I’m sixty. But I have a baby. A twelve-week-old Siberian husky named Finn. He’s the last baby I’ll ever have.
“When we’re seventy, we’re going to adopt old dogs,” I told my husband. “The ones that people dump at the pound because they’re too old.”
My vet wants to know where I got Finn. This story always starts with the words, “Don’t judge me.”
That’s because I bought a dog from a family in my neighborhood who bred their pet husky.
Yes, I failed to adopt from a rescue.
Not for lack of trying. I filled out no fewer than five rescue organization applications. And this is what I found: Most rescue organizations are rather poorly run. What follows is the reader’s digest condensed version of my experience.
I saw a dog on Petfinder.com that looked cute and ticked every box I was looking for: puppy, good with other dogs, good with cats, good temperament. The $850 price tag gave me some sticker shock, but, for a temperament-tested dog, it seemed worth it.
What was never disclosed to me in the application process was that this four-pound dog would never get any bigger.
On Petfinder, the Pawsibilities pup was represented as an Australian shepherd/poodle mix. Based on this information, I expected a dog in the 25-40 pound range.
Nowhere on Petfinder did it say he was a miniature mini. And this was also not mentioned when I visited with the dog. It was finally revealed at the vet’s office.
Animal Care Society–not recommended
Animal Care Society is nationwide. They have an impossibly long application, and they respond to applications when they damn well please. They accepted twenty-five applications for the puppy I wanted.
Animal Care Society wants your veterinary records from the past ten years. They also want three character references IN ADDITION to your veterinarian’s reference. Animal Care Society’s buzzword is “Thank you for adopting, not shopping.”
But they are driving people to shop.
When I questioned these practices, they threw out my application.
Woodstock Animal Rescue–tentatively recommended
I almost adopted a puppy from Woodstock Animal Rescue. They were fostering a super-cute pointer puppy. But my eight year old dog introduced herself too aggressively. Then a so-called behaviorist on site said it would never work.
Southern Indiana Rescue–not recommended
Southern Indiana Rescue posted a picture and description of a white pit bull named Ace on Petfinder. He was described as good with dogs and good with cats.
Responding to my application, the rescue volunteer emailed that Ace had not been “cat tested” but that they were going to do that.
Then they lost my application.
Several weeks of radio silence later, I made a phone call. SI rescue then said that Ace was not good with other dogs or people.
I expressed interest in another dog fostered by that rescue. When I arrived at PetSmart, my dog barked at the other dogs in the store. Because of that, the SI rescue director told me that I needed to make her an only dog.
But I knew my dog was good with other dogs! I was a puppy foster myself! Here’s a picture of the puppy I fostered in Statesboro, Georgia:
This was the moment when I gave myself permission to buy a puppy from someone’s back yard.
What you can do:
If you are adopting a dog, adopt from the ASPCA or your municipal pound or animal shelter. They are arguably more efficient and less subjective than start-up rescues.
Do not trust Petfinder.com about the age or size of the pet or its ability to get along with other animals.
If you run a rescue
Keep Petfinder.com pet profiles accurate and up-to-date. If you don’t know how a dog is with cats, do NOT check that the dog is cat friendly. If a dog is more than four months old, do NOT claim it is a puppy.
If you have already received ten or more applications for a pet, remove the Petfinder profile until you get up to date on responding to applications.
If you run a rescue and you receive twenty-five applications for a single dog, review every application and respond to every application. Don’t just throw the dog or cat at the first applicant in the pile, who has a fence and a veterinarian. This practice is not fair to all the applicants who took forty minutes to an hour to fill our your application.
If you run a rescue, and you don’t have time to respond to applications or you tend to lose applications, dissolve your rescue and, instead, volunteer at a rescue organization that has its shit together.
Do NOT start a new rescue unless you have approximately thirty hours a week to devote to it, and you have a good record keeping system. Do NOT start a new rescue on the assumption that you are the only good dog owner in the world.