The old adage ‘A Dog Is A Man’s Best Friend’ has proven to be true over several generations of Americans as we have learned to admire their qualities of loyalty, compassion and companionship. With the stigma of animal shelters being removed from the American vernacular in recent years, pet adoption has been on the rise across the United States. According to the Ad Council, an organization that promotes public service campaigns, the percentage of dogs and cats who were adopted from shelters has risen from 27% to 29% in the last two years, as euthanasia of shelter pets is down 10% since 2009.
In 2012 the Delaware SPCA had a total shelter population of 2,989 cats and dogs, taking in 2,564 animals just during last year. Thankfully 1,641 of those animals were adopted by families but that still leaves a large number of cats and dogs that need a home. During that same timeframe, the Delaware SPCA spayed or neutered 8,882 animals in an attempt to control the population of animals on the street from increasing further.
Milford residents Peggy and Jim McReilly have been local adoption advocates for years as their last two dogs have been from shelters and rescues in the region. Their dog Maddie,a Brittany Spaniel mix, was adopted from a rescue in Pennsylvania and brought to live with them in Milford, Delaware in 2012. Although the McReilly family wanted a Brittany Spaniel, they chose to look at local rescues instead of at dog breeders because of the experience they had with their first ‘pound puppy’ named Bandit, who lived with the family for 17 years and moved to Milford when they retired.
“We really wanted to get a Brittany Spaniel but Jim said they dog had to have a tail,” commented Peggy as she explained that Brittany Spaniels usually have their tails docked for aesthetic purposes. “The rescue happened to have a Brittany come through with a tail and we traveled three hours each way to meet her.”
Peggy shared that Maddie was so in tune with the family after just several months that she could sense moods in each individual. When Peggy lost her father, it was Maddie that brought comfort to her. Peggy’s father had a special place in his heart for Maddie as well when he would visit his children in Milford. Though growing up the family dogs were never allowed on the bed for any reason, Peggy caught her father sleeping in one day with Maddie beside him on the bed. It is instances like these that the family points to as what makes dogs such unique creatures.
“A dog loves you unconditionally and always brightens your day,” commented Peggy. “Every dog is different and has their own personality. Maddie brings us love and joy.”
Not only allowed on the bed, Maddie is also fed special food and treats, has a wardrobe of her own and taken to doggie daycare to play with her friends several times a week. From a life in a shelter to being spoiled every day living with her new adoption family, Maddie seems to have hit the lottery, but it is Peggy and Jim who feel that they are the lucky ones. Living a retired life on the Shawnee Golf Course, the couple is now living each day at the pace of the dog.
“We had forgotten how much energy a puppy has and were surprised with the time and energy it took to train her ,” commented Peggy. “She makes us laugh and we are lucky to have her as part of the family.
The McReilly’s adoption of Maddie is just one of thousands of success stories that takes place each year through local rescue groups and animal shelters. The Delaware SPCA continues to adopt animals to loving families through their Wilmington and Georgetown shelters, which are open Monday through Saturday. Ensuring that all pets have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped, these organizations give cats and dogs a second chance at life and families an opportunity to find a new, loving companion.