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Apparently, I've got a lot of pet posts in me this week. (read more)
And, like the post I made about leaving your bird home for a week, this one is probably going to be a little controversial.
It's not that I'm trying to upset anyone or incite anyone's ire, I swear. It's just that I do not believe the world is black and white, and I get a little bothered by the trend I see that basically says, "Don't talk about it if it's not politically correct."
That means it's hard to find a post where someone admits to leaving their bird while they go on vacation, and it's also hard to find a post where people openly talk about their decision to purchase a dog, rather than adopt.
And yet, I'm positive it's a decision lots of people make, but would rather not talk about, lest they get judged. Because frankly, adopting a dog is not easy, especially not if you want a specific breed.
So, here I go. I'm going to tell you why only one of my last four dogs has been a rescue. I'm going to share how I fully planned to get on board, "Adopt, don't shop" almost five years ago, but have since changed my mind.
If this bothers you, please don't read further. The last thing I want is to knowingly upset someone.
But, if you're thinking of adopting a dog through an agency, my story might make you give it a little extra thought, or at least it might make you realize you're not alone when things don't go as planned.
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Let me start by saying that I have a lovely German Shepherd who is a rescue. Her name is Ellie, she's 8 years old, and I got her from a friend who is an avid rescuer of the canine set.
I'm pretty sure the last time I saw my friend, she had six dogs running around the kitchen.
She loves them, and rescuing them makes her heart super happy!
So when our 12 year old Shepherd passed away back in 2011, it was no coincidence that my friend thought of me when she came to be in a position to adopt Ellie.
A friend of hers fell on some rough times and had to move to an apartment. Ellie was kept in a laundry room all day while the owner was at work, and, thankfully, the owner knew it wasn't the best thing for the dog. She gave the dog to my friend, and that's how we got our sweet girl.
There she is, isn't she adorable?
Did you judge the person who gave Ellie away?
I hope not.
Maybe you haven't been in that situation, but I have.
A few years before I met and married my husband, I was engaged to a really nice young man. Fortunately, I knew things wouldn't be quite right between us if we tied the knot, so I called things off.
The problem with calling things off is that you have to sort your life out as a single, instead of a double.
At the time, we had two German Shepherds. A three year old named Sam, and a puppy named Delilah, neither of which were adopted.
My ex-fiance moved out of the house we shared, which made sense because we were renting it from some family friends of mine (not his), and in exchange for me working on the house, they let me stay rent free while they tried to sell it.
It was a wonderful opportunity for me. I and the dogs stayed rent free, I worked, the owners sold the house, and I found a new place to live.
As a 22 year old woman, I didn't want to take on another house. I didn't want the work, and I felt more secure in an apartment. So, I made the choice to give up the dogs rather than keeping them in an apartment where they'd have no yard and be cooped up inside while I was at work.
It was a choice, I'm definitely not making excuses. I did what was best for me, first and foremost, and then did what I thought was best for the dogs.
My ex-fiance took the oldest dog, Sam. He couldn't take both dogs, though, so I asked around and found that one of my mom's coworkers had just lost his oldest Shepherd.
I still remember driving Delilah to his house and dropping her off. She was so little, not even six months old. I bawled like a baby. The guy was nice enough not to try and talk to me, and I drove away. It was a horrible decision to make, but life is full of decisions like that, and I stand by it.
So you see why I don't judge the person who gave Ellie away, and why I don't judge people who give up their animals.
I tend to think people are living their best lives. They're doing the best they can, and if that includes having to make a decision to give away an animal, I'm just going to assume it's because they really think it's the best thing to do.
Life is easier to live when you try and think the best of people.
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I never saw Delilah again, but my mom worked with that guy for awhile and would tell me about how well she was doing, living on lots of land, plenty of room to run, etc.
I have no doubt it was the right decision.
As for Sam, I did see her again, (Sam is short for Samantha, by the way). When my now husband and I got engaged and decided to rent a house together, the first thing I did was get in touch with my ex-fiance. I knew he'd gotten a place of his own that didn't allow dogs, and that the dog was living with his parents. I also knew he was a really good guy and would want what was best for the dog, so I asked if I could have Sam back.
Of course, he said yes.
We picked her up the next day and she lived happily with us for the next (almost) ten years, passing away in 2011. I don't have a lot of digital pictures of her, but there she is, a very old, but happy, lady.
She passed away right after Easter in 2011. We woke up one day to find that she just couldn't walk anymore. Her hips had done all they could for her, despite years of Cosequin and everything we could do to keep her healthy. Still, she lived a long and very happy life.
We weren't sure what to do when she passed. As anyone who has ever had a dog die knows, you kind of sit there and ask yourself if you really want to go through something like that again.
