Eight years ago we brought a blonde cocker spaniel home. We picked him out of a lineup at a no-kill shelter because we wanted a slightly older animal.
He wasn’t quite as much work as a puppy. But he was still a force to contend with.
Our new dog was very unhappy the first few days, as he adjusted to family life. He had spent about a month in the shelter and he seemed traumatized by the experience.
Although he’s now an attractive dog, I believe prospective families were driven away by an unsightly red growth that nearly covered one of his eyes. A surgeon had already removed a similar piece of tissue from his other eye.
This is why he probably spent longer than he should have in a small cement cage, surrounded by much bigger dogs with louder barks. To this day, he still doesn’t like big dogs. However, he doesn’t have the good sense not to attack them. That’s why we keep him on a very short leash.
I’ve read somewhere that all adopted dogs arrive at their new home with some scars. And, from our experienced, that seems to be the case.
However, he’s turned out to be a great pet. We wouldn’t have wanted another dog, even if we could trade him in for another one that’s better behaved.
Because our dog is now a senior citizen (in dog years), it appears as if his days of jumping on the kitchen counter, scrounging for people food, are over. This was a bad habit we could curb, but not entirely break. We needed to be vigilant about not leaving food out if we happened to leave the house.
Anyway, if you’ve read this far, you can probably guess that we finally found the right dog. Here’s how you can do the same.
1. Temperament is Everything. I can’t stress this enough. If a dog growls or tries to bite you when you reach down to pet him, it’s probably not going to be a good fit, especially if you have children. Make sure to bring your children to the shelter, so you can watch your family interact with a potential pet.
2. Be Patient as Your Animal Adjusts to His New Family. Dogs like to please their masters. But you haven’t earned the honor yet because your dog barely knows you. It takes time to build loyalty and trust.
3. Don’t Pick the First Dog You See, Without Shopping Around. We almost chose the wrong dog. This was a cute little mixed-breed that snapped at us. He would have probably continued to do so once we brought him home. Although he was several years old, he had never been around people. He was a street dog, born and raised in a tough urban neighborhood.
4. Stop in at the Shelter Frequently. Dogs come and go quickly. Often, the most adoptable pets only stay a day or two. Frequent visits to the shelter are a must if you want to find the right pet.
5. Smaller, Younger Dogs are in Great Demand. Large dogs tend to stay longer at the shelters. If you want a small to medium-sized dog, it might take longer. Competition at some no-kill shelters is so great that sometimes people get turned down for adoption. Don’t give up. The right dog is out there somewhere.
Morguefile photo by stuartjessop