According to ASPCA, there are 13,000 animal shelters nationwide. Approximately 3.9 million dogs enter shelters annually. About 542,000 dogs enter shelters as strays, 35% are adopted 31% euthanized and 26% are returned to owners.
The 61% either adopted or returned to owners usually look forward to a good life, bonding with their families. Most families treat their dogs like children, recognizing they have feelings and emotions with the difference being non-verbal communication. Dogs express emotions by barking, wagging tails, jumping, and running, and on the contrary, many owners believe this to be verbal communication.
But contrary to dogs being place in a good environment, some dogs have traumatic experiences like humans. Lana, a dog who had been in and out of foster homes experienced trauma. Lana’s heart was broken when she was sent back to a kennel, disconnected from her owner and family. “She refused to move even to go on walks. She just sat with her face to the wall.”
It might be difficult for some people to believe that dogs experience isolation, loneliness, depression, and react as Lana did, “hunched over, face against the wall” which is an obvious sign of depression.
What makes dogs behavior in some ways like humans is the Oxytocin hormone. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus area in the brain. It plays a role in intimacy, social recognition and bonding, anxiety and fear. When bonding takes place it solidifies the relationship between dog and family, and when separated the negative emotions take precedent. This is the same for parents and children.
The unfortunate like humans, dogs sense when a separation is about to happen or when an unsettle environment might dictate change. Although dogs grow accustom to their environments and accept some things as norms, like homeless dog that live from place to place with their owners. Yet, it is difficult for dogs accustom to home and sheltered environments to adjust to living homeless on the streets.
Lana’s isolation and hopeless changed when she saw an old friend come to rescue her. She was placed in a foster home until permanency is available.
Sadly, all stories do not end like Lana’s. Based on the numbers of dogs that enter shelters as strays, it is not accounted what happens to the 7% of them.
The Lana story has drawn attention that since dogs face similar emotions and feelings as humans, they have been named man’s best friend.