You don’t just go to PetSmart and pick out your next dog from a local rescue. You fill out a rescue dog application first. Then, if you fill it out just right, you get your dog. These applications are online, but you may have to save them as pdfs and email them.
How do you find the rescue dog application? Good question.
Tip one: Start at Petfinder.com to find your rescue dog
If you start at Petfinder, and you find a cute dog with a good personality, find out which rescue is caring for it. Go to their website, and find the “adoption application.”
Tip two: Type your answers and email the application for your rescue dog
If, in your dog search, you are confronted with a pdf rescue dog application that you can’t type on, create an account at drive.google.com, upload the rescue dog application there, then fill it out and re-save it as a pdf. Keep your google drive account handy. You will probably have to do this again.
It may take days or weeks before the rescue organization processes your application. In my limited experience of rescues, they have lost two applications.
I guess this would be a good place to concede that many pet rescue operations are the work of a few overworked volunteers who have to juggle day jobs with all the work of fostering, promoting, and reading applications.
Tip three: If you don’t have a fenced in yard, you won’t pass the test.
The rescue dog application may give you the impression that a fenced yard would be a nice thing to have.
Wrong. It is an absolute requirement.
The rescue dog application will ask how tall your fence is. If you are looking at any dog bigger than a mini, you need a fence of at least six feet in height.
Tip four: You must have your other animal(s) up to date on shots.
While evaluating your rescue dog application, the rescue agency will call your vet and ask how many pets you have and whether they are up to date on all vaccines. If they are not, you will not get the pet, and you may never get a call or email explaining why not.
It doesn’t matter if your indoor-only, twenty year old cat has not gone outside for eighteen years. If you want to adopt a rescue dog, you will have to take your cat to the vet and get her shots.
Note: Animal Care Society will insist on veterinary records for the past ten years. If you do not have a vet who keeps good records, or if you have had multiple vets because you move from place to place, do not bother trying to adopt an animal from ACS.
Tip five: Pets are not disposable.
If you have ever given away an animal or taken one to the shelter or dumped it on an interstate, you are not eligible for another pet.
On your rescue dog application, you will be asked to provide two or three personal references, and these people will out you as a former pet owner, unless you coach them not to.
The rest of this section is just my opinion. If you don’t like dramatic flourishes, skip ahead to the next bold subhead.
In general, I am with the pet rescues on this point.
Think about what you would do to protect a child. If you won’t do almost as much to protect your pet, don’t get a pet.
- This means, for instance, if you have to evacuate for a storm, take ALL YOUR PETS.
- If you are moving from New York to California, TAKE YOUR PETS. Don’t give me this, “He’ll be happier with ….” bullshit. No he won’t. Just figure it out, people.
- If your fiance says, “me or the dog,” choose the dog. This is a no-brainer, and you should know it, if you’re out of your teens. Talk about a bad trade.
- When you have a baby, keep the dog. If the dog ends up liking your four year old more than he likes you, keep the dog.
- Don’t be a jerk. Keep your dog!
All that said, if you gave up an animal in your early twenties, like, your parents agreed to take it while you traveled or ran with the wrong boyfriend, but since then, you have learned that a bond with an animal is a sacred thing, you have my tentative blessing to lie on your rescue dog application and get another dog.
But if you ever deliberately opened your car side door and let your dog or cat run out into the wilderness, never to be seen again, don’t you EVER get another animal. You should really be in jail. I can’t believe people make jokes about dumping animals. Okay, I’m ranting.
Tip six: The retractable leash question.
The correct answer is “No, I don’t believe in retractable leashes. I do not own and will never use a retractable leash.”
Yes, your rescue dog application will contain some items that are trick questions, designed to trap the unwary.
Truth: If you get a forty pound dog or a bigger one, you will quickly learn not to use a retractable leash. Especially after your dog has circled your legs three times with the leash and left you unable to walk.
I see people using retractable leashes and not breaking a hip. It’s always a tiny dog. It’s still a dumb idea, but not as dumb as walking a malamute on a retractable leash.
Tip seven: The crate question
This one is tricky. I would like to hear from other people who have filled out successful rescue dog applications on this one.
Truth: Not everyone believes in crates. I don’t believe in crates, but then I have a dog who is very well behaved in the house. Would rather cross her legs and wait it out for a day or two than soil the house. I swear that dog has a cast iron bladder. Okay, I’m ranting again.
But I’m assuming that the people who ask that question DO believe in crates. On rescue dog application, the correct answer will be, “Yes, I am familiar with crate training, and I will crate my dog in compliance with good dog-owning standards.”
