Response to our Adoption Drive has been lukewarm thus far. We don't quite know what to expect come tomorrow and Sunday. It was a folly on our part. We have yet to properly explain what our adoption drive involves. Although this post may have come a tad too late for this particular drive, it'll still apply to others that are yet to come.
Though the event is named as such, it does not involve people coming down to Gentle Paws and taking home one of our dogs that very day. Adoption is often a process, not a one off event. More appropriately, our adoption drive is a drive to raise awareness to those interested in getting a dog that adoption too can be an option.
The bad reputation of shelter dogs often precedes them. People shy away from shelter dogs because they associate them with unhygienic conditions, behavioural problems and other health ailments. Most people also don't give a chance to shelter dogs because they just aren't puppies.
Let us take this opportunity to set the record straight, explain our adoption processes and perhaps entice you to give them - and us - a chance.
1) Where are our dogs from?
Our 40-odd shelter dogs come from all walks of life. Some of them were strays rescued off the streets, some were breeder dogs abandoned when they could no longer conceive, some of them were born in the shelter, some of them were once family pets given up due to housing, financial or other personal reasons.
As can be seen, it is often not the fault of the dogs themselves that they land in a shelter. Being in a shelter does not make them second class animals and they deserve an equal shot at getting a home.
2) Why should I adopt an adult dog over an irresistible puppy?
Most shelter dogs are not puppies. This necessarily means that by adopting one, you would have to forgo the opportunity of watching your dog grow up. But that it is not always a bad thing. Puppyhood only lasts that long. In a blink of an eye, a puppy will no longer be tiny and cute.
Buying or adopting a puppy also means you have to bear with many problems that come with its young age. You have to deal with chewed up footwear, furniture and just about any hard surface. Their inability to control their bladders also means more effort has to be put into house training. A puppy's short attention span would also mean it will demand a great chunk of your time.
This is not to say that one shouldn't adopt puppies. We are just trying to put things into perspective and letting you know that hey, adopting adult dogs is an equally viable alternative. Most of the dogs at Gentle Paws fall within the 2-6 years age category. They are full grown dogs with well-defined personalities and temperaments. With such dogs, you know what you're working with and what to expect. It is also easier to break them into the house, since some of them would have been house trained previously and with age comes better control of bodily functions. Full grown adult dogs may not be as cute as puppies, but they certainly make better companions with their patience and unquestioning loyalty.
Ever heard of the saying 'you can't teach an old dogs new tricks'? Well, junk that. Every dog can be trained. More often than not, the problem lies not with the dog but the owner. This is 4 year old Daisy, one of our dogs who has been successfully adopted. Last we heard from her loving owners, Daisy has mastered the basic commands of sit, paw and drop.
3) Are you ready for a dog?
Do you have the right motivations?
Getting a dog is something quite momentous. Before you start your search for one, you need to look deep into yourself and ask yourself some very tough questions. Probably the most important question to ask is... why do you want a dog? Is it because you like the idea of having a dog in the family? Is it because your children have been pestering you for one? Or is it because you are truly ready to open your heart and home to a four-legged friend? Your motivations for adopting a dog will be crucial in making the adoption a successful one.
Are you capable of being a loving and responsible owner?
Next, ask yourself if you are able to be a loving and responsible owner. For an adoption to be successful, the dog must be fully integrated into the family. Hence, we do not encourage "garden dogs", where dogs are confined to the porch or garden and prevented from entering the house. Adopting a dog is a commitment of at least ten long years. Do you really expect your garden or front porch to be your dog's home for all this time? If you're worried about shedding fur or the occasional soiled carpet, both of which are part and parcel of keeping a dog, then perhaps you aren't as ready as you think you might be.
Being a responsible owner also means that you must have the financial ability to support a dog for the rest of its life. This includes food and the often expensive veterinary care. Next, being responsible also means you must have time for the dog. Minimally, a dog requires a daily walk, a weekly bath and some company. If you are a frequent traveller or there's no one home for most of the day, you're not ready. Dogs are pack creatures, not solitary ones. Confinement will most likely lead to misery and distress.
Being responsible also means that you cannot be without family support. Having a dog can be great work. Though not impossible, it will be tough going at it alone. Support of family members is critical, especially if you are living together. When thinking of adopting, draw every member of the family into discussion. Don't adopt without the assent of everyone. This will not bode well in the long term. Besides, caring for the dog together will bring the family closer and make the experience so much sweeter.
Being responsible also means that you must have in you that little bit of patience. A dog that has been living in a shelter may have undergone some unpleasant experience or it might just be unused to living in a house. You gotta give it some time to let it get adjusted to home life. It may make mistakes along the way and you have to cut it some slack. It's a journey of learning for both you and the dog. It's bound to take a little time.
4) Our adoption process
Our string of bad experiences has shown us the importance of matching potential adopters with suitable dogs. Before embarking on a formal adoption, you need to think hard about what sort of characteristics you are looking for in a dog. Quiet or active? Big or medium sized? Pure breed or mixed breed? Active or quiet? Young or slightly older? Tell us your thoughts and we'll come up with a few suitable candidates. Alternatively, you can also come down to our shelter to take a look. Perhaps you'll take a liking to one of the dogs there. We'll give you the opportunity to interact with the dog. It doesn't have to be in one sitting. You can take some weeks to mull over it. A considered and informed choice often turns out to be a good choice.
If you're truly interested in adopting a dog, we'll be there to help you out. After all, we only want to see our dogs go back to good homes. Having them returned is often traumatic for the dog and demoralising for the shelter.
We hope this entry will help any potential adopters out there in making their decisions. If you're thinking about getting a dog, do come down to our adoption drive to take a look. Remember, we're not asking you to bring a dog back. We're giving you and our dogs a chance to get to know each other. Even if you're not sure now, no worries. We'll always be here and the dogs too. We just hope that when you eventually do think of getting one, you will think of us - and you will think of them, our shelter dogs.