Growing up, we had rescued dogs and cats. I honestly didn’t know there was another way to get a pet, other than going to the animal shelter and finding one. You want a pet? Go to the Humane Society.
I have mixed feelings toward animal shelters. I’m so grateful that they’re around and that they take care of these wonderful animals who would otherwise have no place to go. On the other hand, they make me incredibly sad that I can only help one at a time.
We currently have 8 pets. Of those 8, half were rescues, one was a stray who literally found me, and the other three were from people whose animals had an oops because they weren’t spayed or neutered. (Always spay and neuter your pets, people. One animal is euthanized every 11 seconds… even when you find them homes, that doesn’t guarantee they won’t end up in an incredibly crowded shelter. Okay, PSA over.) I got all my current pets as babies, but prior to that, most of my dogs had been at least 9 months old when I got them from the shelter.
Personally, I prefer older dogs. Cats are different, since I have dogs. Kittens just adjust better to dogs, especially if they didn’t grow up around them. But for dogs, as cute as the puppy stage is, I’d rather not have to go through it. My parents recently got a puppy, and I’m pet-sitting. He’s cute and sweet and cuddly. He’s also an incredibly good puppy who knows what he’s allowed to chew and what he isn’t. (We won’t mention the couch incident at my parents’ house.) But, he’s a puppy, which means I’m exhausted from keeping eyes on him at all times.
Older dogs have already gone through that stage, and if they aren’t housebroken all the way, it doesn’t take much for them to learn. We got Charlie when he was 2. He was a lab mix, and slid into our household like he’d always lived there. We never had one bit of trouble with him, and I spent my entire childhood with him. He got cancer, and we had to say goodbye when I was in college.
The next shelter dog we got was Lucy, my first puppy. She was high strung and barked a lot. She was obviously part collie, and it was where I learned that even in mutts, breed is important. She ended up being my mom’s dog more than mine. She likes high-strung dogs. I prefer the more laid-back labs and German Shepherds.
Not long after, my dad got Effie, a full grown German Shepherd mix. Effie was a one person dog, and she adored my dad. She was one of the most loyal dogs I’d ever seen. My dad grew up on a farm, where all animals had a purpose, but Effie is the one who taught my dad that sometimes that purpose is love.
We lived in the country and didn’t have fences. Unfortunately, we lost both Effie and Lucy to the road, many years apart. Both were heartbreaking.
I have never had a “bad” or “defective” shelter dog. I’ve had only wonderful dogs, who’ve taught me so many things. Stardust taught me patience and tolerance and how to train a dog. She came to us at 9 months old, the sweetest dog I’ve ever met. She also peed all over any time anyone raised their voice, even if it wasn’t at her. If you moved too fast, raising your arm, she flinched and peed. We learned to speak softer and move slower. I learned how to discipline a dog in a way they understand, and I eventually had to take obedience classes so I could learn to speak her language. She eventually grew out of the peeing thing, and was the best dog I’ve ever had.
I recently read an article about a woman who “hospices” dogs. She apparently goes and takes dogs who might have less than a year to live, brings them home, and makes sure they’re comfortable. What a heartbreaking and brave thing to do! I wish I could do something incredible like that. But I don’t have the strength, so I’ll just be the best fur-mom I can to anyone who comes in my door.
If you’ve ever thought about adopting, and didn’t because you were worried about how what kind of pet they’d make, give it another look. Honestly, shelter pets are the best. Usually they were returned because of the human’s situation; not the pet’s issues. Moving, job changes, allergies, are among the most common reasons animals are returned. Only a small percentage are returned for behavior issues, and those can usually be managed if the human is willing to take obedience classes and learn other ways to communicate with their dog.