Four Machiavellian Reasons to Rescue a Dog

Hutton Marshall '19

Guest Columnist

There are a lot of dogs out there in need of a decent human to look out for them. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that approximately 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters each year. [1]  Nearly a quarter of them are euthanized annually.[2]
That reality wasn’t on our minds when my partner Kelly and I decided to adopt our first pooch, Jocoté, in 2015 when we were living down in Costa Rica (where the reality for homeless dogs is even grimmer). We just wanted a good boy to hang out with, and a friend pointed us in Joco’s direction.

Jocoté. Photo courtesy Hutton Marshall.

Jocoté. Photo courtesy Hutton Marshall.

Joco passed away last December, but during the last few years, Kelly and I came to appreciate the dire predicament many dogs spend their entire life enduring. While losing Joco after just two years with him was a shock, rescuing is a no-brainer for us now. Earlier this week, we signed the official paperwork to adopt our foster Artemis (Arty).
I’m clearly in the camp that there are plenty of good reasons to rescue, but in case the traditional benefits haven’t swayed you, here are a few of the more Machiavellian advantages to rescuing:

1.    Rescues can get away with behaving terribly all the time

This is probably my favorite reason, if I’m being honest. Rescues are stereotyped as these crazily damaged creatures—to be sure, many of them have scars from past trauma—but this results in them getting so much leeway in public.
Rescue urinates indoors somewhere? “Sorry, she’s spent her whole life outside, so we’re still working on house training.”
Rescue jumps up on strangers? “Sorry, he was neglected pretty badly, so now he’s a little starved for affection.”
Rescue growls at the helpless poodle at the dog park? “Sorry, she was in a rough situation before coming to us.”

2.    Avoid social obligations with little consequence

This is more universal to dog ownership, but having a rescue is a full-proof get-out-of-[thing you don’t want to go to]-free card playable at any time. [3] This is probably most effective when you get a spur-of-the-moment invite somewhere (“Sorry, I’d love to, but I actually have to run home and let Arty out.”), or when you want to wrap up an evening early (“Welp, Arty’s been cooped up at home for a while now, so I should go make sure she’s doing okay.”). But it can even be used to get out of pre-planned events (“Guys, Arty just ralphed on my living room rug. I better stay home and keep an eye on her.”). Feel free to be creative here. Most people don’t know jack about your dog, so it’s usually a pretty safe excuse.

Artemis. Photo courtesy Hutton Marshall.

Artemis. Photo courtesy Hutton Marshall.

3.    Excellent effort-to-love ratio

When you adopt a rescue dog, chances are that they weren’t in a great situation before their rescuing (hence the term “rescuing”). I know, I know, it’s terrible that Arty spent the first three years of her life living outside, receiving little affection—or even acknowledgement of her existence—but, on the flipside, Casa Hutton is basically her definition of paradise because of that. Rescuing sets the bar low on my end. I’m basically the second coming of Christ to my dog because I let her inside my apartment and give her water on the regular.
The point isn’t that you can skate by as a mediocre dog owner with rescues. Although even if you’re going to be a pretty mediocre dog parent, that’ll probably be an upgrade from your would-be rescue’s current predicament, maybe? I don’t know, I don’t want to get into all that. The point is, from an effort-to-love standpoint, if you’re going to put in X amount of effort as a dog parent regardless of where they come from, you’re going to get exponentially more love and affection back from a rescue. With a puppy who’s never known hardship, you’re going to be setting that baseline pretty high for them.[4]

4.    Moral superiority

This one really doesn’t need much explanation, but once you adopt a rescue, you’re really on a different moral playing field than other dog owners. Like I mentioned above, it didn’t even occur to Kelly and me that we were doing anything altruistic when we got Joco for free. Soon, however, we learned to embrace the fact that by doing so, we had become better people than many of you all.
It was at first unclear how to convey our moral superiority to all those we encountered, especially at the dog park where our selfless nature really had the chance to shine. We wanted to make sure people knew we were better than them, but didn’t want to be too obvious about it, you know? Much to our relief, we quickly realized that there were myriad opportunities for communicating the fact that we had a rescue dog, and that the implication that we were good people would naturally follow. For those hesitant about following this step: whenever you get asked “Oh, how old is your dog?” or “What breed is she?” it’s important to never know the answer to these questions. Not only will this make clear to the fellow dog owner that you are an altruistic dog-rescuer, but that by knowing this information about their own dog, they have in fact unwittingly outed themselves as a morally depraved dog-purchaser.



[2] Id.

[3] In fact, you don’t really even need to actually own a dog to do this. See, Veep, Season 1, Ep. 3 (Communications Director has an imaginary dog, a “Bullshitzu,” to evade social and professional obligations).

[4] General disclaimer that this article is grounded in baseless speculation.