When you pass by the windows of pet shops and see all the cute little bundles of fur, it really tugs at your heartstrings, doesn't it? They are so cute and small, and you feel the need to love and care for them. It's almost enough to make you consider buying one, "saving" one from a pet store. But before you do, keep in mind that while your intentions might be coming from the goodness of your heart, the owners of the pet shop may feel decidedly differently. And to them these cute little balls of fluff are products, nothing more. Do you really want to support that?

I have a story of a pet shop dog. It's not as horrible as what happens in puppy mills across the world (which is another reason why you shouldn't adopt from pet stores). But it is still sad nonetheless, and it's just one of the many reasons why I support adopting and not shopping.

This story is about a maltese named Jinsu. At a pet store on Jeju he was a stud dog, used for fathering litters of puppies. You might think this isn't such a bad job, but please keep in mind the word "used". He wasn't given a lot of training, and of course was not neutered. I wonder how many dogs out there can claim Jinsu for a father, or grandfather even.

When the pet shop changed ownership, the new owners decided that Jinsu was too old and they were going to put him down. He was seven. But instead of being killed he was taken from there and brought to a private shelter here on Jeju, the Ugidongmul Shelter. He was a beautiful and kind dog, and so quickly found someone to adopt him. However, because he was previously not-neutered and had received little training, he had a habit of marking that his new owners did not tolerate. He was brought back to the shelter, and after a few attempts at new homes, he ended up being returned to the shelter for good. He was not a cute little puppy, so I suppose people were less inclined to tolerate bad habits in an older dog and try and train him out of it.

And that was eight years ago. At the shelter he was loved and cared for, but he was just one of many animals seeking attention and love. I started volunteering at the shelter in July of 2010, and when I met Jinsu he was a sweetheart, but it was very difficult to keep track of all the dogs when I first arrived since there were so many of them. So I didn't learn his name until much later.

Maltese gets a patA few months ago the side of Jinsu's neck and face started to swell. With there being so many other dogs to care for, it could be hard to notice, but Ms. Yun did notice and so took him to the vet. The vet's diagnosis: probably cancer. And it was an agressive cancer that grew quickly. Within weeks the growth was very noticeable. I asked what could be done, and the shelter was hoping to find some way to get treatment for him. Jinsu was a fighter, though, and despite the growth he tried to live a "normal life" as a shelter dog.

The next week I saw Jinsu and he had lost a lot of weight. His appetite was good, but the growth made it difficult to eat. His energy level was dropping, and sometimes he would curl up in a warm place to rest. It's strange, because although the other little shelter dogs sometimes had minor scuffles between themselves or bigger ones picked on the smaller ones, no dog bothered Jinsu. I think they knew.

Some people asked me if it wouldn't be better to put him to put him to sleep. I couldn't answer that, especially because it was not my decision to make. But I remember him, all thin and bony, coming to stand at the edge of the step with all the other dogs to see which volunteers were coming in to see them. And I remember him crawling into my lap numerous times while I was kneeling down to clean out some cat cages just a few weeks ago. I wish I had spent more time with him.

In fact I wish I he hadn't spent the last eight years of his life in a shelter, having to compete for attention every day, even when he he was dying. Even though I would never wish for someone's dog to have cancer, I wish someone had taken in Jinsu years ago, just so his last few months could have been spent with a family who loved him. I wish people wouldn't be so quick to give up on dogs with a bad habit. I wish more people would give adult or older dogs a chance. There are a lot of senior dogs at the shelter who will probably end their days never knowing the warmth of a family or home. There are more and more dogs being bred to be sold as puppies in pet stores, but shouldn't we take care of the ones that are already here, first?

The cancer had spread, and Jinsu's previously eager appetite faded away last week. It was one of the ways Jinsu was telling people it was his time. This past Saturday when I went to the shelter I noticed he wasn't there. During a lunch break I asked where he was, and was told Ms. Yun brought him to the veterinarian, where he passed away peacefully in her arms.

Closeup of Maltese
Goodbye Jinsu.

I am sorry you never had a real home to call your own in all 15 years of your life.

Written by Katharine Ruskke and originally posted on ARK in October 2010.