Friday, January 3, 2014

Pet Adoption

Steve with his two best girls: me and Chloe.
When we got our first dog, Chloe, way back in 1986, we happened to be in the pet store at the local mall and impulsively brought home the cutest little puppy. Exactly what I've since learned you should not do.

It did not end well. We didn't have a clue what we were doing, we didn't get any training or take the dog to obedience school. I had no knowledge of breeds and underestimated the amount of training a Samoyed-husky mix would need. She was a great companion for Steve (even went along when he bicycled), but was really hard to control.

She jumped on people, chewed everything left unattended (I once came home from school and thought the house had been burglarized), would leap over our 6-foot-high fence to chase a squirrel across the street. Needless to say, "niceties" like heeling and recall were not in place. (On the other hand, we did train her to hold objects on her nose, so she was trainable. We just didn't know how.)

When our first child was born, the dog seemed fine until, that is, our daughter started crawling towards the dog's food bowl. Then the hackles went up, the tail and ears went down and I got scared.

We relinquished her to the local humane society. She ended up on a country farm, which I'm sure was a better place for her. The experience was a failure for us.

For the next 20 or so years we stuck with cats -- much easier to have around the house. Until this past summer, when we adopted Scooter. I'd been thinking about adopting a dog for some months before the opportunity came up. And I think we were incredibly fortunate that Scooter was well trained.

The experience with Scooter has left me eager to be a dog owner again. And, this time, to do it right -- get proper training, make the investment up front to ensure a good fit with our family.

Also, instead of going to a pet store (where many of the pets come from puppy mills), I looked into dog rescue organizations.

Kane, whom we're hoping to adopt.
I like the idea that pet rescues really work to socialize the dogs, and train them, unlike a pet store that just brings them in and sticks them in a display.

What I hadn't expected was that the rescue organization would screen us. It makes sense, but I always thought they would be so desperate for homes for their pets that they would leap at the opportunity to find a home.


They want these animals to find good homes, "forever" homes. The organization we're working with right now has a pretty elaborate application form, and they followed up with more questions for clarification.
Will the dog be left outside unattended? Please elaborate on what that scenario looks like. What reasons might there be for returning the dog to us? Please elaborate on the type of daily training and exercise the dog would receive.
Good questions, and I appreciate their thoroughness. They also asked for three references, including our veterinarian.

So that's where we are right now. I'll keep you posted.

What about you? What has your dog adoption experience been? Any lessons learned that you can share with us?


  1. We adopted our Sheltie-mix from the Humane Society and I was also surprised by how thorough the process was! They actually came to our house for an "inspection" and to ensure Lucy would get along with our other pets. They also left her here for good at the end of that visit so I don't think it was quite as serious as I had initially felt it was, but it is good to know that they take the adoption process seriously. Jason has grown up with dogs and claimed to know how to train them well, but should we do it again, I'd probably invest in training up front like you plan to, not because we've had problems with Lucy, but because I think we're incredibly lucky that we haven't. She was house trained when she arrived, she doesn't chew, scratch, or otherwise destroy property, she's very calm, and she rarely barks (unless there are children playing outside our house); her biggest problem is that she gets nervous with new people in the house and will often pee a little on the floor. I think having someone at home full-time at the beginning is important; Jason was working from home when we adopted Lucy and I think that really helped with her getting settled and adapting to our family (and they have a very strong bond now because of it). I hate it when dogs have to spend their days in crates while the owners work because they're not yet trained how to behave inside the house.

  2. Lucy is another wonderful dog that helped convince me that it was worth trying again.

  3. Good point about having someone at home pretty much full-time at the beginning. Ross was on a three month sabbatical when Scooter arrived.
    And the best thing he did was went to dog-training with Scooter. The first few weeks of it, he would come in absolutely exhausted from the class. (It was called "Train 'em Don't Blame 'em") If the dog is going to be with you for the next 10 to 15 years, it's worth the investment, and a well-trained dog is a happy and safe dog. We could leave our front door wide open, with Ross out at the sidewalk, and she would wait for one of us to motion and say OK before she would come bounding out.
    I really hope you find a dog with a personality that fits you; a dog is such a wonderful companion! I was a total non-pet person, not even a turtle or guinea pig, but Scooter was so amazing, she even won me over.

    1. Yup. I figure it's better to do the work up front, before problem behaviours develop.

  4. That's a great idea! I love that they are working that intensely. I think it should be mandatory for all adoptions. I always feel bad for the pet and the family who don't match each other. I'm so glad you guys are doing this. A dog makes such a great part of a home.

    1. I agree, it's a good approach. I just wish pet stores took the same amount of care; then there would probably be a lot fewer failed adoptions.


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