“Adopt, don’t shop!” Q&A w/ Pawtocol Rescue Coordinator Marlina Cotter
“The love they bring to your life and knowing that you made a difference by saving a dog from living on the streets is the reason I adopt instead of shop for my fur babies,” says Marlina Cotter, Animal Rescue Coordinator at Pawtocol. Marlina, Lily (her newest rescue), and I met for coffee to chat about what life is like with four adopted pups, why she loves adopting so much, and what her future goals are within the pet world. Once Marlina caught word that 48% of shelters in America are still euthanizing pets today she knew she had to do what she could to bring an end to kill shelters.
Have you only rescued pets or have you shopped for a pet before?
- All of my dogs are rescues. Almost one million pets are euthanized in the United States alone each year, which motivates me to rescue. By rescuing dogs I know that I am helping that (pet euthanization) crisis and it makes me feel like I’m helping stop the pet crisis we are in today.
Aside from supporting the end of pet euthanization, what are some other benefits and reasons to rescue a dog?
- Most of the time when people are looking to add a furry creature to their family they already have a specific breed in mind. The thing that many people may not know is, the waiting lists for breeders can be 6–9 months long. From my experience, if you take those 6–9 months and search on Petfinder you will more than likely find the breed you are looking for. There are so many dogs and cats out there who need a home and the bond you can develop with a rescue is so much stronger because I think they truly know you saved them and gave them a second chance in this life. And for that, they are eternally grateful.
How many pets have you rescued and what are their breeds?
- I have rescued four dogs in total. First is Junior, he is a German Shepherd Rottweiler mix who we, unfortunately, had to put down to Cancer in 2021. Junior lived an amazing 13 years with my husband and me. Then I have Toto- I call him my little man. He is a Silky Terrier. Next up is Ranger, a Doberman Pincher Shepherd mix. Finally, we have Lily, she is the newest addition to the fam. Lily is a Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Great Pernese, and Lab mix.
I had the pleasure of meeting Lily today at coffee and she is an adorable pup who is very well-behaved. Marlina said Lily is fitting in nicely with the group and is very happy at home, which makes Marlina very happy as well.
Three rescues is a lot, how are all the pets getting along with each other? Is it tough when you bring a new rescue into the mix?
- All three pups get along very well and it has been like that from the beginning pretty much. To reduce stress when bringing a new pet into the home I will leave the adopted pet inside a crate for 30 minutes to an hour so that the dogs at home can sniff and get excited to meet their new family member. This also gives the new dog a chance to have its own space where it can feel safe. I then will take each dog on its own and introduce them to the newest addition. For the first two weeks, it is important to not leave them home alone. You will want to watch their interactions and deter any negative behaviors. Once you are confident they are comfortable with each other you can leave them alone. It is important to never force your pets to like each other. Always respect the original dog’s boundaries because if you don’t it will cause them to resent the new dog.
- Bringing a new pet into the mix can be an easy process. Before adopting from a rescue or shelter they should tell you their personality so you can consider their personality traits and decide if they would be a good fit in your home. I also highly recommend doing a meet and greet before you adopt to make sure your at-home pets and new pets will get along.
How do you help your foster or rescue pet settle into your home?
- For our rescue Lily, when we got her she was only a puppy so we got a stuffed animal with a heartbeat and a heating pad for when she sleeps so that she can feel like she is still with her litter. By providing your new puppy with these two things you can ease the transition of them breaking away from their litter. I also think positive reinforcement is very helpful in helping them settle in. Taking them out to go to the restroom every hour in their designated bathroom spot lets them quickly know where they need to relieve themselves. This allows them to avoid accidents within the house. I am always rewarding my pups with belly rubs or treats when they listen to directions.
What is the process like for rescuing a pet?
- It is a pretty quick and easy process overall. I start by going on Petfinder to look up dogs available for adoption. You can search by breed, age, size, etc. You will want to make sure the rescue you choose to adopt from is ethical, meaning they have been tested for Parvo, are up-to-date on their shots, and have had a full vet examination. I also tell people they should look up the character traits of the pet because the last thing you want to do is bring a pet home that is not good with kids or will adapt well to your lifestyle. Once you find a pet you will fill out a form that goes over your yard and home situation and some rescues may schedule a home visit before they approve you. Home visits don’t have to be scary, they are just to help you make your home more pet friendly. Once you have been approved the shelter or rescue will schedule a meet and greet at your house or at a brick and mortar. It’s a must that you bring your current pets to the meet and greet to ensure a smooth transition between your current fur babies.
