Adopting a Pet: It’s never too late to make a difference

By Cathy Bissell

by ELYSIAN Magazine

Cathy Bissell

It’s never too late to make a difference.

In 2008, at age 49, my life changed when I adopted a regal and gentle black Labrador named Bear. I had always loved animals and owned many pets, but Bear opened my eyes to the dogs and cats waiting patiently to be adopted in shelters nationwide. I couldn’t believe someone gave Bear up — he was literally perfect. 

Homeless pets like Bear depend on adopters coming into the shelter and choosing them; otherwise, they might not have a chance. The more I learned and understood about shelter pets, the choice was clear. I love animals, so why wouldn’t I save a life when bringing a pet into my home?

Animals end up in shelters for countless reasons, a tragic result for cats and dogs who have been loved and part of a family. Right now, our nation’s shelters are facing a crisis — owner surrenders are increasing. Economic conditions are creating hardships for pet owners. First, owners who adore their pets are making the agonizing decision to surrender them because of rising costs of care, including veterinary services, pet food and pet-related expenses that they can no longer afford. Secondly, the current housing market — increasing evictions and lack of pet-friendly, affordable rental housing — has forced people to leave their pets behind. 

Many of us will never have to face this heartbreaking choice, but if you have a cat or dog you love, imagine if your pet was suddenly in a shelter. Now more than ever, our nation’s shelters have pets like yours and mine, including purebreds, who are trained, have known homes, have slept on couches, and have been a family’s best friend. They are waiting for people like me and you to rescue them. 

Sadly, at the same time as perfect pets wait in shelters, millions of people make the choice to buy from large-scale breeders, many of which are puppy mills. Puppy mills come in all shapes and disguises. These commercial dog breeding operations may sell puppies in pet stores, on websites advertising thousands of “breeders,” or directly to the public through classified ads. Irresponsible breeders do not always provide proper medical care, nutrition, housing, grooming, sanitation, and socialization. They generally do not let you meet the mother dog or see where the dogs live because the conditions are horrifying. Essential aspects of humane animal care are usually thrown to the wayside (because they are expensive) to maximize profits and produce as many puppies as possible. Ironically, current economic conditions are even forcing these breeders to surrender their dogs to shelters because the supply they have created is outpacing demand, leaving desirable Doodles, French Bulldogs and other common puppy mill breeds in shelters. 

Adopting my first dog changed my life and, in turn, has helped me change the lives of so many pets personally and through my foundation. Please visit your local shelter to see the wonderful cats and dogs waiting for you. And please ask yourself, if you love pets, why wouldn’t you choose to adopt and save a life? Together, we can give every pet the chance they deserve. 

Until every pet has a home,



Cathy Bissell
Founder, BISSELL Pet Foundation

To learn more about Cathy and BISSELL Pet Foundation, please visit and follow  @Cathy_Bissell on Instagram and Cathy Bissell on Facebook.  

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