Last week I briefly touched on the amount of strays that were in the Tehama County Animal Care Center (https://www.co.tehama.ca.us/government/departments/animal-services/lost-found/lost-found- animals/). Since then, the quantity has not diminished, but increased. As an advocate for the Center, I will do anything I can to decrease those numbers.
I understand that there are those who are reticent to adopt a shelter dog for fear that it is “broken”. I will admit that there may be some challenges when the dog has experienced neglect, abandonment and hard times. However, most untoward behaviors can be corrected with love, patience, and time. On a personal level, my husband and I have adopted dogs who have challenged us on occasion and taxed our patience levels at times. However, each adopted animal has been loved “to the moon and back” and added immeasurably to our lives.
Are all shelter dogs difficult? The short answer is “No!” Adopting an animal from a shelter is no different than beginning any new relationship. There is always risk involved and you never truly know how everything will eventually turn out. Unfortunately for the animals that end up at the shelter, it is often because their guardians’ expectations and the reality of the dog they obtained did not agree.
The reasons they become wards of the county are as innumerable as the types, sizes, and colors of the animals, themselves. The shelter is filled with dogs that have minor behavior issues, most of which could have been easily prevented through a bit of forethought, some training, and patience. Other explanations often given for surrendering to a shelter are, “We do not have enough time,” “It’s too expensive,” “We are moving, having a baby, etc.” all of which are the human’s foibles and not those of the animal. And sometimes, it is that their guardian simply could not physically care for them, because of age or infirmity.
Regardless of the reason, understand, when you adopt a shelter dog, that they have had their previous world, whether good or bad, turned upside down. Think about this. If you tossed a human child into the streets alone, bounced him from home to home, housed him in a loud space packed with other screaming kids, and deprived him of physical, mental, healthy social stimulation and, most of all love, you are bound to have a problem child on your hands. This is not typically the case with dogs.
The reason is that dogs live in the moment. They do not pine over their missed opportunities like humans do. They do not wallow in self-pity. They do not hold grudges. They are though, while in the shelter, often scared, confused, and stressed. They will not immediately comprehend that the new home you are bringing them into is their salvation. For some, a few days or weeks may be all the adjustment time they need. For others you might, throughout the rest of their lives, deal with a result from an earlier history. Our past plays a significant role in the way we think and feel. Their past may, too.
Shelter dogs, in my opinion, are absolutely worth any effort it takes to integrate them into your home. For those of us who strive to improve the lives of these dogs, our mantra is “saving one animal won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal.” What we fail to add is that it also changes our world. And, in more ways than could ever be expressed, it is for the better.
So, when you adopt a dog from the shelter, do you feel you need to worry that you will not be told everything about the animal? Again, the short answer is “No.” Let’s face it, the shelter is already full, so they do not want the pet returned to the shelter due to poor placement. They will give a full disclosure about anything they do know about the dog’s previous life. But please remember that many are strays, and previous history is often unknown. However, the shelter does evaluate each animal while in its care to see if there are behavioral quirks or problems. Of course, it’s impossible to know what may happen in future homes.
In conclusion, I ask that you please seriously think about adopting a shelter dog. Personally, I would prefer it be from our local shelter, the Tehama County Animal Care Center located at 1830 Walnut St., Red Bluff, (530-527-3439). But from wherever you choose to adopt a shelter dog, keep in mind that you are making a wonderful decision that will positively affect the animal and the homeless pet population.
If you do go to adopt, be sure to talk to the shelter staff and volunteers who are familiar with the dog. They will be able to answer many of your questions, to the best of their knowledge. Also visit the potential new pet with your whole family. In addition, if you have other dogs in the household, bring them to do a meet and greet. Like people, not all animals get along, therefore it is wise to do introductions before bringing any new pet home. Adopting a shelter dog is a big decision, but it is a wonderful, life-changing one. Ready to start looking for a dog now? Check out the TCACC Adoption page (https://www.co.tehama.ca.us/government/departments/animal-services/adopt/adoptable-dogs/).
Ronnie Casey has been volunteering with the Tehama County Animal Care Center since relocating in 2011. A retired RN, she strives to help animals in need within Tehama county. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.