Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unexpected Blessings of Adopting a Shelter Dog

Benefits of Adopting a Shelter Dog ©Katrena
Adopting a shelter dog was something I had considered, and decided against, for many years. My kids and I have asthma and multiple allergies. I kept thinking of my previous pets, two loving and loved guinea pigs that my allergist encouraged me over and over again to move to a different home because I would break out in hives every time I held the furry little guys. I kept picturing my kids' faces if we got a dog and then had to find a new home for the dog if everyone's allergies and asthma flared.

I grew up with a sweet little dog named Benji. He was an outdoor dog and full of a sweet and loving personality. Benji loved to go out for walks with me and hated baths as much as I did. My pet duck terrorized the poor guy, and the neighbor's cat would sashay just out of reach of Benji's chain...until the day his chain broke. You never saw a cat move faster or a dog look prouder as Benji did when he finally treed the furry feline!

My kids' health was my top priority, but the girls had been begging for a dog for weeks, actually years. I finally decided to look...just look. The Humane Society adopts animals from the shelter and prepares them for adoption in my county. We looked there first, but I think they were afraid the dogs available would not be a great fit with the allergy and asthma history at our home.

Travel down a gravel road past the Humane Society into what seems the middle of nowhere and you'll find the animal shelter in our county. The area was fenced with a phone number posted on the door in case someone needed to speak with a worker, so I walked around the perimeter and saw the faces of many potential forever friends. I won't elaborate, but I will say that it can give one a sense of gratitude to realize that you might make a world of difference to an animal. The need outweighs the resources by a long shot.

Dogs don't usually look particularly appealing in the rain, and one white dog that seemed to be a poodle mix looked especially pitiful at the dog pound. I had read from several different sources that white dogs with some poodle in them might be a good choice for people with allergies and asthma because they do not tend to shed as much. This young dog seemed playful, sweet, and healthy, so I called the number on the shelter door so that I could pay the fee and adopt our new addition to the family. She shook like a leaf all the way to her new home.

Kids and Dog Having Fun in the Snow Together ©Katrena
Dogs Can Make a Person More Humble

I will readily admit that I knew almost nothing about caring for a house dog. My childhood dog had lived outside, and I had no idea that dogs that live in the house might wake a person in the middle of the night just like a child. There's nothing like being in a deep sleep only to be jarred out of it by frenzied barking or having one's toes licked. I don't think I will ever understand why neither the dog nor the alarm ever awakens anyone in my house but me, but I also have seen some beautiful night sky displays with our pooch.

I also discovered that young dogs might enjoy chewing on anything and everything. Our newfound friend decided to chew off the hands and feet of nearly every baby doll in the house. Dog toys would be mangled in moments, and the dog quickly chewed through three leashes and three collars. Cords that connect computers and peripheral devices may also become tasty treats for a canine. I began to learn to look at the house from the dog's perspective and moved or hid items accordingly while attempting to teach our new pet to chew her more rugged toys. I also discovered that installing a baby gate and purchasing a kennel would be well worth the effort.

Apparently, our dog was not used to going into a kennel, and she would urinate all over herself if left in the kennel even for 15 minutes. I had read that dogs won't go to the bathroom if they are in a kennel. Don't believe everything you read. Things improved over time, but I quickly discovered that if it sounds better than expected, it just might be.

On quite a few occasions, I felt like simply leaving the mop out and poised in the kitchen. My youngest daughter was potty training, and when I didn't have a mess in the bathroom, I was scrubbing the carpet due to a dog deposit. I knew if I left the mop out that it would probably be shredded if I turned my back, but it was tempting. Eventually both the child and dog mastered that all-important milestone. Hurray!

After discovering that our dog had an ear infection, I thought that she would stop constantly scratching after treatment, but the veterinarian eventually determined that our dog has allergies. We bought special dog food and special soap. Whenever I made the announcement to the kids, my oldest got the biggest smile on her face and exclaimed, "Wow, even our dog has allergies...she's the perfect dog for us!" I didn't even consider that side of the coin. Amazingly, nobody's allergies or asthma was bothered by the dog, and we have had her for about two years now.

Humble pie is never a very tasty treat, but perhaps a dog can serve to strengthen the core, or at least encourage people to think of creative solutions.

Dog Adoption Success Story ©Katrena
Dogs May Serve as Great Alarm Systems

Many people pay for elaborate alarm systems to protect their homes and to alert people of visitors or prowlers on the property. Our dog quickly decided that one of her jobs would be to alert us to anything unusual that might be going on outside. If a visitor ever comes to our house, I don't think they would be able to sneak in because our furry friend loves to announce any movement on or near our property.

Our dog will gladly announce whenever someone returns to the house as well. This used to include times whenever a person might walk outside for about 30 seconds, but that time frame has increased a bit over time. According to our dog, visitors might also take the form of squirrels, cats, other dogs, leaves blowing in the wind, or anything else that might be moving outside!

Dogs Can Make Great Friends ©Katrena
Dogs May Help Communication Skills

They say that listening is one of the best communication skills to learn. Having a dog to sit attentively and simply look at you with big brown eyes may serve to open doors that one could never predict. My second oldest daughter was five at the time we adopted the dog, and she would excitedly draw pictures for and read to the dog. She still loves to read.

My youngest was three at the time, and she did not speak very much. Her two older sisters readily spoke for her. After bringing our dog home, the youngest suddenly had so much to say! She would talk and talk and talk to the dog as she would drag the poor dog around by the collar from one room to the next.

I feel sure that our canine friend probably knows many things that I only wish I knew about my kids' lives. A dog that is a little too large for a lap can also make a great foot warmer for those who enjoy writing.

Pet Ownership Responsibilities ©Katrena
Dogs Can Help People to Learn More About Responsibility

Taking care of another living being can be an awesome learning experience for children, and a dog can teach people in the home a lot about caring for another. Fresh food, water, regular exercise, bathing, and brushing can all encourage consistency in learning responsibilities.

This is something to consider before adopting any pet. I recently read of a lady who had to sign a contract agreeing to take care of a dog before her parents agreed to bring one home, and she later began to rescue animals as an adult.

My kids have also learned more about animal behavior and how to read their cues after we adopted our dog.

Dogs Can Enrich Lives of Others ©Katrena
Dogs Can Provide Companionship

Having a dog can provide the wonderful gift of companionship. A dog might lick one's tears or simply sit in a lap or run with wagging tail to greet you when you can't even stand yourself at the moment. Dogs don't tend to hold grudges...a lesson few of us learn very well. For all the care they require, they readily give back above and beyond with an amazing capacity to come close and touch humanity at the heart.


  1. Wonderful article! Sounds like you have the perfect companion for your family and vice versa~

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read the article and yes, our dog has definitely enriched our lives and I hope we've done the same for her!

  3. How sweet! What a lucky little dog! And a lucky family too! Pets have such a special place in our hearts.


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