By Jeannine Berger DVM, DACVB, DACAW, CAWA, Vice President of Rescue and Welfare, San Francisco SPCA
When rescuing a dog, you can take two different paths. The big question to ask yourself is whether you want “that” dog or “a” dog. Have you already fallen in love with a specific dog, or are you open to possibilities? Depending on your answer, there are different ways to approach the adoption process.
If you want “a” dog.
You know you are ready for your next family addition. You’ve thought about what you expect from your next canine companion, and if you have a family you’ve also discussed it with them. You know what you can offer a dog based on your lifestyle. You can commit to a dog for the rest of his or her life. You are very honest with yourself about YOUR needs. For example, do you work 10 hours a day and your dog will be going to doggy day care four days per week? This means your new dog will to need to be very social and enjoy that kind of activity. Alternatively, let’s say you are a marathon runner and you want your ideal canine friend to join you for daily training runs. This means you are looking for an orthopedically healthy young adult who also loves to be active.
Be brutally honest with yourself and communicate your needs clearly to the adoption counselor, who knows the adoptable dogs and is committed to finding you the right partner. Trust them! That may also mean going back to the rescue a few times, if you don't find your match on the first visit, or visiting multiple rescues. With honesty, patience, and the help of the shelter or rescue organization, you will eventually find your perfect dog.
If you want “that” dog.
You know you are ready for your next family addition. You saw the dog on a website, an adoption floor, or you are fostering the dog and you want to commit for the rest of his or her life. You just know this is THE dog! It was love at first sight.
Now is the time to have an honest conversation with the adoption counselor to learn as much as possible about the dog and assess if it’s a good fit. What you can offer the dog? Does your lifestyle match the dog's needs, and are you willing to make sacrifices to accommodate those needs if necessary? If you work 10 hours a day and your new friend is not fond of other dogs, are you willing to find the dog walker who will go on solo walks with your pup in remote areas? If you are a marathon runner, but your new canine buddy has hip dysplasia and needs four short walks around the block, are you OK not having a canine running companion?
Communicate clearly with the adoption counselor about the adjustments that you’re willing to make to your daily routine to make the relationship work. Trust the adoption counselor! With honesty and a commitment to your dog, you will provide them with a fantastic life.
Whether you’ve already fallen in love or you’re open to exploring the possibilities, rescuing a dog can be a very satisfying experience. You will find a friend who is thankful for a second chance in life – and will in turn improve the quality of yours.