- Side note: If you’re looking for a certain breed, you can call the rescue and they will put you on a waiting list. When rescues receive new pets they will call the waiting lists for those specific breeds before they place them on the adoption site.
What is your favorite part about rescuing pets?
- Hmm… that’s tough cause I love so many of the different stages you go through with your rescues. I think the best part is the amount of love they bring to your life and knowing that you made a difference in the world by saving a dog from living on the streets. I also love the 3–3–3 rule because it melts my heart watching them warm up to you, your family, and the other pets in the house. The connection I have developed with all four of my fur babies is amazing. Oh, and all the firsts are so exciting to watch, like catching a ball or figuring out a treat puzzle.
- Toto, my little Silky Terrier was so shy and nervous at first. When people would come over or I would leave the house he would hide under the table or couch. Then one day after months of positive reinforcement and training he started playing with toys, and we knew he finally was feeling at home. The final stage of rehabilitation is when dogs start playing with toys. So watching Toto break out of his shell has been one of my favorite parts of rescuing him.
What is your take on puppy mills?
- Puppy Mills are horrible. 90% of pet stores get their puppies from Puppy Mills. They will fake dog records saying they have been vaccinated but the reality is the puppies could be very sick and they won’t tell you that when you adopt them. It is not uncommon for them to sit and sleep in their feces as they are confined in small makeshift crates and kennels. These overcrowded cages provide minimal shelter from extreme weather. Leaving them exposed to extreme weather conditions some may never survive. There are many animals that suffer from malnutrition or starvation as a result of inadequate or unsanitary food and water. Sick or dying animals are rarely treated by veterinarians. While adult animals are continuously bred until they can no longer produce, then killed after they can no longer breed. On top of that puppy mills tend to inbreed their dogs which causes many health problems.
- Having learned about the reality of puppy mills, I have also become committed to always adopting. As I work to spread awareness and put an end to pet euthanization, I also want to bring attention to puppy mills and what they are doing to these innocent pets. I take every chance I get to encourage anyone I know to adopt and not shop. “Adopt, don’t shop” is my motto.
Do you volunteer at the shelters in your area? And What is the environment like at these shelters and rescues?
- Yes, I am starting to volunteer at local shelters and rescues, here in Scottsdale, Arizona. I plan to volunteer at our local partners, Almost There Rescue, Dogz, Tailz, Wagz, and Fearless Kitty Rescue.
- I also plan to start fostering pregnant dogs. The commitment for fostering pregnant moms is typically a couple of weeks, but it really depends on the rescue. Your role is to help them feel relaxed to ensure a safe and comfortable birthing experience. It’s magical watching the Mommas instinctively tend to their litter. It is amazing to be involved with the birthing process.
- From my experience, most rescues have healthy and safe environments for pets. Shelters on the other hand are not always a pretty sight. Due to shelters being regulated by the state they usually do not have enough funding, or funds are not being allocated where most needed. The lack of adequate resources for all the animals in their care can result in pet euthanization. The pets are also locked in small cages for long periods of time which can cause them to have anxiety and develop other health problems. There are actually rescues who will go to shelters and save the pets on the euthanization list by bringing them into their own rescue. A rescue in Arizona that does that is Almost There Rescue.
Marlina shared some amazing and helpful insights on what life is like being a dog mom to rescues. Choosing adoption over shopping has so many benefits, including the intensely loving connection you can make with your rescue, helping end pet euthanasia, and giving an innocent pet a second chance at life. If you’re ready to add a little fluffball to your family, starting on adoption sites like Petfinder or looking at your local rescues and shelters is a great place to start. If you’re not quite ready to adopt you can always donate, volunteer, or spread awareness about kill shelters, and pets that are in need of a home. You can also stay up-to-date on all the things Marlina is doing with Pawtocol to help better the lives of pets and pet owners by visiting the Pawtocol website and Instagram.