Many reasons to adopt a shelter dog |

Many reasons to adopt a shelter dog

Linda Lombardi
The Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Craig Ruttle/APStephen Biegel hugs his adopted pit bull mix Brandy.

When Erin Woloshansky met cocker spaniel Henry, a recent animal shelter resident, she wasn’t really intending to get a dog. Then he put his paws on her, and “it was over.”

Woloshansky and John Colburn had been wary about house-training a puppy in their fourth floor New York city walk-up apartment, but they were also hesitant to adopt an adult: “You wonder, ‘If they’re a great dog, why are the in the shelter?’ There must be something wrong with them.”

Woloshansky says Henry is a perfect example of how wrong that thinking is. “He got the short end of the stick. It isn’t always the dog, it’s the owner.”

In Henry’s case, the owner didn’t take him to the vet for four days after he was hit by a car. He was treated at the shelter and given two months of bed rest at a foster home.

“The common misperception is that these animals are damaged goods,” says Gail Buchwald, senior vice-president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Adoption Center and Mobile Clinic.

In fact, quite frequently the reasons for surrender have nothing to do with the qualities of the dog. “Typically something is going on in the home that the pet can no longer be there: Someone’s lost employment, has to move, the family’s breaking up.”

And while you may worry about not knowing all the details of a dog’s background, any puppy you might buy is more of an unknown quantity than an older shelter dog.

Even if it’s a pure breed, you can never be sure how a youngster will turn out: either as far as appearance ” “I’ve seen 30-pound Malteses,” Buchwald says ” or behavior.

“A breeder can only say this breed tends to like to go swimming,” says Buchwald, “but there’s a lot of individual variation.”

With an older dog, where the shelter has done temperament and health testing and the dog has matured to its adult personality, “what you see is what you get.”

“Shelters are doing state of the art behavior testing,” says Buchwald, so you’ll know whether a particular dog will do well in a household with children, its energy level, and other personality features.

Stephen Biegel of Yonkers, N.Y. adopted his pit bull mix Brandy from the ASPCA when she was about three years old.

“She was found starved,” he said, “that’s all I know, I didn’t want to ask more.”

But he wasn’t concerned about her background. “I know that they do a good job in testing these dogs. They had a lot of information about the particular personality of each dog,” he said. And it was obvious the shelter did more than nurse her back to health. “I didn’t have to do anything. She was housebroken, wouldn’t jump on people, walked on a leash.”

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