There’s a myriad of things to consider when you adopt a dog, but here’s a few – well, ten – things to think about before visiting your local animal shelter.
The first one is specific to Wood Green, the Animals Charity, but I’m sure many shelters have similar policies.
01. You won’t be allowed to just 'pop in' and have a butcher's at the pooches. Regardless of the current restrictions, dogs aren’t zoo exhibits. They've recently had to leave their homes, or they've been taken in off the streets – so many are nervous, while some may have suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of their former owners. Therefore, for the benefit of the dogs’ mental health, you can only meet a dog after making an appointment to discuss what sort of dog you’re seeking. This helps to prevent an endless stream of visitors and ensures only those serious about adopting can have a gander.
This will undoubtedly help the dogs. I know I'd be pretty annoyed if I had 20 children poking me through the bars, all day, every day.
02. The shelter may deem a particular dog to be inappropriate for you, but please don’t take it personally. It’s likely that the staff have been working with this dog for several weeks, so they’ve seen him/her on good days and bad days. You may see a dog for five minutes and think they’re "the one" but that doesn’t mean you’re compatible. A few dogs I expressed an interest in were ruled out because I didn’t have a six foot fence. The shelter just wants what’s best for the pooch.
03. Don’t abuse the staff if you or your home doesn’t tick all the right boxes. They’re paid a charity wage, work long hours, and some even take their work home with them by fostering a doggo. The last thing they need is your verbal hogwashery.
04. Consult all members of your household before bringing the dog home. Getting a dog as a “surprise” is always a bad idea.
05. Give the pooch time and space to settle in their new home. Don’t bring the poor thing back after 45 minutes because they gave a "side eye" to one of the kids.
I saw more poo and vomit on the carpet in that first week than I did in the subsequent six years.
06. Never lie. This should really go without saying, but if you tell porkies to help bag your “perfect” pooch it will undoubtedly bite you on the ass. The lie, not the dog. Although in some cases the dog might too. For example… showing the staff photos of your huge garden when it’s a picture you found on a Google image search. The shelter usually arrange home visits so you’ll only be wasting their time.
07. If you’re renting a property speak to your landlord. Even if they give you permission to keep a dog, that’s not much help if they plan to sell the property two months down the line. Whereas if you know you’re safe for another year it will give you peace of mind. It’s difficult, when you’re two months from being made homeless and struggling to find another property with a pooch friendly landlord. Believe me.
08. Consider investing in a tracker for your dog’s collar. On those early walks a dog may be slightly confused or disoriented, and they might slip the leash, or you might overestimate their recall. Of course trackers don’t give your dog protection from scum who abduct dogs – but they do give you peace of mind if your dog wanders out of sight. “Where do we begin looking!” quickly becomes; “Oh, looks like he’s 100 yards away in the shrubbery.”
I purchased a tracker after Luna clocked a deer and followed him into the woods. In the end a friend came out (in her PJs) and helped me find her.
09. Some – not all – members of staff may want regular updates on your newly adopted pooch. Possibly not a daily commentary but maybe an annual Christmas card? I tried to take Luna for annual visits (up until 2017) and I know Luna was always ecstatic to see her foster mother. Although some carers may not want that contact – so try and gauge the lie of the land…
10. The shelter will give your dog lifetime support, so perhaps return the favour? Whether you want to participate in an annual fundraiser, gift them something from their Amazon Wishlist occasionally, or perhaps make a small donation each month.
It’s not compulsory and there’s never any pressure but it’s just a nice thing to do.
Let’s face it, the world needs more acts of kindness!