Story of Love shared by Melanie Hiller.
Why I Adopt, Not Shop
I grew up with “rescued” dogs. Dogs who made their way to my mom and me by different means. Kody, the Labrador, was brought to us by his former human mom with his fancy AKC papers to get him away from the man who abused them both. Clementine, the “Disney dog” Winn Dixie lookalike, who had been clearly cherished (and always came running at the sound of an electric can opener), was lost and made her home with us when we couldn’t find her former family. Sadie, a white shepherd mix, was adopted by our neighbors for their daughter’s birthday then kept in the garage until the day they announced that either we could take her or they would drop her at the pound. There were a handful of other non-traditional stories, and we adopted directly from shelters and rescues as well. I don’t think it occurred to me in my early years that people would ever buy a dog. People bought roller blades and walkmans, not dogs!
It doesn’t really make any more sense to me now as an adult why people would purchase a dog from a breeder or a store, not when 3.9 million loving and lovable dogs enter shelters every year in the U.S. alone. My fiancé, Sloan, and I have adopted our current pups from rescue organizations that pull dogs from “high-kill” shelters in the surrounding states where there are too many abandoned and homeless dogs and not enough adopters.
Penny, or Penelope Mae if we’re being formal, was an “owner surrender” at an overwhelmed county shelter in South Carolina along with her then beau. At the time, she was pregnant and still a puppy herself. A rescue organization based in DC, Lucky Dog, flagged Penny, her beau, and their future puppies to be transported to DC for adoption, sparing their lives and allowing the shelter to focus on helping other local dogs. Penny had her two puppies in the shelter, and after weaning, they were brought to DC with their dad where they each quickly found a home. Penny had to stay behind a couple of weeks to be spayed before she too made the journey north.
Meanwhile, I had been scanning the local shelters, attending rescue adoption events, and searching religiously online for months to find my dog. I had strict criteria, and my soul-dog Sadie had left some very large paw prints to fill. On a Saturday in January, Sloan asked if there were any adoption events on our schedule for the weekend. When I lamented that I was ready to throw in the towel, he headed to the computer. An hour later, he called me over, “Mel, doesn’t she look a lot like Sadie?” We read the profile of a quiet, smart pup and confirmed that this beautiful little dog with the ridiculous name of Coconut was on transport that night and would be at an adoption event the next morning. I told Sloan, “That’s my dog, but that is not her name.”
The next morning, with Sloan’s senior beagle Sebastian leading the way, we walked passed the long line of people waiting for the adoption event to begin. We saw her, my dog, sitting in shock on her foster’s lap. I left Sloan and Sebastian to get acquainted and headed directly to the application table. That afternoon she was home, she was appropriately named as a true Southern belle (not a food), and she was beginning the process of learning how to be a dog. She was 14 months old and had spent most of that time without much human socialization or any training, so Penny had a lot of work to do. She also had a lot of puppy time she had missed out on. We were happy to help her make up for it!
Penny is now 5 years old. Our best guess is that she’s part Corgi and part Shiba Inu. She has very sensitive radar ears that hear everything. Penny still has some social anxiety and gets nervous in new situations, but she has come a long way. She is very quiet until she feels she needs to sound the alarm of a possible intruder. Penny has me very well trained to anticipate what she wants with only her silent stares, and is working hard on Sloan.
• Her brother Leonard, sometimes.
• Car rides.
• Hiking and camping.
• Visiting her extended “pack” (our family and friends).
• Being picked-up and carried.
• Adult dogs, especially beagles.
• Yelling at cats.
• Shredding squeaky toys.
• Learning things and showing off how smart she is.
• Practicing and enforcing good manners and house rules.
• V-Dog kibble.
• Her brother Leonard, sometimes.
• Loud noises.
• Sweet foods like fruit or carrots.
• Changes in her routine.
• Rule breakers, especially dogs who try to jump on the couch at our house.
• Healthy, organic home cooked food.
Leonard was born in West Virginia, and he, his mom, and his littermates were pulled from a shelter much like Penny’s by another rescue organization in the area. As the runt of the litter, he was very small compared to his siblings, smaller still due to worms and a very stressed mom who wasn’t able to feed them enough. Once in their foster’s care, the beagle family were all given candy-inspired names. (What is with naming dogs after food?) The dog Sloan was most drawn to was named Goober. I kid you not; his name was Goober.
After we made the first round of application approvals, we drove to Pennsylvania to meet Goober and the litter. The fosters brought out two very rambunctious boys who immediately pounced on Penny and freaked her out. No go on a match there. Then, they finally introduced us to Goober, who was an immediate fit for our family and who was already called Leonard in our minds. (Get it? Penny and Leonard. BBT. We’re nerds.) When we adopted him, he was underweight and the fosters told us he had little-to-no interest in food. A beagle who isn’t food motivated? Right, and he’s also the Loch Ness Monster. That night he inhaled his bowl of kibble as he has done since with everything – and I mean everything – he can get his mouth on. His motto is (in the personified voice of a beagle puppy), “All duh tings, in my mouf.”
He is determined and persistent in getting what he wants and is the sassiest, melodramatic pup I have ever met. He loves to play and loves to love. He is as pack motivated as he is food motivated. Playing with toys isn’t as much fun unless he can share the experience with someone.
• His sister, Penny.
• Playing tug and fetch with humans.
• Saying “hi” to everyone he meets.
• Running as fast as he can, even when he falls over himself.
• Trying to swallow squeaky toys whole. (We’re working on this.)
• Eating food.
• Eating non-food objects like sticks, thumbtacks, and electrical cords. (We’re working on this.)
• Eating his own poo. (We’re working on this.)
• Eating insects. (We’re working on this.)
• Rules, manners, or listening.
• Vacuum cleaners.
• Being away from his family.
• Leashes or being led. (We’re working on this.)
Recommendations for Adopting
My primary recommendation for anyone looking to add a dog to their family is to know yourself and what the right fit is for your family. The more honest you are with yourself about the amount of training you’re willing to do, the amount of furniture and rugs you’re willing to sacrifice, the personality type that fits yours, etc… the more likely you are to find your match.
Also, know, the rescue organizations out there have the best interest of the dogs in mind. You will need to show the adoption agencies that you are ready to bring a dog into your life and make any necessary lifestyle changes to properly care for a dog. You will need to demonstrate that you have thought about the personality type that best fits your family and lifestyle, and let the adoption agency help you find your right dog. He or she may not be the dog you expected.