A dog shelter is a gruelling place to walk into.
The pups look through you, with downtrodden eyes, from behind caged doors. The cages where they spend their days are tiny – a feature that allows shelters to house a greater number of dogs at any given time… and therefore save more lives.
Dogs find themselves at the pound for all sorts of reasons. They may be wandering the streets, alone, escaped from their owner's home. They may have been born on the streets in the first place. Or maybe their owners have just given up on them.
Regardless of how they find themselves without a family... the pound is where they end up.
And unless we adopt them? It's where they will spend the rest of their days.
It's a paradoxical place, the dog shelter: a dimly-lit cluster of 2x2 metre cages, packed with hopelessness and abandonment. In that sense, it's an awful place to be.
But shelters do the very best with what they're given... little funding, little resources, and little exposure.
And with that, they keep the dogs off the streets. Away from danger. And off death row.
For me, even walking into a dog shelter is hard. Because I can't stand the thought of not being able to save them all.
You walk past cages, and the little eyes inside tell a heartbreaking story of hope and apprehension.
There's Rose, a 14-year-old black chihuahua who struggles to contain her excitement when you reach through the bars of her cage, and stroke her dusty black fur. Her entire body moves back and forth with each wag of her tail. She nuzzles into the nook of your hand. She's got a lot of life for 14.
And Neddy: a scruffball who wants nothing more than someone to appreciate him; to notice him; to love him.
There's a damaging stigma when it comes to rescue dogs. A stigma which isn't valid, and which prevents people from considering adoption when it comes to adding a small member to their family.
'Rescue dogs are broken. They're hard work. We don't need the hassle.'
It's a damaging generalisation. Rescue dogs have all different personalities. All different back stories. All different quirks.
These greyhounds are healing schoolkids. Post continues after video...
Our family has two dogs, both rescues from Sydney Dogs and Cats Home.
This isn't me gloating. This isn't me saying I'm kinder than you because I rescued my dogs and you didn't.
This is me sharing a story... sharing personal experience. This is me sharing with you how we rescued our dogs and how it was the greatest decision we've made as a family. Take from it what you will.
Our little man Harry we rescued in 2006, when he was two. He was found on the streets of Blacktown. He was taken to the pound, adopted, and then returned to the pound when his family filed for divorce. That's where we fell in love with him.
Other than being shy for a few months, his transition into the family was seamless.
He borked and licked and trotted his little way into our hearts. He chases balls. Hates dry food. Loves leftover roast chook. Occasionally digs holes. And thinks he's far more imposing than he really is.
He's matured. He's changed. He's transformed and adapted to changes in our lives and additions to the family. And boy has it been a pleasure to watch him do so. His little personality has wavered. But our adoration for him never has.
Earlier this year, we upped the ante. From the same shelter from which we adopted Harry 10 years ago, we adopted 1-year-old Bella. Because, of course, old man Harry needed a friend.
Bella's transition into our family has been slightly more testing. She's damaged - unable to walk on a leash, afraid of men she hasn't met before and wary of loud noises.
It's taking a while but our @sydneydogsandcatshome rescue scruff, Bella, is slowly adjusting to her life of love and safety. Rescue dogs take a lot of patience and understanding but ultimately they are so worth it. Devoted in a way that comes from their gratitude at being given a second chance. #rescuedog
We know very little about her past - in fact nothing, other than the fact an unknown man dropped her off at the pound with the claim he found her on the street.
It's clear that her one year of life has been full of mistreatment. Mistreatment I can't bare to think about, and mistreatment that's prompted an array of fears and dysfunctions.
I MIGHT have dressed Harry up in Christmas costumes and it MIGHT have been the best thing I've ever done. Post continues after video.
What we do know, however, is that she's a beautiful soul. An energetic, scruffy partner-in-crime for Harry... and an already integral member of the family, who shows us how thankful she is that we saved her on a daily basis.
So. In terms of the 'rescue dogs are damaged' preconception? We've had a mixed bag. 50/50.
There is no right answer when it comes to making the decision between pound and pet store. It's a decision each family, and each individual needs to make based on their own circumstances. And I don't know what those circumstances are.
What I do know, however? Taking a downtrodden, potentially abused animal that's given up on life... and showering it in love? It could just be the best thing I've ever done.
Because the relationship goes deeper than 'pet' and 'owner'. You didn't adopt them just to have a pet... you didn't adopt a rescue dog solely for your own benefit.
You did it to save a life.
And in the way they look at you each and every day, it's blatantly clear they never forget that.
You can adopt an animal today through Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, or through your local animal shelter.