It takes a village, some people say, to raise a child. I think that's right. Although parents are, and should be, their children's primary source of support, guidance, nurturance, young people do not reach adulthood without the need for additional adults - as role models, teachers, mentors, guides and friends.
It takes a village, I think, to keep a dog as well. A dog's owner should be the primary source of support, care, attention to health and socialization. But it's a rare dog owner who can go through a dog's life without the need for support in their care.
Behavior or health puzzles exceed our scope of knowledge - we need advice, perhaps not just from a competent veterinarian, but from others in dogs who have more or different experience. We need the support of reputable breeders, owners of our own breed or another breed, people who have lived with multiple dogs, blind dogs, dogs suffering from arthritis, dogs experiencing stress - people who have learned how to help dogs manage all the multitude of challenges that they might face during their lives.
Or life changes, and we have to travel more, work longer hours, take on other responsibilities - and need the support of neighbors, friends, family or paid caretakers to keep the dog on an even keel, allowing them to be at home or cared for safely while we are gone.
Ill health or even death comes calling, and our dogs must find new homes in which to live out their lives. If we've been thoughtful about the possibilities, we have made arrangements for those homes, left instructions that are clear, and have made a plan that allows them to have an orderly transition that minimizes their loss and hardship.
Do you have a support system in place? Do you know who can help you with information and skills to keep your commitment to your dog throughout its life? If something happens to you, is the information about who to call readily visible? Do people know, and are they committed to, their roles in relation to your dogs?
Rescue is a valuable resource. But we should be a valuable *last resource*, not a first stop. Dogs are not things. They are living beings with, we hope, good long lives to live. Think through what it will take to travel by their side throughout those years, to help them grow, develop, learn, age, and ultimately pass on. Connect with other dog lovers in your life to make a plan for your dog's secure future - and that of the dogs you care for in your extended family and friend circles. Become part of the village. Your dog is counting on you. Your neighbor's dog is counting on you too.
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