SEARCH AND RESCUE... What You Must Know Before Adopting A Dog
Everyday I am flooded with pictures of pets in dire need of a loving home. So many tragic stories of neglected, discarded, abandoned dogs makes me want to save them all. I myself am adopted and always felt strongly about adopting rescue or shelter pets. And while I’m the world's biggest advocate, what you may be entirely surprised to learn is HOW DIFFICULT IT CAN BE TO ADOPT ONE.
Not a day goes by when I don't hear some pet parent share a horror story of how impossible it was to rescue a pet and how badly they were treated by a rescue/shelter. I can definitely relate to their plight.
We got our first Pug, Raisin through the wonderful rescue: Pugs and Pals and our current Pug, Olive from the shelter. However, it wasn't without my own heartbreaking, exhausting, ordeal.
Before we got Raisin we attended several adoption fairs, filled out applications, and were interviewed at length. We had our house thoroughly checked and scrutinized for suitability. Finally, we were presented with a laundry list of rules, terms and conditions such as agreeing to cook and feed the dog organic, fresh, human-grade food. (-Meanwhile my family was surviving on take-out and Campbell's soup.) Providing top veterinary/dental care, letting the dog sleep in our bed, and everything else just shy of providing the dog an Ivy League college education. At last, we were finally approved as suitable candidates to adopt a “wayward dog in need of a loving home!”
Regardless of jumping through all those hoops, we still lost out on several dogs we had selected. A "better fit"(usually by someone in the rescue circle) always beat us out. Just when I couldn't take any more disappointments and was ready to contact a reputable breeder, the call came in: WE GOT RAISIN!
After 11 wonderful years with Raisin, we had the devastating task of sending him to Rainbow Bridge. My heart was broken in a million pieces and I too wanted to go to Rainbow Bridge. I couldn’t live without a dog, so I began my search for a new rescue companion and the ordeal began, AGAIN!
Regular trips to the shelter routinely put me on "waiting lists" for dogs that never panned out in my favor. Various rescues chose other families for the dogs I wanted and it seemed my only options were "hospice" or senior dogs requiring significant medical care.
I'm glad I was patient and didn't settle because two months later, I lucked out and stumbled upon Olive. I got a text alert a Pug had come into a shelter out in the desert. I just so happened to be there on vacation and made a visit.
When I arrived, the dog had been turned over to a rescue group due to some extensive medical issues. As I went to leave, filled with more disappointment, I heard yelpng and saw a tiny black paw darting out of another cage. I ran back thinking it was hurt or fighting. When I got to the cage there stood tiny Olive desperately trying to get my attention. I pet her through the bars and asked if she'd like to come home and live with me.
I knew then and there that was my dog and went on a mission to get her. She too had many people interested, but this time luck worked in MY favor. The director of the shelter was familiar with Raisin and my work with the breed. Then, after an embarrassing tearful meltdown while showing him pictures of Raisin on my cellphone, I was awarded Olive.
Although a completely different dog, in sex, color, and personality, she has been a huge blessing. My grief and depression over losing Raisin began to heal by having such a happy new experience with Olive.
So, here’s the takeaway...If you luck out and on the first go, get the companion of your dreams from a rescue or shelter, YEAH! But, if not, hopefully you won't give up. Please understand that while rescues can be a royal pain, making you jump through lots of hoops, they’re doing God's work day-in and day-out. They’ve seen, over-and-over, helpless victims of horrific neglect and abuse at the hands of irresponsible people.
Rescues and shelters have to make tough choices on a daily basis and be advocates for helpless creatures. They are constantly fighting for needed funds to try and heal injured, sick dogs.
Try and remember the LAST thing they want is an uniformed pet parent not ready to make the huge, often 15-18 year commitment of time, money and finances a dog requires. There's nothing worse than having to re-home dogs again and again.
The number one reason our shelters are full, is that people get pets on a whim. They’re a darling impulse buy and people are ill-informed or unrealistic in the time, expense, care and commitment a dog requires. A good rescue (or breeder) spends ample time thoroughly vetting applicants in order to find the best “Happily Ever Afters!”
Rescues stand by their animals. They will always take one of their pets back into their care should you not be able to keep it due to some unexpected situation.
Looking back, that "demanding" rescue was my lifeline when we first got Raisin. I knew NOTHING about dogs. During the first 6 months of him coming home, I called them DAILY. They were never bothered and always helped, advised, recommended and taught me. All those requirements I initially found obsessively ridiculous, actually allowed us to provide a happy, healthy life and experience for both Raisin and us.
While it may feel like the odds of getting a pet from a rescue or shelter are less likely than hitting a Lotto jackpot, I hope before you run to a breeder or Craigslist with a fist full of cash, you’ll try this route first and have a better understanding of how things work and why it can be challenging. Good luck!
Next Week, I continue this topic with tips to acclimate your new shelter/rescue dog!