayed, vaccinated and she treated her like she was her child. I remembered how my childhood dog was bought from a pet store. I remembered how I had no extra income when I adopted my first dog as a young adult. I remembered that she was calling me for help because she wanted to do the right thing for the little dog. Rather than being disapproving and critical, I decided to be supportive.
Knowing the pup’s survival was a long shot, I referred my friend to a veterinarian that I thought might be able to help and hung up the phone. I didn’t hear from her for a few weeks so I figured the outcome was not good. Until one day I received another call from my friend. “She made it!” my friend exclaimed. She said it had been a rough few weeks, but she was so thankful for my help. She believed that without my referral her beloved new puppy wouldn’t have survived.
It’s often easier to be judgmental and dismissive rather than helpful. Had I gone with my first inclination to tell her that I thought she was an irresponsible pet owner, who knows what would have happened to that puppy. Thankfully, I took a deep breath and treated her with compassion and kindness. We are all better off because of it.
Puppy vaccines are essential for all dogs regardless of breed or size. The Pasadena Humane Society offers twice weekly walk-in vaccine clinics, as well as puppy training classes. Learn more at pasadenahumane.org.