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  Your Guide to Adopting

You’ve been thinking about welcoming an animal companion into your home for quite awhile. Then, one day, everything is in place. Your heart opens all the way, and you know that it’s time.

You’ve decided to get a new pet because:
A) The kids’ whining has finally worn you down.
B) You hope to attract  babes while walking your dog.
C) You feel terrible for the homeless dogs.
D) That purebred puppy in the pet store window is cute and golden, which happens to be the fashion color this year.
E) You’ve been thinking about welcoming an animal companion into your home for quite awhile. Then, one day, everything is in place. Your heart opens all the way, and you know that it’s time.
Although people
have taken in pets for all of the above reasons, the right answer, of course, must be “E.” It is crucially important to consider the impact a new pet will have on your family, as well as the feelings of the animal, before you adopt.
This Time, It’s for Keeps
A visit to an animal shelter or rescue group showing will prove that acting on impulse or appearance is not the way to welcome a pet into your home. You stroll past kennels filled with hopeful animals, young and old, purebred and mixed breed, and must choose just one pet who’ll depend on you the rest of its life.
Cards on each cage door tell their stories: This 2-year-old beagle was brought to a vet to be treated for a broken leg, but his owner never came back to claim him. That 75Lb mixed breed was discovered homeless on a freeway. This poodle’s owner died.
They’ve already seen bad luck. They are all intensely appealing. Do your homework before deciding.
•  Will Your Home and Life Accommodate a

First, you, your kids and all the adults in your household should agree that you want a dog. Look down the road for the life of the animal, which could be 10, even 20 years.
· Do you have the patience and commitment to train
  your dog and understand his ways of
  communication? Dogs thrive on obedience classes;
  they’re generally happier when trained.
· Is anyone in the house allergic? Different species
  and breeds elicit different reactions. Spend time with
  a similar pet at a friend’s house before choosing
· How old are your children? If they’re under six, pet
  shelter experts recommend that you wait a few
  years. Puppies have extra-sharp teeth and claws,
  and strike back when teased. Toy-sized dogs may
  be too delicate for an exuberant toddler; large dogs
  can knock a child over. Some breeds, despite size,
  are domineering or high-strung.
· Is an adult willing to shoulder ultimate responsibility
  for the animal’s care? Pets can teach a child about
  loyalty and responsibility, but you can’t expect a
  child to do all the work of feeding and walking.
· How much time does your family spend at home?
   Animals like regular schedules. Dogs need to be
   walked and exercised. Do you know who’ll take care
   of your pet when you go on a trip?
·  Does your yard have a fence? Does your lease or
   condo board allow pets?
·  Can you tolerate some damage to furniture and
    floors until your new pet becomes accustomed to
    your home? Will you take accidents, even flea
    infestations, in stride?
· Do you have the financial means to support a dog?
  Shelter adoption and rescue group fees are usually
  minimal, compared to prices paid to a breeder or pet
  store. But the costs of medical care, training, food,
  grooming, toys, and other supplies add up.

What Kind of dog Do You Prefer?
In addition to being a vehicle for rescuing dogs, shelter and rescue group adoptions offer potential dog owners the opportunity to choose from variety of types and ages. Remember that puppies must be taught how to learn, whereas adult dogs are already housebroken, know how to learn and have developed personalities.
If you think you prefer a certain breed, read up on it before making the commitment. Ask the shelter about local rescue groups dedicated to that breed. Mutts, or mixed breeds, generally have a better, varied gene pool and a sturdier constitution, but there’s never a guarantee. Shelter personnel may be able to conjecture which breed is dominant in a mix by color, coat or face.
A purebred’s genetic tendencies toward temperament and medical problems are more predictable. For example, greyhounds and Labrador retrievers tend to be gentle; chow-chows may be hard to train, and lively, irrepressible West Highland terriers crave attention.
Adult size is sometimes an unknown with a young shelter dog. You know from the beginning that a Chihuahua stays tiny, while a bull mastiff needs plenty of paw room. You’re never quite sure what genes a mixed breed may have. Females are usually smaller than males. Still, that cute puppy could shoot past 50 pounds.
It’s Time to Visit the Adoption Showing
Before you bring the kids, make sure that you explain the rules; Don’t pet the animals without asking permission of the handlers first, don’t feed the dogs, don’t expect to bring a dog home the same day, and don’t make too much noise that could startle the dogs. Also, consider how your child may react if she ends up leaving the shelter without “rescuing” at least one little creature. The sight of animals in need will be tough to bear. That’s why you prepare yourself with the facts.
Are personnel knowledgeable? Observe the professionalism and sensitivity of shelter or rescue group staff. Do they consult with animal behavior professionals and veterinarians?
Are you willing to answer questions? You may be asked for proof of identity and residence; the name of your landlord or condo board to verify that pets are allowed; the number of children and pets in the household; a history of pets you’ve owned; the name of your veterinarian; whether you have a fenced-in yard. Your work and travel schedule help determine if you could manage a puppy that needs socialization.
Are you willing to complete an application questionnaire and sign a binding contract?  Most animal rescue groups will require that you cooperate in making sure that the dog gets it’s spay or neuter at a specific vet and by a specific date.  The adoption fee usually covers the cost of sterilization, but you may be asked to take the dog for the procedure and pick it up afterwards.  You may also be required to surrender the dog back to the rescue group if you are unable or unwilling to keep the dog in the future.
Shelters and rescue groups try to provide a background on every animal that comes in. In the case of a stray, an experienced volunteer or animal behaviorist interacts with the dog to evaluate its personality. Is it used to people in general? To children? How does it react to cats and other dogs? If a shelter advisor recommends against placing an animal with children or an inexperienced owner, don’t argue.
Notice how the shelter or rescue group assesses the health of its animals. Are there veterinary records on the pet? Did it receive its shots? Some shelters provide a list of vets who provide introductory discount services to their patrons.
Everyone in the household should meet the animal before it goes home. Ask the volunteers to show you a limited number of animals, to prevent the kids from instantly “bonding” with an inappropriate animal. “Test drive” a few. Take the dogs for a walk; hold and play with a few before making your final decision.


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