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Before You Adopt Us, Read This

Second-hand animals can make first-class pets

      You’ve decided it is time to bring a four-legged family member into your home. Congratulations! It’s a great decision.
      You probably know whether you are looking for a dog, cat or other companion animal. But you don’t know where to start. Maybe you visit a shelter or a rescue. Maybe you start looking on social media.
     You see lots of little faces in need. How do you know which is right for you?
     The numbers are staggering. According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million companion animals end up in shelters every year. Only half of all dogs and cats find a home. Just one in 10 dogs born will live their entire life in one home. Your decision makes you part of the solution.
      This is also the time for logical, not emotional, thought. A pet is not a toy or a piece of furniture. A dog or cat has needs and relies on you to fill them.
      The most important thing is that you have time to devote, according to Janette Thompson, board president at Calvert Animal Welfare League. “You need to consider if you have the resources to give the pet you choose the level of care they need,” says Thompson. “Animals do cost money to take care of.”
Making the Right Match
     Next, do some research on what breed is best for you. Golden retrievers, bull mastiffs and bichon frise are more laid-back dogs. Border collies, Siberian huskies and Labrador retrievers are more energetic. Make sure you are looking for a pet that will match your energy level. Also consider the age of the dog, and your age in relation.
     “A lot of older people come in and say they don’t want to adopt an older dog because they don’t want to go through the loss of another pet,” Thompson says. “But if you’re older, what happens if the dog loses you?”
     Pets have a shorter life span than we do. “You know when you adopt a pet, you’re going to go through that. You are probably going to live longer than they will. But it’s so worth it,” Thompson says.
      Once you decide on a breed, most rescues will require you to fill out an application. Some will do a background check. Many will do a home visit to make sure the pet will be safe. If there are other pets and family members, everyone will have to meet the new addition to the family. Once that is all done, you should have a new pet to bring home in about a week. 
Adoption Isn’t Free …
      There are fees involved. Some people balk at paying for a homeless pet. Why isn’t the pet free? 
      “What we do with our adoption fee is try to break even on our veterinarian costs,” says Thompson. Her organization, Calvert Animal Welfare League, gets no support from the state or county. “Everything else we raise is for food, bills and everything it takes to run the rescue.”
     CAWL canine manager Barbara Scanlan says pets will come to you spayed or neutered and will have their shots. “If you had to pay for that on your own, it will often cost more than most adoption fees.”
     You’ll need to temper other expectations as well. A pet you adopt may have been a stray. It may have come from an abusive or neglectful situation. Your new family member will not be “plug and play.” If they have moved around a lot, they will not be sure if this is their permanent home. Everything is new, different and pretty scary.
… Or Easy
      “Many people think they are going to get a fully housebroken, trained pet,” Scanlan says. That is not always the case. That is why rescues emphasize your having the time to spend with your new pet. While they may be fine spending longer times alone in the future, at first you must make the time to help them feel at ease.
      Be prepared for some challenges. Clay Foushee of Lothian adopted a 15-month-old mixed breed dog named Finnegan.
       “Our almost immediate discovery was that he was very distrustful and scared of all men,” Foushee says. “He bonded to my wife, Leann, instantly, and he let me pet him while she was holding him. But once home, it became obvious. He was almost certainly traumatized by one or more males in his past.” It took six weeks for Foushee to gain a bit more of Finnegan’s trust.
       Morgan Stueckler of Edgewater found her three-and-one-half-year-old mixed-breed Kailua “very skittish around both animals and people when we first got her. Since we have had her, we have been able to get her to trust a lot more people, and she even has play dates with other dogs,” Stueckler says.
       Then came the adoption of a beagle puppy named Lilly. “Our biggest challenge is her chewing on everything,” says Stueckler. “As a puppy lacking most basic training, she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of what is a toy and what isn’t. She’s trying her best to learn but it’s an ongoing process.”
      Irene Younger shares her home in Lothian with two adopted cats. “Jett hunts and is fearless,” she says. “Zoey is very nervous and scared of everything. She was so afraid I’d leave her. I couldn’t even run errands without taking her with me.”
      The pair are settling into a routine, and Younger uses a diffuser that emits the same pheromone a nursing mother cat does. It has a calming effect. “I think they both definitely appreciate that we saved them from such a scary place,” she says. 
      Terri Duckett of Deale had to buy a bigger car when she adopted a big bloodhound named Rufus just before he was scheduled to be put down. Then, she discovered he was a counter surfer.
      “He is like Houdini. You will not hear him, he will not make a mess or disrupt anything,” Duckett says. “He will eat your dinner. He has feasted on steak, meatloaf, chicken and even likes broccoli and asparagus.”
      It also took some time to get used to the drool bloodhounds are famous for. “It was awful the first month or so,” Duckett says. “He is such a great dog with such a personality, I can never stay mad at him long. It’s kind of like having a kid with a snotty nose.” 
But Endings Are Often Happy
       Duckett had previously purchased dogs from breeders. Rufus changed that for her. “If I am fortunate enough to be able to have any more dogs in the years to come, it will always be a rescue or shelter dog, thanks to Rufus.”
     Learn about the best breed for you, make sure you have the time and resources, then get out there and adopt a new family member. Second-hand animals make first class pets.