Adopting a dog means committing yourself to the lifelong care of a dog who for some reason has found himself homeless. The process is often facilitated by shelters and rescue organizations, which provide temporary homes for stray and relinquished dogs. The term dog adoption, in this guide, and commonly in the animal rescue world, does not apply when they are purchased from a breeder.
Many dogs can also be found living in the streets and in some areas of the US and abroad, street dogs are all too common. Perhaps you’ve witnessed a dog in the streets and wondered if they have just escaped from a loving home or are homeless and in need of assistance. Every homeless dog has a story. Due to countless unfortunate reasons, thousands of perfectly adoptable dogs have ended up in the shelter. Some have endured hideous abuse and neglect. Others have been left behind in a move or abandoned for financial reasons. The list goes on. Whatever his story, every dog deserves a stable, loving, “forever home” so he needn’t ever return to a shelter. Adopting a dog is extremely fun and rewarding, but it is also a big responsibility. Before adopting a dog, you must understand that you will be dedicating considerable time and finances to his care and comfort. It is essential that you commit to training, regular exercise, veterinary care, the highest quality food you can afford and as much patience as you can muster. In this chapter, I help you determine whether you are ready for this responsibility, and get clarity on some important resources you will need.
Before you embark on the dog-parenting journey, here are a few basic questions you should ask yourself: Do I have the time/energy? Am I willing and able to feed and water my dog daily? Am I willing to take my dog on regular walks and spend time exercising and playing with him? Will my new dog affect the way I am able to care for pets I already have?
Does everyone living in my house agree on the decision to add a dog to the family? Am I willing to put in the effort to be patient and diligent during the chewing and housebreaking stages? (Protecting your things without getting overly frustrated.) Am I willing to train my dog? Is anyone in my family allergic to dogs? Will there be a new baby in the house any time soon? Am I open to falling in love with my dog and caring for him until the end of his life? Do I have the resources? Does my apartment or house rental allow pets? Am I willing and able to spay or neuter and microchip my dog?
Am I prepared to take my dog to the vet for annual check-ups and emergencies and pay for all of his recommended vaccinations and care? Is there someone to care for my dog when I’m not around or traveling? Am I willing to hire a dog-walker or enroll him in professional daycare if my dog will be alone for extended periods of time? Is my house/yard big enough for the breed I want? Can I afford quality pet food, toys, and treats and pet care when I travel? Can I accommodate my dog if he travels with me?
While it is generally less expensive to adopt than purchasing from a breeder, it is critical to enter this relationship knowing the true financial costs of pet care.
The good news is there are wellness programs and pet insurance that you can purchase to help mitigate veterinary costs. The even better news is that a study was just released by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) showing that pet ownership saves an estimated $11.7 billion in human health care costs. While I maintain that a family should be comfortable with the financial responsibilities of pet parenting, the benefits, including the potential financial benefits due to improved overall health are now documented.