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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Finding Purpose Through Pet Adoption

This post by Gayle M. Irwin

A little more than a year ago, my husband and I lost our nearly 18-year-old cocker spaniel named Cody. We had adopted him in March 2008 when he was almost 10 years of age. He had been used as a stud dog for a breeder and then basically tossed away like trash. When we discovered him at our local humane society, his sad spaniel eyes ignited my heart. Even though he likely wouldn’t be with us but a few years, we determined to give him the best couple of years of his life. Two years turned into three, into five, into seven. At 17 ¾ years of age, Cody crossed the Rainbow Bridge, having been loved, adored, and pampered to the very end.

Mary (left) and Cody often slept next to each other.
Last week my husband and I celebrated the 4th anniversary of bringing Mary into our hearts and home. She is a springer-cocker mix we adopted from English Springer Spaniel Rescue. She was nearly seven when she came to live with us, and we credit Mary with helping keep Cody going as long as he did. They shared walks in the woods with us, trips to the dog park, and travels in the car, as well as cuddles on the couch and snuggles in bed. Their friendship was very special, especially considering they were not raised together.

Mary turns 11 next week. We’ve considered adopting another dog since losing Cody as Mary was raised with a smaller pup prior to her going into rescue at the death of her special person. One day we will adopt again, but we’re holding off for awhile as we also have elderly cats, and to bring in another animal with three senior pets, especially cats, is tricky – we were fortunate with Mary, as she was also raised with felines, so we must be picky about the next dog that comes to share our home.

My blind dog Sage inspired many with her courage.
The first dog my husband and I adopted together was Sage, a purebred springer spaniel who became blind about a year after she came to live with us. The disease that stole her sight was Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a genetic condition we did not know about until our vet diagnosed it a few weeks after adoption. Sage was part of a litter from a Montana breeder, who has since stopped breeding dogs. Although one never knows exactly how a shelter dog or cat will turn out, many times that’s also the case with breeders, and since millions of animals are still killed every year in animal shelters and millions of others await new loving homes, I choose to adopt. And, I support animal rescues and shelters through various means, including monetarily.

Animal rescue and pet adoption are my passions. I’ve adopted several pets over the course of my life, and I’ve worked with two different animal shelters during my career. Today I fulfill much of that passion via my writing. Whether blogs, pet columns, articles, or books, I find purpose in my passions: pets and writing.

I was blessed to be part of Sundown’s 2016 release Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart. I wrote about Sage and Cody and the lessons I believe people can learn from pets. Although neither dog walks this earth with me anymore, they still fill my heart, and people can be inspired by the stories I write about them. Sage has been featured in three Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and children can read about her in some of my authored works. Cody, too, has his own children’s story, and one day I intend to create a book about Mary. This year, I’m working on two books about dog rescue, one for children with the main character a Great Pyrenees named Jazmine; the story is based on a real dog that I helped transport several years ago for a rescue called Big Dogs Huge Paws. My other work in progress is a romance about a woman who is involved in pet rescue. Through both endeavors, I seek to teach people what pet rescue is and how they can help.

My desire is to use my writing to inspire and to educate as well as to entertain. My passion for pet adoption is woven into my writing purpose and the goals I have for my works and words. How about you? What are some of your passions, and do you intertwine them into your writing (or into the books you enjoy reading)?

Gayle M. Irwin is a freelance writer and book author. She writes for magazines, newspapers, and other publications and she is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She assists animal shelters and pets rescues by donating part of her book sales to such groups, helping at events, and transporting pets in need of new homes. Learn more about Gayle and her works at


  1. Gayle,

    At any given time, I'll have several rescue cats and dogs living with me. I've also taken in classroom "critters" that have needed homes when the fun has worn off in the classroom. Many of the cats I've adopted were cats that were left behind when a family moved. My doxie came to live with me when his 'mom' went into the nursing home a few years ago. I feed and shelter feral cats and tame the ones I can for neutering and vaccinations. I also keep two wild bird feeders up year-round.

    As far as incorporating my passions into my writing...hmmm. Education and reading are important to me, and I usually weave these into my stories.

    1. Hi, Kaye -- WOW, you are certainly a rescue person! THANK YOU!! I've spent a good part of my day today, in addition to article-writing I've been assigned, reading and researching animal rescue stories; I'm also looking at possibly adopting another dog. I'm looking forward to where my works in progress will lead as I continue writing the two pet rescue books I'm composing. Thanks for stopping by for a read and comment! Best to you and your rescue animals!!

