By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
In 1975 I purchased my first house, which to me, was less about a roof over my head more about having a yard for a dog. A couple of months after settling in, I ventured to the county dog pound (as they were called in those days) and bought a cute little fluff ball for $6.00. I named her “Carrot”. The people at the dog pound didn’t know much about her background, so they suggested that I take her to a veterinarian to have her checked out. Unfortunately, she had kennel cough and for a few stressful days I thought I would lose her before I ever really had her. But she improved and was my faithful companion until her demise in 1983. So why am I writing about her now? Because as part of our conversations with the vet during that time I asked him if he could tell me her breed and age. He said she most likely was a cockapoo-terrier mix and fixed her age at about eight months. I think about that conversation every time I stop to talk with someone about their dog. Somehow the owner always manages to blurt out some version of, “I really don’t know much about the breed or age because I rescued him/her.” Sheesh!
I first started noticing the trend of “rescue virtue-signaling” about ten years ago. Let me be clear, I think it is terrific to rescue dogs. If you saw the 60 Minutes episode about dogs a week ago you were probably not surprised to learn that dogs have a “kindness gene”. None of them deserve to be locked up in a cage. All they want is a little love, a scratch behind the ear and some food and shelter. In our family we have had a variety of dogs over the years, half rescue and half purebred. But here’s the thing: when someone asked us about the rescue dogs, we always gave an answer that was as close to accurate as we could get. Veterinarians are actually very good at assessing the breed and age of a dog. I have a hard time believing that people who spend hours looking at dog videos on Instagram Reels or dress their dog up like a ballerina, don’t have the time or inclination to ask their vet for an opinion on the breed and age of their dog.
On my walk around the neighborhood last week, I met a woman walking her dog and stopped to ask her about the dog. She told me all about how she rescued the dog but couldn’t tell me anything else about it. I suggested that she purchase a dog DNA test. She was stunned at my suggestion. “Why would I do that?”, she asked. I told her it would provide more information about the breed of the dog, which could be helpful in preventing or understanding future medical issues. I left our encounter convinced that she had no intention of finding out more about her canine companion. Because – and here’s the reason I find this trend so annoying – I think this woman finds more self-satisfaction in telling people that she’s rescued a dog that she would in saying, “She’s a Malti-poo mix and she’s about three years old.” Where’s the fun in that? How can the world possibly know what a wonderful person she is if she gives such a straightforward answer?
I’ll get off my soapbox now. But I’m still going to tell people to get their dogs tested. If people want to feel virtuous, they should donate time and money to the local animal shelter.