You thought it out. You've had long talks about it with your family involving responsibility. You're ready to commit effort, time, financial resources and love. Your heart and mind are open. You're ready to bring a dog into your life.
With October being Adopt a Shelter Dog month, it's a great time to visit an animal shelter and find a wonderful dog. You will find a shelter dog who will be your match. There are older dogs, puppies, big dogs and little dogs. Dogs with long hair, dogs with short hair. Dogs with a variety of personalities and energy levels.
Shelter dogs are great dogs. They are all in shelters due to circumstances beyond their control. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy lists the top reasons for dogs being in a shelter: their owners moved or have landlord issues; the owners have financial issues; they don't have time for their dogs; or personal issues.
How do you find your match? The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests several steps to finding your lifetime companion.
Before you visit a shelter, identify your needs. Consider your lifestyle. Are you a single adult looking for a dog who can go everywhere with you? Are you a parent looking for a dog who loves children? Do you have other pets at home? Do you have a quiet, mostly sedentary lifestyle, or are you active and looking for an exercise partner?
What age? Puppies can be irresistible, but raising them properly takes a lot of time and hard work. Most adult dogs only require a bit of basic obedience training and a house-training refresher.
At the shelter, ask questions and talk to the staff. Prepare a list of questions to ask. What have you noticed about him since he's been at the shelter? How would you describe his personality and behavior? Does he like children? How is he with cats? Ask any and all questions that are pertinent to your need. The volunteers at the shelter know the dogs in their care.
Spend time with the dog you are choosing. Take advantage of all the opportunities the shelter offers you to get to know the canine. Talk to the staff about your needs and expectations.
Use your head as well as your heart. Your dog will be a part of your family for years, so base your decision on your objective observations.
Have patience and visit often if you don't find a match on your first visit. Or, if you're not sure of the kind of dog you want, volunteer at the shelter. Once you've worked with and handled a variety of dogs, you will have a much better idea of the kind of pooch that will be your lifelong companion.
The National Humane Education Society created a Top Ten List for Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Pet.
• You can save a life by adopting an animal from your local shelter.
• Many dogs and cats awaiting adoption at the shelter are already housebroken.
• When you adopt an older dog or cat from the shelter you already know his temperament, his size, how active he is and if he's been trained.
• Adoption staff will work with you to make the perfect match for both you and the animal.
• When you adopt from a shelter, you will have an instant companion for life.
• You may inspire others to visit a shelter.
• Whatever age animal you are looking for, puppies as well as older dogs, you can find him at the shelter.
• Purebred animals can be found at the shelter. If you have your heart set on a certain breed, check with your shelter. Many shelters will keep you on a waiting list if they don't currently have the breed in which you're interested.
• Most shelters provide necessary shots and spay/neutering for the animals in their care, which is healthier for the animal, helps with pet overpopulation and saves you time and money.
• Unconditional love. Your animal will love you regardless of all other outside factors.
I encourage you to visit The Buddy Foundation and join us in celebrating the wonderful dogs we have in our care. Each one of them is waiting to go home.
• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights; or online at thebuddyfoundation.org.