I’ve had animals in my life for as long as I can remember. We had cats and dogs when I was little and I loved all of them, but it wasn’t until we adopted our first dog, Sugar, that I felt like I really connected with dogs. Little Bit fell into our lives a few years later and fit in quite happily with our family. After Sugar and Bitty died, I knew I wanted dogs in the house again – the silence was deafening – but I didn’t want to rush into adopting another dog to fill a void. I was still missing them too much. I started walking dogs at the local SPCA and there came the day when I was allowed to walk dogs on my own. (The SPCA has a wonderful volunteer program that equips you to manage dogs in a safe manner. You’re only allowed to go solo after several trainings.) I walked about 8 dogs that day and the last dog was Woody. To this day, I don’t know how I knew he was the one, but he was and that night he was home with us. Ellie came along a few months later (that’s a story for another time) and this past July, we adopted Mindy. We weren’t planning on another dog, but when the opportunity presented itself, I just knew she was meant to be with us. I’ve told you all this for a reason.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has declared October as the month to Adopt A Shelter Dog. I’m, hopefully, a better dog owner today than I was 25 years ago when we adopted Sugar. I still have tons to learn, but to be a responsible pet owner, I think it’s important to consider a few things before you adopt a dog or a cat.
According to the ASPCA’s website (www.aspca.org), there are some things to consider if you want to be a responsible pet owner. Caring for a companion animal goes far beyond providing food, water and shelter. It takes research and careful planning to bring the right pet into your home, and to make sure your lifestyle is the right one for your pet.
Are you looking for the loyal and steady companionship that an animal can offer? Are you hoping to fill the empty place left after a pet has passed? Maybe you want a companion for your child. Knowing why you’re preparing to bring a pet home will help you to determine the species and breed that will fit your lifestyle.
When adopting, you are making a commitment to care for an animal for the rest of his life—that could mean 10 to 15 years for dogs and up to 20 years for cats. As you go through lifestyle changes such as moves, the birth of children and new jobs, your animal will remain a permanent part of your life. If circumstances change, will you still be able to care for your pet?
Your personality and lifestyle, along with challenges such as space restrictions and amount of time spent at home, should be explored to determine what pet is right for your household. Research different breeds and ask shelter staffers what animals they recommend—they’re experts at making perfect matches!
Owning a dog or cat costs more than the initial adoption fee. Food, veterinary care, spaying or neutering and proper identification—that means a collar with tags and a more permanent form of ID such as microchipping—can add up.
Dogs thrive on several hours of exercise and companionship every day, and pooches who are constantly left alone can develop behavioral problems. Cats are healthiest and happiest indoors and love to be treated to energetic play sessions with their human families. If your work demands that you travel often, or if you’re out of the house most days and evenings, this may not be the right time to adopt.
Fleas, allergies and sudden medical issues are just a few of the health-related problems that potential pet owners may face. Can you care for your pet if he gets sick?
Lack of training is one of the most common reasons that adopters return pets to shelters—are you willing to solve behavior problems? Basic training helps dogs and their owners communicate better, strengthening the relationship overall. And taking the time to understand why your cat does what she does, especially when it involves her litter box and scratching habits, will help you avoid potential problems.
Whether it’s tightly sealing your garbage cans or paying attention to dangerous decorations during the holidays, you’ll need to make your home safe before adopting. That includes keeping toxic foods, pet-unfriendly plants and dangerous household items out of paw’s reach.
9. Is your living space adequate for an animal companion?
Be sure to choose an animal who will thrive in your home. If you’re attracted to energetic large-breed dogs, but live in a small apartment, will your pooch have enough room? If you live on a noisy street, will it disturb your cat? Also consider that many landlords don’t allow pets or place restrictions on having them. Be sure to check out your “house rules” before adopting.
If your kids are still toddlers, you might consider waiting a few years before adopting, as pet ownership ideally is a team effort. Children who are mature enough can happily share pet-care duties. You may also have another pet at home who’s not yet—or may never be—ready to share his kingdom with another animal.
There’s a lot to consider when bringing a dog into your home. But when you consider all the questions, you’re armed with the knowledge needed to bring the right dog into your home and that makes all the difference. All three of our dogs are rescue dogs and we wouldn’t have it any other way. They have brought such joy into our lives. And, yes, there have been challenging times and behavior issues to overcome, but it’s totally worth it. They teach me more about myself than I think I teach them.
I’ll end with this: So God Made a Dog
“We think everyone should adopt a dog (or two or three) from a shelter. We know how it feels to be in a shelter and we prefer being at home with our mom and dad.”