I've given almost every Sunday since September to adoption fairs with the Amal Animal Rescue Foundation. I'm not a vet or an animal specialist, but I am a masters student in public health, and there are a lot of health benefits to bonding with a furry friend. Should you adopt a cat or dog? Absolutely, as long as you can keep it healthy, well fed, happy and loved. Should everyone adopt a pet? No, because not everyone can meet those four requirements at this moment in their lives. They may be too young, not financially stable, not have the time it takes to train and care for a pet, or just not ready yet to take in another living being. You learn to tell these types of people within 5 minutes of talking to them, and if someone is flagged they are probably not getting ANY animal. I work for the animals at Amal the same way a foster parent works for an orphanage. Only a fit and loving parent will be rewarded with the everlasting love and company of one of my charges. I love all our animals dearly, and I want them all to find amazing forever homes the same way a mother wants her children to be happy and successful in life.
Like children, all of our dogs are unique. (So are the cats, but that is another topic.) Each dog has different needs, different strengths and weaknesses, different characters and levels or training, and different preferences for how they bond with their human. Pip, a 2 year old whippet mix, is active, calm-natured strong and playful. She is the perfect family dog and will be scooped up any day now by a family that likes walks in the woods. She would be great with kids, but pulls on the leash so bigger kids might be better. She loves long walks and playing fetch, but will happily lie by your side and let you rub her belly. Pico on the other hand, thinks the ground is made of lava and only wants to be in your arms or in your lap. He is the most quintessential lap dog I have ever met. Good luck getting him to pull on a leash, much less get him more than 2 feet away from you. Then there's Daisy. Daisy is complicated, older, rough around the edges, feisty, everything her namesake is not. She is the kind of dog few people want to adopt, but many heartwarming Hollywood stories are based off of. We all know that callous old dog / tomcat/ hermit who bonds with an open-hearted optimistic protagonist and they end up saving each other. That's the story I see for Daisy, and I'm that open-hearted, optimistic protagonist. I will be fostering her in a few weeks. Even Daisy would be a perfect match for the right home. A senior owner who can sympathize with her arthritis and is happy to sit and read with a dog on their lap. (If this sounds like you, or any of these dogs sound like the missing piece of your family, please do get in touch with us!)
If all these dogs are so different, how do you know which one is the right dog? First, you need to recognize that there is a right dog and a wrong dog for you and your lifestyle. It's not about getting a dog, it's about getting THE dog. The dog that will grow old with you, that will cuddle with you when you have a terrible day, the one who destroys your oriental carpet or breaks a family heirloom and you were so mad but you love them anyway. That is the dog you are looking to adopt. You won't know that dog right away, but the people who work with the dogs will easily be able to play matchmaker and find the dog that is most like you and will thrive in your home and your lifestyle. What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time? What is your energy level? Tell the people who work with the dogs and they will help you find the perfect dog who has been cosmically waiting for you to appear.
Second, understand that the perfect dog will still disappoint you sometimes. There will be food spilled, accidents on the carpet, emergencies that ring up expensive vet bills, home decor will be broken or destroyed, expensive items will be lost to the chaos. Murphy's Law is a powerful phenomenon. Age is no safeguard against that. My family got Charlotte as a puppy, and we saw some puppyhood accidents. There were a few glorious years where Charlotte was trained enough not to be a living wrecking-ball. Just as we thought we had it made, she developed separation anxiety and did significant damage to several of our doors, including disfiguring a metal doorknob. She is the dog I grew up with, and the one who was there for me on countless late nights when I couldn't sleep. She was no angel, and a bit of an eyesore in her final years, but I couldn't have asked for a better dog.
You can read articles that have 10 things to consider or 6 steps to finding the right dog, but it really comes down to these 3 principals. Be ready to provide a healthy, safe, loving and stimulating home for a pet. Ask the people working with the animals and talk about your lifestyle. And realize that there will be ups and downs along the way. What matters most to me when I meet a potential adopter is that they will care for a dog even when life gets incredibly tough. There are good reasons for a pet to be taken away, but there is never a justifiable reason to leave a pet behind...ever.
I could go on and on about "invalid reasons to abandon your dog", but that too is a subject for another day. I hope this article helps you find the right dog, and don't forget the perfect dog could be waiting for you at the Amal Animal Rescue Foundation.