Of course those standards vary. Some people think you can crate your dog, even a puppy, for hours. Some people think you should only crate your puppy for a few minutes. I think you should walk your dog, teach him some manners, and leave the crate to rust in the garage.
If the rescue dog application specifically asks you how many hours a day you plan to crate your dog, waffle madly. “In general, not for long. I would appreciate your guidance on this matter,” might be the only safe answer.
Tip eight: The “How will you discipline your dog?” question.
Okay, if you plan to beat up your dog, don’t get a dog.
Unlike a child, your dog will not understand why you are punching or kicking. Don’t get a dog as a punching bag. And, if you need a punching bag, don’t have children either.
There are many different philosophies of dog training. The correct answer is: “a modified version of what Cesar Milan teaches. Dogs should be rewarded for good behavior with small treats, hugs, and praise.”
If you think Milan is a bit of a tyrant, write, “I subscribe to Barbara Smuts’ philosophy of dog training.” It will be too much work for them to look that up, and you might get the dog.
Tip eight: The “Do you plan to move any time within the next six months?” question
The correct answer is no. Just no, not maybe or “I don’t know.”
Truth: You can safely move with a dog or cat, so long as you use some common sense and advance planning. My dog has changed houses with me four times in the past eight years. She doesn’t like it, but she didn’t get lost or have a psychotic episode.
I would also note that dogs are often more resilient than people, and they don’t hold grudges like people. “I can’t believe you moved me to a place that doesn’t have a Forever 21!” is something you will never hear from your dog.
Tip nine: the “who is this animal for?” question
The correct answer is “me.”
If you are getting an animal primarily because you know that your husband will be devastated when your current dog dies, the correct answer is still “me.”
Your rescue dog application will be declined if you disclose that you are getting this animal as a gift or for your children or for your grandmother or for your other dog or cat who is lonely during the day while you are at work.
Tip ten: the “Where will this dog be during the day?” and “Where will this dog sleep?” questions.
The correct answers: Your dog will be in your house during the day, and not in a crate and not in your back yard or front yard. Your dog will sleep in a dog bed. If you are applying for a puppy, your puppy will sleep in a dog bed which has been placed inside your bedroom.
Truth: If you actually get a puppy, he may cry all night long, allowing no one to sleep, unless you put him on your bed or in a crate with another dog.
Truth: A lot of us sleep with our dogs. I was honest about this, and some of my applications were approved. Probably the person reviewing the application also sleeps with dogs.
Tip eleven: “How much does it cost to own and care for a dog?”
The correct answer is: “Between $500, and $1000 a year, depending on the size of the dog. However, I have also set up an emergency fund of $2000 to cover teeth cleaning, emergency care, and treatment for any chronic health issues that might come up.”
Truth: If you don’t have enough money to feed your dog, don’t get a dog.
Tip twelve: “In the past ten years, have you owned any pets that are not on your list of current pets? What happened to them?”
The correct answer is “Princess died in the vet’s office after a heroic struggle with cancer.” It is also okay to have euthanized your animal, if he or she had a fatal illness.
If you reveal, on your rescue dog application, that you ever lost a pet, you will not get another animal from a rescue. Even breeders have a problem with lost pets.
Truth: If you plan to lose your dog or let your dog run wild in the neighborhood, don’t get a dog. Nextdoor.com will crucify you if they have to go looking for your dog more than once.
Similarly, if you disclose that any animal of yours was killed in traffic, you will probably be disqualified by the rescue organization.
Tip thirteen: “How old are you?”
The correct answer is: Under sixty.
Age discrimination continues unchecked at rescue organizations. Their reasoning is that your adopted dog may live to be twelve and your adopted cat may live to be twenty. If you are over sixty, they think the animal will outlive you.
In the not too distant future, I will be blogging about this fragrant discrimination. For now, though, just lie on your application.
Truth: If you are over sixty or even over eighty, I trust you not to adopt a kitten or puppy for whom you have no care plan in place, should your animal outlive you. And rescue organizations should trust you too.
That said, older dogs and cats need homes also. Maybe you could empathize?
Tip fourteen: “Under what circumstances would you surrender this animal?”
The correct answer is something like, “Only death will part us” or, if you can’t bear to be that dramatic, “If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness.” Shit, this question really demands some kind of drama.
The main thing is not to say that you would dump your dog at a shelter if he pees the rug or if you get married or have a baby or get a new job or move to California.
See tip five, and don’t make me get on my soapbox, again.