We had already gotten another Shepherd to keep her company when we got married, so we had Eva, who was alone now. We had always had two dogs, so when Ellie came into the picture, it just worked out.
There's Eva, joining my guys out in the back yard, and below that, Ellie and my oldest kiddo (who was so tiny!).
We still have Ellie, though she is getting very old and having a hard time walking, especially in the winter.
Eva passed away in 2014, and that left us once again with just the one dog.
This time though, I'd been on Facebook for a couple of years and I'd seen enough "Adopt Don't Shop" that I was determined to do just that. I was going to rescue a dog, I was going to do it "the right way".
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WHY IS DOG ADOPTION SO HARD?
We knew we wanted another German Shepherd, so the first thing I did was go to a website for a German Shepherd adoption agency in Houston. I won't name the specific site, since our experience wasn't very good, but suffice to say it was a big one.
They list all the dogs they have available for adoption, you look through them, and if one of the dogs seems like it might be a good fit with your family, you fill out an adoption application.
There were so many dogs that needed homes, of course we filled out an application right away. We heard back from them quickly and proceeded to spend weeks giving them the rest of the information they required.
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SEVEN YEARS OF VET RECORDS
For us, this meant three different vets because we'd lived in one city and had a constant vet, then moved 45 minutes away and had to find a new vet. We were not enamored with the new vet, so we found a second vet, which we love and still have. But, they needed all of those records, even though the original vet had to take the time to go to the warehouse to get the records since they don't keep them in the files that long.
It was arduous, but we did it.
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Of course we had to supply references to people who would say we were good pet owners. This wasn't an issue, and the adoption agency did call all of the references.
A STORE VISIT
The agency often hosted "meet and greets" at our local PetSmart, and they suggested we come by to meet some of the dogs and chat with the agents so they could get to know us. This should have been my first clue that things weren't going to go so well.
We packed up the kids, drove an hour and a half into Houston and walked into the PetSmart. There were some dogs there that had yellow bandanas around their necks advertising "I'm adoptable!" or something like that. But, they wouldn't let us near the dogs. Most were being walked around the store to be kept well away from any potential pet-parents. When we approached one that we saw on an aisle, the lady quickly steered the dog away from us and told us that he was already scheduled for an overnight with a potential adoptive family.
It was really odd, but it was going to get odder.
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A HOME VISIT
About a month after filling out the paperwork and doing the PetSmart "meet and greet", we were called to set up a home visit. Two ladies showed up at our house and proceeded to walk our land, ask every question under the sun, provide me with a 20 page pamphlet about how to take care of a German Shepherd, and basically just read me the riot act.
It was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.
I just kept reminding myself that these ladies meant well, surely they meant well. When they looked at my four year old running around the back yard and said, "Is he always like this?", I held my tongue and simply replied, "Well, yes, he's four...."
When one of them told me she was currently fostering three Shepherds and was considering adopting all of them, I held my tongue, entirely.
When they told me their dogs were "counter surfers", I held my tongue.
When they admonished me because my NEIGHBOR had a Sago Palm that could poison a dog if they ate it, I held my tongue and didn't point out the fence that was clearly doing a good job of keeping my other (very alive) dog and children inside.
When they told me I'd have to sign a contract giving them rights to come check on the dog at will, and also giving them rights to take the dog back if they determined we weren't a good match, I held my tongue.
Here I was, a stay at home mom, a homeschooler, two and half acres of fenced land, a dog door that gave the dogs access in and out 24/7, two kids that were always home and had more than enough time to play with the dogs every day, and yet, these women could not have been less impressed.
When they left our house that day with a, "We'll send you a letter," I shut the door, determined that there was no way I'd be adopting one of their dogs.
It wasn't worth it.
Again, a decision I do not regret.
Why is dog adoption so difficult?
A REPUTABLE BREEDER
The next day, I started looking for reputable breeders in my area, and after having found one we liked, we went to visit him, checked out the puppies, the grounds, etc. and ended up with a wonderful German Shepherd we named Ty.
He's amazing, the perfect dog for our family, and definitely deserving of a good home.
Now, take my story for what it's worth. I was trying to adopt a specific breed, and I'm sure that's not as easy as adopting from a shelter.
Whatever you do, do your research, know what might be expected when you adopt, and keep your options open.
My story is not an anomaly. I have more than one friend that tried to adopt a specific breed and came up with results similar to mine. You have to understand that people who run these agencies see the absolute dredges of society. They are jaded to a degree I hope most of us never see. They want the best for these animals and I truly believe they get to a point where they are sure no one will ever be good enough.
I hope every single day that the 30+ dogs we saw on that site all found good, loving homes.
I know for sure that our Ty did, and that's a wonderful feeling.
Ty (named after the dog we bought)
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