  2. I commend you for your love of animals and for adopting rescue dogs. You've certainly done your part. Including pet adoption in your stories and educating readers through your work is a wonderful thing and a big help to all the animals out there awaiting forever homes.
    I have written several stories with rescue animals in them. It's fun to do it and ensures readers will like the hero or heroine who takes in a lost, lonely animal. I also love music and enjoy including it into my work as well.
    I enjoyed your article, Gayle I wish you all the best.

    1. Thank you, Sarah -- I appreciate your kind words and reading my words. I look forward to reading your works and seeing how you incorporate rescue animals into your stories -- maybe I'll get a few ideas for future writings! Thanks again, Sarah - best to you as well!

  3. Gayle, I admire you so much. Keep up the good work, and as I always say, "Awareness is the key!" By your writings and speaking on it, you are bringing a huge amount of awareness about animal adoption/rescue to others. What a gift!

    1. Thank you, Cheryl -- I appreciate your encouraging, kind words. I do hope my words, whether written or spoken, make a difference -- animals certainly need help from humans! I watched Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet this afternoon; I'm so glad there are organizations and corporations that promote pet adoption -- the puppies on Puppy Bowl are available for adoption; such a great way to advocate for these special creatures. I look forward to continuing to do my part as I feel it's a calling. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  4. Lovely post, Gayle. I wish more people would have their pets "fixed" instead of bringing in litters that have slim chances of being adopted. Our pets have almost all been rescues. We have had about a dozen dogs and 3 cats over the years. We even have a rescue python and peacocks (had 12 but are down to 1 now). That doesn't count all the various rodents, ferrets, reptiles, and fish over the years. We did foster care for our local shelter for several years. We lost our first dog, a sweet beagle, when she was 17. While we were trying to decide what to get next, our daughter called from the vet clinic where she worked to say someone left a mother lab mix with a liter of 8 puppies there overnight. By the time we got there, they had been taken to the shelter. When we got to the shelter, they were debating what to do. The puppies were on,y about 3 weeks old and they had no place to keep them until they were old enough to adopt out. They all came home with us to nurture and socialize. When they were old enough, we brought them back and adopted one. Sadly we lost her about 1 1/2 years ago, also at the age of 17. We fostered several more litters, one a little terrier mom and 9 puppies - NEVER again. Much too yappy. The last litter had 5 puppies that were only about 3 to 5 days old. The mom had disappeared. We had to bottle feed them all, every 2 hours, but we managed. They were small terrier mixes (so much for NEVER). When they were old enough, we brought them in, friendly & socialized, and adoptable. We kept one. She is currently almost 16 and failing. We also have 2 pit bulls. One is a purebred from a friend of our son. They were breeders and had an unexpected litter. They did not advertise their dogs because dog fighting is such a problem here. Instead, they gave them to friends they trusted. Unfortunately, she chased a neighbor's dog out of our yard when she was about 8 months old and was hit by a car, breaking her back. She healed and could walk and run pretty well, but her back was not very stable. When the second pit bull showed up, it created a problem. She was a puppy that our son's friend found beaten and thrown into a ditch. She was a bit rambunctious once she healed. They played a bit too roughly and now the older dog has problems walking. The first one is about 9 and the younger one is about 5. All our dogs have done well with our cats except for the youngest pit bull. The cats are gone (all made it to 17 or 18) and we will not be getting another one. No new dogs for a while. The pack dynamics aren't such that we could easily add another. I don't know if we would ever get another dog, but if another lab or beagle showed up at our door, it would be really hard to resist keeping it. They were both fantastic dogs and yes, our favorites. Every dog, even our son's, have adored my husband. He is going to have quite a reception when he reaches the Pearly Gates (hopefully not for a loooong time).
    Dogs really are special pets. I see what the visiting dogs and therapy dogs do at the VA facility where we volunteer. They are such a calming assuring presence. Sorry this was so long. I do have a tendency to run on.

  5. Pat, what wonderful stories -- thank you for sharing them! You are a gem to care for so many animals and to have them live so long: WOW!! Obviously, you have a passion for pets like I do. Thank you for your compassion and passion and for reading and commenting on my blog.

  6. I applaud you and your efforts, Gayle. You know how much I love animals, especially cats. Keep on, keeping on. As one woman told me so many years ago, "keep talking, you never know when you words might make all the difference."