Reprinted with permission from Debbie at thankdogphotography.com

I recently read an article by a woman complaining about her difficulty in adopting a dog from a rescue organization.  Several commenters agreed and relayed similar experiences.  It got me thinking…

First, I don’t know the author.   Nor do I know anything about the rescue organization she was trying to adopt from (I think everyone was from New York).

Second – I’m far from an old hand at this.  I’ve fostered 1 adult dog and 7 puppies, including Jet.  And these are only my own thoughts and opinions – I’m not speaking for any rescue organization or volunteer.

So… do I think it’s “harder” to adopt from a rescue organization than from your local shelter?  In a word, yes.  But there are a number of good reasons why…

We have the time to be more selective.  The dogs in the rescue organizations are no longer on death row.  The threat of euthanasia is gone.  They aren’t going to die if they aren’t adopted in just a few days. Once a dog is within the rescue organization, he or she is safe.  We can take the time to do home visits, check vet references, etc.  We can care for them through all their vetting, illnesses or whatever.  The urgency is gone.

We become attached.  Most rescue organizations are all volunteer, and the dogs are in foster care.  This means they live in our homes and share our lives – sometimes for months.  Jet has been with me for almost 3 months now.  The little stinker sleeps in my bed.  Belle, the Queen of Disdain, has fallen for him.  So do I want him going somewhere that’s “fine” or “okay”?  No, not really.  I want him to go to the perfect home for him.  Even if/when that home comes along, will I cry?  Almost certainly.  Do we all seriously consider keeping (one or more) of our fosters? Of course.  Am I considering keeping Jet?  You bet.  The attachment we have to our fosters makes us really want to find great homes for them – homes where they’ll thrive and be happy.

We know the dogs.  I know Jet.  I know he’s a high energy puppy who loves other dogs.  I also know he’s noisy (I hear him from the driveway – coming and going), he can be destructive (so far, the tally is one shoe and a bathroom cabinet), he’s smart but stubborn, he has sweet moments, and he has a well-documented tendency to eat inappropriate things. Because I know him, I know what type of home he needs – and what type of home would not be a good fit.  We have turned down an application on Jet – very nice and well meaning people, but everything about the circumstances spelled disaster and future behavioral issues.

We’ve had dogs returned.  You might be surprised by how often this happens – sometimes a few days or weeks later, sometimes months later. Frequently the issue is a mismatch of energy between an existing pet and the new dog (or a clash of personality).  Sometimes it’s a new boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t like the dog or the dog doesn’t like him/her (though I would guess it’s always the former).  Other times it’s a realization that they don’t have the time needed for the dog they adopted (some are high maintenance, no doubt about it!).  By being more particular with the original adoption, we hope to avoid this.  We can’t always.  Don’t get me wrong – we want them returned to us versus the shelter.. but we also obviously would prefer neither.

We’re all volunteers.  Most of us have other jobs.  So if it takes a little while to respond – or if the whole process is slower than you hoped, please have patience.

Basically, yes, it probably is more of a process to adopt from a rescue organization.  But it’s because we truly want to match the dogs up with the best homes — and vice versa.  If you let us know about you, your lifestyle, your family, etc., we’ll do our best to pair you up with a dog that will be a good match for you.  We’re not trying to be difficult, we just honestly want what’s best for everyone involved (especially the dogs, as that’s where our attachment lies).
So what if you’ve found a dog you’d like to adopt?  Here’s a few tips to help the process along:

  • Show your excitement.  Ooh and aah over the dog and how wonderful and adorable  s/he is.  It shouldn’t really matter, but it does.  We want the dogs to be loved and adored.
  • Think about it.  Sure that dog’s adorable, but do you have the time to housebreak him? To train him? What if he pulls a Jet and runs up $1000 worth of vet bills by eating a still-unknown something?   Let us know you have given the idea of adding a new dog to your family some thought.
  • Complete the application.  Yes, sometimes they’re a little long.  They ask for stuff like your vet’s name.  Trust me when I say we look at them.  If you have pets but don’t have a vet – a red flag is raised.
  • Work on any behavioral problems your current pets have.  Some are fine (Belle countersurfs when I’m not home – not good behavior, but I know now not to leave anything on the counters).  But if your dog doesn’t like your son or snaps at your husband or is repeatedly getting in fights, it’s not cute.  It’s a sign that there’s an issue and you’re not doing anything to resolve it.  We figure the same will happen to your next dog.
  • Demonstrate you have some basic knowledge about dogs.  Don’t let your kids grab at unfamiliar dogs.  Learn some of the basic signs dogs give you when they are uncomfortable, anxious or unhappy.  It’s not hard, it only takes a minute, but it shows us you are serious about being a good and responsible owner.
  • Listen to us.  Dogs often act differently at adoption events than how they do at home.  If we say a dog is very high energy, but he doesn’t really appear to be… listen to us.  Adoption events are stressful for some of the dogs – a necessary evil, I suppose.  The dogs don’t always act like themselves.  Likewise, if we say the dog would do better as an only dog, don’t assume that because your dog gets along with everyone, he’ll get along with the new one too.

Yes, our dogs are rescues, sometimes from awful circumstances, other times not.  But just because they made it to a shelter does not mean they do not deserve a good home.  Indeed, many of them have gone through enough already – they deserve us spending a little time and effort to make sure the next chapter in their lives is a happy one. That’s all we’re trying to do.  So please be patient and understanding – it’ll be worth it.