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I think that animals (dogs in particular) are similar to children, in that they look to us for leadership, protection, and care - rewarding us with their affection. Both are generally helpless and dependent upon adults - which makes them vulnerable. Unfortunately, some of those adults either don't have the wherewithall to care for them or worse view them as a tool to get out their frustrations.
My dogs have always been rescues as well, and my current rottie mix came from the streets of Philadelphia, and could have easily met a horrific fate had she been found by the wrong people.