COVID companion to forever friend: Tips to find the perfect pooch during Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
Kanab, UT - Before COVID-19 struck, Morgan Saunders wasn't in the market for a dog. But when Los Angeles started shutting down in March, Saunders found herself alone in a downtown apartment with a lot of time on her hands.
"I knew there were a great deal of dogs who were without a home," she said. "I was ready to provide a good home with lots of love to a dog in need."
Enter Sugar, a chunky 4-year-old Chihuahua mix with endearingly large ears. Sugar was in a foster home through Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles, so adoption specialists connected Sanders with the foster via video chat. Sanders was quickly smitten.
"She was adorable, of course, but I really loved her personality. Sugar is a little sassy, but also super sweet," Saunders said. "She has brought me so much joy, I can't imagine my life without Sugar in it now."
As October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, Best Friends Animal Society is encouraging anyone who has been thinking about getting a dog to take the plunge and find themselves a new best friend at a local shelter or rescue, since the need is still great: According to Best Friends 2019 data of U.S. shelters, 31 percent of the 625,000 shelter pets (dogs and cats) killed last year were dogs.
Adoption will not only save a dog's life, it will also benefit the new owner in a myriad of ways, according to Julie Castle, Chief Executive Officer at Best Friends Animal Society.
"The companionship of pets has been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety, helping people with social isolation, so it's no wonder so many people have acquired a dog during this pandemic," Castle said. "And if you need a walking or hiking buddy, dogs make fantastic personal trainers. You'll get some fresh air, too."
Adoption is also cost-effective, as Castle pointed out. "Most shelter dogs are fixed, vaccinated, micro-chipped and ready to go home for one low fee," she said.
Best Friends has lifesaving centers in Los Angeles, New York City, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, a sanctuary in Kanab, and partners with more than 3,100 shelters across America, so finding a shelter or rescue near you is as easy as going to www.bestfriends.org, clicking on "About" and "Network Partners."
Castle suggests viewing which dogs are available, reading their profiles, and reaching out to the adoption team about next steps.
"In the time of COVID-19, many organizations have been conducting virtual meet and greets, either at the shelter or at a foster's home," Castle said. "Either way, be prepared with any questions you may have and don't be shy. There is no stupid question when you're thinking about committing to a new four-legged family member."
To help with your search, Best Friends offers the following tips:
1. Consider your lifestyle. If your dream day is binge-watching TV and you prefer quiet nights at home on the couch, a senior dog or one who prefers being an only pet could be your ideal match.
If you're the athletic type, why not adopt a high-energy dog who can go on long runs with you? And high energy doesn't always mean young. Many older dogs are still bursting with energy.
Since large breed dogs are at the most at-risk in shelters, consider bringing home a big boy or girl, even if you don't have a big home. Dogs of all sizes can thrive in an apartment or condo, as long as they get the necessary amount of exercise.
2. Let the shelter team play matchmaker. Tell the staff and volunteers at the shelter all about who you live or share space with, including any and all pets (even Iggy, the family iguana), as well as animals you come in contact with on a regular basis (like the small dogs at your apartment complex). This will help them find a great match for you.
3. How much affection do you need? Do you need your dog to show physical affection? Will you be disappointed if the dog you adopt doesn't want to keep you company when you watch your favorite episode of "The Office" again? How much (or how little) affection you want from your pet is an important factor in deciding which one to adopt.
4. Consider the kids. It's important to take your kids with you to meet all prospective pets so you can observe how they interact.
5. Keep an open mind. Don't fixate on age, size, or breed. Instead, focus on the dog that will fit best into your lifestyle and who you find a connection with.
6. But be realistic, too. Maybe you've fallen in love with a big dog who weighs almost as much as you do, or a puppy who will require more attention than you feel you can give. A decision not to adopt the dog you originally had in mind can be difficult, but it might be the right thing for you and the dog. And if you think that your life may be totally different in five years, you may be better off adopting an adult or senior dog than a puppy.
7. Don't be afraid to have deal-breakers. It's OK if you're not willing to potty train a puppy or can't handle a strong, young dog. Sometimes knowing what you don't want is as important as knowing what you do want. Keep searching until you find the right fit.
8. Ask about a foster to adopt program. If you're concerned about committing with adoption on the spot, ask your shelter or rescue if you can foster for a dog a few weeks. There's no better way to get to know a dog than to care for them in your home and the experience can give you the confidence to make the situation permanent.
For more information or to find a shelter or rescue near you, visit www.bestfriends.org.
About Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends Animal Society is a leading national animal welfare organization dedicated to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America's shelters. In addition to running lifesaving programs in partnership with more than 3,100 animal welfare groups across the country, Best Friends has lifesaving centers in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, and operates the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters nationwide from an estimated 17 million per year to around 625,000. That means there are still more than 1,700 dogs and cats killed every day in shelters, just because they don't have safe places to call home. We are determined to bring the country to no-kill by the year 2025. Working collaboratively with shelters, rescue groups, other organizations and you, we will end the killing and Save Them All. To check out our pet lifesaving dashboard and for more information, visit bestfriends.org.