Thursday, October 4, 2012

Shelter Dogs

So I heard a rumour that it's National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.  Huh?  Who makes these things up?  I suppose it doesn't really matter as long as this title brings attention about adopting shelter dogs to the forefront.  I've decided to post about this because at the end of August I, myself, (much, MUCH to the chagrin of my mate) adopted a dog from a shelter.  Yes, I am WELL aware that I'm not a dog person (I've been reminded of this incessantly since I brought him home).  I've, 100%, touted the benefits, pleasures and ease of having cats for whole life actually.  Here's our story. 

I grew up always having animals in my house.  We had cats, we had a dog.  I always felt a connection with the cats (though not all of them).  The dog was fine, I tolerated him.  He was a good boy, but like most dogs, he could be a pain in the ass too.  But you know what?  He knew when I was sad or feeling lousy and he always hung around to make sure I got through what I needed to get through.   I have lots of funny stories about Max the dog, so I'll always remember him and compare every other dog in my presence to him. 

Fast forward to about 5 years ago.  I'm a single mother with a 10 year old and a 6 year old at home.  I'm working full time and everything that needs to be done in a day falls on my shoulders.  So that's a perfect time to adopt a new puppy right?  Totally, pfft.  Man just typing it out makes me shake my head and wonder why I didn't see the insanity of this idea back then.  The picture in my head of a family dog for my sons was just too alluring.  So hunting for a breeder began and the mission to add a new four legged dog to our mix had commenced.  (Just the thought of my puppy experience sends shivers down my spine.)  The dream was lovely, just not realistic.  I couldn't take the incessant whining when she was crated at night. I couldn't handle the added chores of cleaning up pee and poop.  She didn't listen and would dart into the street and run from us.  She got into everything and chewed anything that fit (or frankly didn't fit) into her mouth.  I'm embarrassed and a little saddened to inform you that I'm not going to end this little story with a happy finish outlining how we all adjusted, she got better and we have a cozy relationship now.  Nope, that didn't happen.  What happened is I called the breeders and asked to return her, out of fear that I'd kill her or my children (don't worry, it likely would have been her).  The happy part of this story is two-fold.  She was adopted that very night, following her return, by someone who had adopted another pup from the same litter.  She was going to be living with another dog on a farm (no really, a real farm not the 'farm in the sky').  Perfect for her.  And I learned that I just couldn't handle a puppy.  Not then, not likely ever.  It's was harder than having a newborn baby.  And the patience needed?  I just don't have.   Lesson most definitely learned. 

Now jump ahead to August of this year.  Gage and I spent a day volunteering with the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA during their weekend Adopt-a-thon (They adopted around 100 animals out that weekend, magnificent!).  Gage was able to earn 8 out of the 40 hours of community service that's required to graduate high school and I love animals, so why not?  Hey, I'm not a troll!  Upon our arrival we immediately spotted the dog who would soon become Dempsy.  He was gorgeous, absolutely the most handsome pup in the place.  Gage fell for him, hard.  We took him outside for a run and hang out time and called Eric just to get a feel for his thoughts.  He was adamant we do not come home with this dog.  Gage wouldn't let it go.  For 8 hours I listened to him beg and plead for us to take this dog home.  Those eyes...they got to him.  I thought there is absolutely no way he's still going to be here at the end of our shift so I told Gage we'd give it some serious thought if he was still around.  I was wrong.  He had an adoption clause on him that he was not to go to a home with children, so he was out of the running for most of the families that walked through the doors that day.  (They just didn't know him that well as they'd only had him a week and didn't want to take a chance.)  So back outside we went with him and another phone call to Eric.  And here we are.

Today Dempsy has become part of our family and is continuing to delve deeper into our mix each day.  He's such a good boy.  They figure he's about 2 so there is still some puppy in him but he's so, so, SO much better than a puppy.  He was house trained and crate trained.  He listens when we call him.  He stays in the backyard.  He doesn't attack our cats (not violently anyway).  He does chew slippers and shoes (much to Gage's dismay) and he's not terribly good about leaving us alone to eat (yet).  He could also stand to use a little work on the whole not pulling on the lead while walking thing.  He's the best at playing catch and he brings back the ball!  Whoa!  He can be a little nippy still when he wants you to come with him or pet him or he gets excited.  But he's so much better now at not jumping up on people than he was when we first got him.  He also knows how to sit, shake paw and lay down (thanks Eric!).  And if we keep him stocked with raw hides and chew toys, he tends to leave our slippers and shoes alone.  If you 'ignore' him long enough he'll just lay down and chill.  We lucked out, he's really a good boy.  Similar to Max the dog.  One day he'll get there.  He's still got a few wiggles to work out. 

So my point is to remind those that there are good dogs, even great dogs at the SPCA and animal shelters in your area.  Don't just assume because they're in a shelter that they are problem dogs.  There are many reasons why someone turns an animal in.  Not all because of the animal.  Spend some time with them before you make the committment, take them out to play, walk them, get to know their personality and how they jive with you.  You could end up finding a real treasure.   Have you rescued an animal from your local shelter?  What was your experience like? 


  1. Think I'd have returned the children, not the puppy - but that's just me. It's also just one of the reasons why I don't have kids!! (Or puppies - hmmm, must rectify that.)

  2. If you recall, Max wasn't perfect either. He did like to chew up cigarettes.

    1. Yes, but since I didn't smoke, it didn't really matter to me! I found it funny to watch you all run around the back yard trying to recoup the remainder of your smoke pack.

  3. He has the cutest face I want to squish it and kiss him.