March 21 is the international day for the elimination of racism. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely do not want to take advantage of that just to make a point, but this is a pet blog, and racism is very much present when it comes to breeds, adoptions and rescues. All of us who volunteer and have dedicated our lives in rescuing and rehoming have to face it every day, and do our best to fight it anyway we can.
I’ll start with myself, because I don’t consider myself any better than the rest of the people. The first dog I adopted was a French Bulldog. And who doesn’t want a French Bulldog? I was younger back then and had no idea about anything going on in the animal welfare world, so when I received a text from a friend saying: “do you want a dog?”, my response was: “is depends, is it a Bulldog?”. I’ve always wanted one – at least I was smart enough never to consider buying it.
I definitely don’t want to downsize the effect my frenchie had on me. I adore her. She taught me so many things and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for her. But I can never stop thinking: “would I have adopted her if she wasn’t a French Bulldog?” Maybe, maybe not. I’ve come a long way since then and I can now stand here and say that she is no different from any other dog. She sleeps, barks, eats, loves me, loves treats, loves to take walks and would wag her tail for me if she had one. She’s not a French Bulldog, she’s a dog. She could have been a black, big sized, mix breed dog and she’d love me just as much. And so would I.
During those first couple of years I used feel so proud walking down the street with my French Bulldog. And then I rescued and adopted Apollo, a mix breed abused and abandoned hound – and everything changed. I felt just as proud walking Apollo as walking Laura. But he didn’t get as much attention – he still doesn’t, and that makes me furious.
Apollo was the reason I became involved in animal welfare, and I’ve never been the same since. Racism and discrimination is very much present in our lives every day. I get calls from people wanting to adopt and have to answer the same questions over and over again. “Is there a small (small being 5 kilo or less) dog for me to adopt? I want to keep it in the house and don’t have a garden for a big dog”, “I would like to adopt a Labrador or a German Shepherd”, “I want to adopt a puppy, because I want to teach him right from the beginning”.It’s frustrating, it’s discriminating and it seems hopeless.
Most people seem to be lurking around animal welfare pages waiting for a fluffy, white puppy to emerge so that they can get their hands on it first. Others just want a specific breed for all the wrong reasons, and just put the word “adopt” in the beginning of the sentence hoping to be spared the expenses of buying one. Greece is a country of about 3 million stray dogs and every time you get those phone calls you just want to scream: “hit the streets, find a dog, put a collar around it’d neck and bring it home!”. It actually could – and should – be that easy.
Volunteering in shelters is an eye opener. You spend the day surrounded by dozens of amazing, big sized, mix breed, adult, black and brown dogs that would make any of these families happy, you give them nice names, share their amazing rescue stories and hope for a phone call that never comes. It seems that nobody wants to adopt and that all homes are simply full. No families available. And then when a Maltese appears on facebook, adoption requests pop up per dozens and you can’t help but thinking: “where were you when Billy was up for adoption? – was he too black for you?”.
I’ve been trying – like all of us volunteering in shelters- to convince people that a dog is a dog. Weather you name it black or white, purebred or not, cute or ugly –it’s just a name you give to it based on years and years of erroneous stereotypes and false perception of what being a dog owner actually means. It means having someone to wag his tail when he sees you, to live and breathe for you, to make the most of the tiny, precious moments he gets to spend with you. You don’t come home to your cute French Bulldog, you come home to a dog. A dog that loves your voice, your smell, the whole you.
There are millions of amazing dogs out there that keep waiting for a chance to wag their tail for someone. Waiting for a chance to feel that they belong. And there are definately some amazing people that will make excellent dog owners to a beautiful second hand rescued baby. And we will never ever stop trying to convince them that it’s not about the size, not the breed nor the age. It is about the heart. And any dog’s heart is pure gold – no matter it’s appearance, it’s past, it’s breed or it’s age.