This week is the Adopt an Adoptable Pet Week! If you're looking for a pet, look in shelters first. Look at the black dogs. Look at the senior dogs. Look at the scared dogs. They'll look back at you like this:
How can you say no?
I'm not going to reiterate again why you should look at a shelter first, or never buy an animal from a pet store, or make sure that you're going to a responsible breeder, because these are the things that you hear over and over again. I will tell you the store of how we found Layla.
It was February, and I had just left my job to start nursing school. I had a few weeks before school started. Hubby and I had been talking about getting a dog since, oh, the first day that we met. Each time, the conversation went something like this:
One of us: Let's get a dog!
The other: OK, let's do it! Oh wait, what about we don't have a place of our own/our apartment is tiny/we're never home/we can't afford it?
So now here we were, with a place of our own, a big yard, (relatively) stable finances and 6 weeks of someone being here all day. It was the perfect time to get a dog.
We started looking.
|And looking and looking and looking.|
We looked on Petfinder.com, and narrowed our search to shelters and rescues. We oohed and aahed over each picture. We looked at the older dogs. We looked at puppies. We looked at small dogs, large dogs, medium dogs, white dogs, black does, purebred dogs, crazy mixed dogs. I cried at each and every story. We decided maybe the Petfinder approach put me at risk for dehydration.
It would be a better idea to actually go meet some dogs.
We went to a shelter down the road and met a pointer/pit mix who was very friendly - and hyper. We spent about 5 minutes with her before the (I'm sure well meaning) shelter people said all we needed to take her home was a collar. They about shoved her out the door with us.
We decided to give it some thought.
We went to an adoption event at PetSmart in Moorestown. We met a nice man from the Burlington County Animal Shelter with two black lab puppies with huge paws. They pulled me around the store, jumped all over me, drenched my face with kisses and tangled me in their leashes. The man said that the pups were brothers and he wanted them to be adopted together, if possible. I was imagining how much fun it would be to run around the yard with two adorable little puppies. I started to feel a little weepy. Ten seconds later, Bob took the adoption papers out of my hands and carried me out of the store. No, he said, we could not adopt two puppies who would grown into large dogs. He apparently had been imagining feeding and cleaning up two huge dogs' worth of poop. Men's minds work so funny sometimes.
We drove down the road to the next PetSmart where the West Jersey Volunteers for Animals were hosting an adoption drive. This time each dog had a volunteer or foster family with them. We walked around and looked at each dog. One lady had a little chihuahua beside her - when we came near, the dog yipped and jumped at us. I thought he was adorable, but not exactly the kind of dog I envisioned. I asked the lady about him. Instead of saying what we expected, which was "He's a great dog and loves everyone and you should adopt him right now so that he won't have to spend another moment here, and if you don't we'll have to put him down and it'll be all your fault," she said this: "He's a feisty little dog. He would work best in a family with no other animals because he likes to be the boss. He'll protect you and cuddle with you, but he's not a big player. If you want a little dog to keep you company, he's it. If you're looking for a dog who will go on walks and fetch tennis balls, he's probably not the guy for you."
The WJVA group was fantastic. They told you everything about their animals - the good things, the bad things, the things to be aware of, the dogs' likes and dislikes. We talked to the people about the dogs' personalities and needs. It was an awesome experience - you could really tell that these people cared about each and every dog for itself, not just because it had a sad story that needed a happy ending. We were thrilled with the empathy and the enthusiasm and the honesty that we found there. When you're looking at shelter dogs, how you interact with the people is just as important and how you interact with the animals. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't let someone guilt you into taking home a dog you can't handle or don't really want. Be upfront and honest with everyone, and deal with shelters and people who will do the same for you.
Anyway, back to PetSmart. We played with lots of dogs that day, walked them around, petted them, sat on the floor and wrestled with them. There was one little dog who curled up behind her foster dad and wouldn't come out to play. She was so scared of the other animals that her tail was so far between her legs it practically reached her chest. Her ears were flicking back and forth trying to take in everything that was going on. She could barely move. Bob went over to her, knelt down in front of her and put out his hand. She looked up at him with giant brown eyes, sighed, and put her head on the ground. The foster dad suggested we walk her away from the other dogs and maybe she would loosen up. We took her a few aisles away, out of sight of the others. Her tail came up, her ears relaxed and she grinned at us. We played around with her a little bit, walked her back and forth. We decided that we just weren't sure about her.
We walked her back to the group. As we got close, she stopped walking, her tail went down a little, and she curled up behind Bob's legs and peered out at the others, then up at us.
We looked at each other.
And that's the story of how Layla chose us.