This past weekend I had the honor of being a part of the Best Friends Animal Society’s yearly East Coast Super Adoption event. This year the venue was in White Plains, New York, where thousands of people came out in hopes of meeting their new furry best friend. Over the course of the weekend around 300 dogs and cats found new homes. And although that’s a pretty impressive number for just two days, there were still hundreds left in cages on Sunday afternoon.

My job at the event was to help people choose the right dog for them and supervise meet and greets between potential adopters (sometimes with their existing dogs) and the dogs looking for homes. During the course of the two days I was struck by how many great homeless dogs are out there. Many people think that dogs in shelters and rescues are damaged goods with issues and problems. But the reality is that this is rarely the case.

Most homeless dogs are there because of human error. Often people don’t think the decision through before they get a dog and soon realize that they are not able or willing to deal with the responsibilities that come with having a dog. Or they fall for the cute face without realizing that the dog is not a good match for their family or lifestyle. Or they are irresponsible and don’t get their dogs spayed/neutered and now they have puppies out there with no one to care for them. Sometimes the dogs do have issues that need to be addressed, but often they are easily treated with some knowledge and time.

What I saw this weekend was dog after dog that was just plain great. I couldn’t believe how many truly lovable and adoptable dogs were there. I remember seeing one big, super sweet Mastiff/Great Dane mix on Saturday morning and I thought, “Wow, this guy will be gone before lunch.” When I saw him still hanging around on Sunday afternoon I was shocked. How could no one have snatched this great dog up?

The reason was because there were so many other great dogs available. Dog after dog that I worked with impressed me. They were all so great. If I came to this event and saw the 700 dogs there, I’m not sure how I would ever be able to choose just one to bring home – they were all so deserving.

It was hard not to come home with one myself, but I always promise my wife as I leave for these kinds of events that I won’t come home with anything that barks or meows. And indeed I saw more than a few volunteers leaving with dogs that they didn’t necessarily intend to come home with.

The point is that dogs in shelters and rescues are not damaged or inferior. On the contrary, they are most likely healthier both mentally and physically than most breeder dogs. They are just dogs with bad luck.

So don’t ever judge a dog by the cage it looks through. Meet them and see for yourself how many great dogs are out there waiting. But beware; once you meet them it will be hard not to bring them home.

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