If you follow my blog you know I’ve had a bad case of puppy fever for awhile now. I’ve been wanting a dog for a long time, and yesterday I finally realized that dream. The process of picking the perfect dog was a long one, but I’m happy to say that it has finally come to an end and we may very well have ended up with the perfect dog.
Although it was very tempting to run out and buy the cutest puppy I could find from the pet store, or adopt the saddest case from the SPCA, I was very aware that making mistakes when choosing a dog or letting my heart rule my decision could have very costly consequences. As the shelters full of unwanted adolescent dogs illustrates, many animal owners have made those mistakes before.
Making a Wish List
The first thing I do when trying to decide on anything that I’m buying is to close my computer and make a wish list. I close my computer because, generally, the more browsing I do, the more muddled my mind gets with all of the options that I may not even want, but somehow seem worth the extra money. Instead, I sat down with a piece of paper and try and think about what I would want if I could conjure up my perfect dog. Here’s what I came up with for my dream dog.
- Size: Medium size, small enough for me to lift, big enough for my fiancee to rough house with.
- Age: While the idea of a puppy is very enticing, the idea of countless house breaking accidents, sleepless nights and chewed up socks was not. My fiancee and I agreed that we were perfectly happy if we could find an older dog that fit the rest of our requirements.
- Coat: Short coat. I did the whole long haired dog thing in high school, I prefer a short coat that is easy to maintain.
- Vocalization: I couldn’t care less if I had a dog that never ever barked. So a quiet dog is a must.
- Intelligence: I wanted a dog that is easy to train, but not so intelligent that I have to constantly be coming up with activities to entertain it.
- Activity Level: This might be the most important aspect in this list. This is where I had to be brutally honest with myself about how much activity I was realistically going to be able to provide. Dogs need exercise and a high energy breed that is under exercised can lead to destructive behavior (which can be very expensive). In the end I settled for: A dog that is happy to go for a run with me, but that doesn’t need to go for a run every single day.
- Attitude: Laid back and happy to take the world in.
- Quirks: We have a cat, and many nieces and nephews. Any aggression in either of these categories is 100% unacceptable.
Finding My Ideal Dog
Armed with this list, I set out trying to find the perfect breed. I boomeranged between several breeds, none were perfect, but I always thought I could live with their imperfections until I met the breeder and her dogs in person. (Always do this if you’re thinking of buying a breed you don’t have experience with!)
Beagles were too stubborn and hard to train.
Australian Shepherds were too high energy and intelligent.
Labrador Retrievers were too big (at 70 lbs that would be pretty hard for me to lift)
We submitted an application to the local SPCA as well, and when it was approved we made the forty minute trip into town to check out their selection.
Keeping a Level Head
The hardest part about visiting a breeder or the SPCA is to not be overwhelmed by it all. It was chaotic at the SPCA, with 35+ dogs barking their heads off, we were instructed to head out back to the outdoor kennels and “holler if we want to try any of them out.”
The first kennel we went by had a medium sized black and white female in it. Of all of the dogs, she was one of the few that wasn’t barking. She wasn’t cowering at the back of her kennel, she was just sitting, taking it all in. We pulled her file and saw that her only issue was dog aggression.
We put her on our list and moved around the other kennels. No other dog sparked our interest like her. While there were several that nearly broke my heart to pass by (a jolly long time resident lab, and several crying puppies) most were too big, too hyper, or had issues with cats or kids. The black and white female seemed to be exactly what we were looking for.
We asked to take her for a walk and it quickly became apparent that this was our dog. She didn’t have a clue about walking on a leash and didn’t know any commands, but she was happy to take direction. I was worried about the dog aggression issue listed in her file, but it was hard to imagine such a quiet, sweet dog being aggressive to anyone. After some discussion on that issue my fiancee and I decided that we would seek professional help if we couldn’t help her through it on our own.
Two days later we brought a freshly spayed Molly home.
I’ve taken the week off work to help her adjust to this new place and all of our rules, but she hasn’t put a foot wrong yet. She hasn’t shown even the vaguest hint of aggression towards other dogs and spent last night being led around placidly by my multitude of nieces and nephews. She’s barked once, and after her morning walk, has been passed out at my feet all day. (Activity level = perfect).
By sticking to my wish list and not letting my emotions run away with me, I’ve been able to not only find a dog that suits my lifestyle, but as an added bonus I was able to give a homeless dog a place to call her own forever.
Do you have a dog? What is your dog adoption story? I’d love to know AND see any pictures you might have!