Adopting a shelter dog: a personal account

Article about experience of shelter adoption and dog fostering.
By Laure-Anne Viselé, July 2010

Joined at the hip

Oliver and I: joined at the hip

I had grown very very very close to Oliver, the dog I was fostering. We did everything together: going to the  squash courts , the office, the restaurant…

Towards the end of the foster period, I started half-heartedly looking for a new dog. We went for a couple of home and shelter visits, but it never felt right: I couldn’t face “replacing” Oliver.

A pregnancy kit

I found out I was pregnant hours after yet another failed shelter visit. The mood was mixed: I was elated at the news, but I started wondering whether it was right to get a dog now. Would the baby take up all my nurturing  drive? What if the kid turned out to be allergic to dogs? What if the dog was intolerant to kids? After much soul-searching, I  reasoned that despite all the uncertainties, our home was miles better than the certainty of shelter life.

With about two weeks to go, I came across a cage-free shelter. Picture over a hundred dogs roaming around a farm. The visit went on and on, and I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of dogs, and no nearer to finding the one. Then, I got taken into a side room…

From athletic prince to fat sausage

Roger on the piano

That’s when I saw Roger for the first time. Picture a badly shedding, labrador-sized, grossly overweight fox-terrier cross. The only adult dog in a room full of excited puppies. I kneeled down and he immediately snuggled up against me, trying to get away from the nipping. That was it. That was our moment. That was our dog.

He had been taken in to a French shelter while roaming the streets of Normandy. He got transferred to a Dutch shelter after a year because his prospects were deemed poor due to his ‘less than good looks’. He spent close to another year in the Dutch shelter where I found him. The thought of him spending close to two years in the shelter system still breaks my heart.

I came back with my husband and he agreed: we’d found our dog. I picked him up on Valentine’s day, the day after Oli’s departure, and incidentally the day of my worst morning sickness! I had tears streaming down my face from Oli’s loss while driving to Roger’s shelter. After taking Roger in, it took me a while to fall in love with him, and I even started wondering if the complicity would ever come.

And the bond just grew…

But, wouldn’t you know it, with time, we grew closer and closer. It’s a different kind of a relationship than with Oli, but that’s OK, he’s a different dog. While Oli was princely and athletic, Roger is more the scuff-my-face-and-sleep-it-off type of dog.

I put in a lot of work with (positive) training and behaviour mod, and a year and a half later, he is one of the most obedient, self-controlled dogs I know. We’ve come a long way since the early days of paralysing generalised anxiety, abysmal obedience, and gross overweight.

As for sharing my nurturing drive, I abandoned my kid’s pram one day to come to my dog’s rescue as he was being attacked by a Border Collie. A friend grabbed the pram and the baby was in no danger, but it made me realise that, instead of the half-love I had dreaded, there was plenty to go round.

Adopting a shelter dog: a success story

I receive so many compliments nowadays about his behaviour and his odd looks. And people love the rags to riches story (well, riches… You know what I mean). I even use him to help kids who are scared of dogs.

I hope that Roger’s story, and the countless other testimonies of successful shelter rescues, will have you drive to the nearest shelter when it’s time for the next dog.

If you’re thinking of getting a dog, check this article first.

Rodgie at my kid's 3rd birthday party

Any comments

I always love to read comments. No matter how brief, long, or contrary.

I would particularly like to hear from you if you:

  • you too have a shelter rescue story to share;
  • you are considering getting a shelter dog;
  • you found it difficult to ‘shop’ for your next dog after the departure of a foster dog; or
  • you have experience fostering dogs and you’d like to share.

This is your chance to join the shelter rescue discussion: leave a comment.

Further reading

Dogs and society

About Roger

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