If it hasn't been made obvious already, Kindly Kentucky is written by two dog owners and general puppy fanatics. Growing up, our family almost always had a dog--more specifically, a basset hound. We were the house on the street where people would slow down and take a gander at the silly pup with droopy ears and giant feet.
Now that we are in our adult years, Laura has been a dog mom for 1 year, and Sarah has been one for about 7 months. With summer finally making its arrival, it's a popular time for people to add a dog to their families, and it can be tempting to get the Pinterest-perfect puppy from a breeder. However, we are huge proponents of the #adoptnotshop mentality, so over the next week or so, we will be sharing our adoption stories and tips and tricks we picked up along the way. Today, Sarah will be sharing her adoption story with Lou.
Finding Lou was the closest thing to love at first sight I've experienced. As dramatic as that sounds, there are witnesses who can back me up on this one! Once a week, there is a volunteer program where workers in downtown Louisville can sign up to walk adoptable dogs from a local shelter during lunch break. Being the dog fanatic I am, this was the perfect way for me to get my puppy-fix for the week. One Wednesday, I was waiting to be assigned my dog when I spotted a silly mutt who towered above the rest and was clearly more shy and calm than the other dogs bounding around her. Her name was Helga (soon to be Lou!), and it only took one hour long walk and a follow-up visit at the shelter for Ryan and I to decide to bring her home. Now that Lou has been a member of our family for a little over 7 months, here are the things I've learned about adopting a shelter dog:
1. Be flexible. There are so many reasons to adopt a shelter dog. Although many shelters that house the nearly 4 million adoptable dogs in the country are doing the best they can with the resources they have, there is often not enough food, time outside, and snuggles to go around. The "warm fuzzy" feeling you get for helping one these animals is huge. But, my number one rule of adopting a dog is to be flexible. The history of a shelter dog is not always clear, and this was the case with Lou. We were told that she was brought in as a stray, and that was all we knew. We didn't even know her breed! After having her about a month, it was clear she'd had a strange past. She was scared of everything including stairs, elevators, the car, storms, all noises, quick movements, and men (except for Ryan, his brother, and my dad). A big chunk of those first few months was spent making sure Lou knew she was safe and that she could rely on us, which is why being flexible is so important, even if you know more about your dog's past than we did!
2. Be persistent. When I look back on the big changes of my life, I definitely went through some growing pains. However, none of these were quite as dramatic as inheriting a new family and a new home with no one to explain it to me, which is exactly what Lou went through when we brought her home from the shelter. It can be easy to think that you know your dog fairly well after two or three weeks, but it can take dogs several months to really settle in. For us, that meant that Lou went through a few personality changes. She started out shy, went through a phase where she was wildly disobedient, and even had a short period of time we were worried she might be aggressive. It has only been in the last 4 months or so that we've gotten to know the real Lou--a sweet and sometimes shy pup who is completely content being left on her own but fiercely loving and loyal to the people she trusts. Too many people adopt pets and then give them up when they realize it takes work to build a bond. In our case, the persistence has paid off!
3. Be dedicated. I've alluded to this already, but it is alarming the number of people who adopt a dog and then decide within a few weeks or even days that it just isn't for them. Having a 24/7 companion sounds like it is going to be wonderful until you realize that taking care of this companion is a lot of work and money. Ryan and I had talked extensively about getting a dog, and we had casually been on the lookout for a while before we came across Lou. However, our first few weeks with Lou were a test, and it took our relationship a little while to adjust. Who was going to take Lou out at night? Who would walk her when we were both exhausted at the end of the day? Who would give her a bath? And of course, the more stressful questions that came along when we realized Lou had a lot of health needs and was very underweight her first few months. Who would wait with her at the vet? How would we split the bill? Who would wrestle our 75 lbs. animal to the ground and hold her mouth shut while the other tried to clean her ear infection? Having a dog is truly not all fun and games, but for me the work has paid off. For anyone considering getting a dog, I would highly encourage them to offer to dog sit for a friend for a weekend or to volunteer multiple times at their local animal shelter first!
What are some of your tips for first-time dog owners?