It took me an entire year to find Juniper. That’s a LOT of time with my friends Petfinder + AdoptAPet. (Ok, maybe even a little Craigslist.) I could match the name every pitbull with an online profile in the Detroit area. I’d ace any face recognition check imaginable. I was #obsessed. If you’re doing this, then it’s just a good sign that you actually want it bad enough, because you’re overcoming the mom in your head that’s saying, “You don’t have enough time.” or “How will it get exercise?”
So, here are my top 5 tips for those first-time adopters out there, you potential #DOGma or #DOGpa.
Number One. Have patience.
I was too hungry for a dog when I first gave the idea some real thought. I was wishing myself into finding the right dog. I thought I found the right dog in Bandit in March of 2014. I paid the deposit and brought him home from the foster-based rescue despite his label – SLIGHT SEPARATION ANXIETY. I picked him up on a Friday and had dropped him back off by Sunday night. That separation anxiety wasn’t slight. I tried to pick up groceries on Saturday, and it took him about 10m to shake himself out of the metal wired crate, and make his nails bleed clawing at the door.
Don’t take this lightly. Do some research. This was my gut check to be sure I was as ready as I believed myself to be. If you haven’t read a couple dog training books before adopting, then you’re not ready. It’s a living breathing life that can bring endless joy to your days, but only if it’s the right fit for you.
Number Two. Know what you want.
After Bandit, I waited. I waited until I found JUST the right dog. Ask yourself these questions.
- What breed(s) of dog do I want? Can I handle that breed’s energy level? It’s quirks? It’s medical complications?
- What size of dog do I want? Am I ready to pay for the amount of food and higher amounts of medication this size of dog needs? Do I have any regulations on size in my apartment complex?
- Boy or girl? Why am I leaning toward one or the other? Is this a requirement? Do I have any other dogs that this one needs to get along with?
- What kind of energy do I want this dog to have? Dominant? Submissive?
Here was my ideal dog.
- I want a pitbull. I love that they are people dogs first. I want a lower level of energy in my dog. A dog that can go on a hike, but also snuggle in a snowstorm. I like that they are smart and intellectual, because I’d like to do a lot of obedience training.
- I want a medium pitbull – a traditional APBT. I’d like for him to be under 50lbs. I understand that that means more food, but pitbulls are generally healthy dogs! I don’t forsee any major medical issues like skin allergies or cancer…
- I want a submissive male. I grew up with boy dogs, and can’t imagine having another kind. I think it just makes sense. I’m a girl, so I have should have a boy dog to balance the energy out!
Number Three. You may end up with something different.
Hah. So Juniper is a 56-lb DOMINANT FEMALE. What was most important to ME was the breed and energy level. Take a second to prioritize what’s most important to you. Maybe it’s size? Your apartment only allows dogs under 30lb. Quirky behavior? You can’t STAND dogs who bark. Gender? Your family has a male dog who only gets along with females.
Number Four. RESCUE.
I feel like if you’re reading this, then you’re on my team here. But please, rescue. Don’t just go to a breeder. There are MILLIONS of dogs without homes. ONE of them currently sitting in a shelter will fit your needs. WAIT until you find them. SEARCH diligently.
- Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner. [ASPCA]
But, a quick word about rescues… they are not all created equal. They’ll do what they think is right to adopt out dogs, and that may or may not align with what YOU think is right. Listen to your gut and think about the DOG first. You’ll have that moment when the DOG chooses YOU. Trust that over anything else someone says or doesn’t say.
Number Five. If you are unsure, then FOSTER.
I fostered Juniper first! It made me feel at ease knowing that I had the chance to bond with this animal to be sure. My heart knew, but fostering gave my head a chance to catch up. What was the worst that could happen? I give this pup a place to stay for a while! It took about a week for me to have reasoned through it. It took about a day for her to become my best friend. It took an instant to feel the spark. And now we get forever.