6 Pro-Tips for Adopting a Rescue Dog

As I’ve mentioned before, I run a decent sized breed-specific rescue in the Southeast. I haven’t always been the boss – I started off as a young, green foster home while in college, and slowly took on more responsibility with the rescues I volunteered with until I decided to hang my own shingle. Holding multiple different “positions” in the rescue field gave me plenty of insight into all the various challenges that rescuers face. Believe it or not, the dogs are the easy part. People… not so much.

That being said, my goal today is not to bitch and moan about humans. Today, I want to give some advice to prospective adopters, from the point of view of someone who deals with adopters day in and day out.

1. Follow instructions

There’s a reason that I made this #1 – in my opinion, following instructions is the single most important suggestion I can give you. We’ve all heard that saying: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Well, it’s true, and it’s just as important when applying to adopt a rescue dog, as it is when you’re trying to land your dream job.

If a rescue’s first impression of you as an adopter is that you can’t (or won’t) take the time to read and then follow the instructions that we provide, then you’re setting a very negative tone for the rest of the process. Many rescues have fine-tuned their process based on what works best for them, and if they’ve taken the time to write their procedures and instructions, then they want you to follow them. You may not like those procedures, but you’re not the one trying to process dozens of adoption applications fairly and efficiently. Do yourself a favor and take an extra fifteen minutes to carefully read through the information that a rescue provides – it will save both sides from avoidable frustration and wasted time down the road.


2. Honesty is always the best policy

I really wish I didn’t have to say this one, but anecdotal evidence suggests that I do. When you’re applying to adopt a rescue dog, please be honest on your application. If you’re working with any sort of legitimate rescue, they are likely going to require a detailed application, and they’re going to check your vet reference, personal references, and perform a home visit. If you lie about something – like whether you own or rent your home, if you have a fenced yard or not, or if all of your pets are altered and up to date on vaccinations – we are going to find out. Believe me, it looks really bad when we find out halfway into your application process that you lied on your application. Not only are we going to deny your application, but we’re probably also going to tell our other rescue friends.

Not every rescue organization is right for every adopter, just like not every dog is the perfect match. Some rescues have strict rules about things like fences, work schedules, etc. (and they have every right to). If a rescue has a policy that disagrees with your situation, you have two options: you can contact them and explain, and ask for consideration, or you can move on and find a different rescue that will work with you. I repeat – do not lie.

3. Patience is a virtue

Our application approval process takes about two to three weeks, on average. This is something that we warn adopters in our adoption procedures, but inevitably, a majority of applicants are emailing us within a week to ask about the status of their application. It’s totally understandable that you’re excited about adopting a new family member and ready to get that approval, but we consider bringing a new dog home to be a pretty serious matter. Our dogs are in foster care; they live in our homes as part of our families, and they are very important to us. We put a great deal of time and thought into processing applications and then matching dogs with the right adopters, and that is not something that’s going to be decided in a week.

Also, keep in mind that the people who work with rescues are volunteers. They have their own careers, families, and personal lives to juggle along with the responsibilities they undertake for rescue organizations.

As an aside – you can help speed up the process by making sure that our job is as easy as possible. Before you apply, make sure that your pets are up to date on their vaccinations. If those records are not all at your primary vet, say so from the start, and be ready to supply the documents when we ask. Give your personal references a heads-up that we’ll be calling, and check your email regularly. It’s very frustrating when adopters complain about the processing time when they take two days to answer an email.

4. Keep an open mind

I joke, quite regularly, that I made a huge mistake when I chose “my” breed to rescue. Only a masochistic glutton for punishment would decide they wanted to rescue a breed of dog that comes in a rainbow of colors and sizes – I should have picked something much more boring, and much less common. Why do I say this? Because 3/5 adopters that come to my rescue (my unscientific guesstimate) already have in their mind an image of their “perfect” dog, and convincing them to sway from that image is sometimes impossible (but always frustrating).

But we are oh so cute!
But we are oh so cute!

I can’t say this enough: don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t pick a dog based on its color. Yes, we all would love to have a gorgeous, flashy dog that stops people in their tracks wherever they go. We would also love to have money trees in our backyard, and gold-pooping unicorns in our basement. The fact of the matter is, “pretty is as pretty does” applies to dogs just as it does to humans, and if you’re narrowing your search for a new family member based on aesthetic details, then you’re doing both yourself and the dog a great disservice.

Like I mentioned before, the dogs in our rescue are in foster homes, and we get to know them very well. There is no way that an adopter, who has only seen pictures and read a short biography online, will convince us that they know what our dogs need better than we do. We also have a pretty good deal of experience in what does and doesn’t work when it comes to adding new dogs to households. Our number one priority is not to place the most dogs – it’s to place dogs in the right homes. So, be flexible, listen to our suggestions, and let us help you pick the dog that’s going to be the best fit for your family.

5. Grammar

This one is really a pet peeve of mine, and maybe other rescues don’t care what your application looks like, but I do so I’m including it here. Going back to that first impressions thing – your adoption application is usually the first significant correspondence that we see. If it is full of terrible grammar, misspelled words (it’s “shepherd” for Dog’s sake – not “shepard” or “shepperd” or whatever other awful thing you come up with), and missing capitalization or punctuation, then it really just sets the whole tone wrong from the get-go.

The biggest thing that a lack of proper English communicates to us is that you couldn’t be bothered to take the time to fill out our application in a clear, professional manner, and proofread your submission before hitting send. It tells us that you’re lazy, and that you don’t really care enough to make sure what you’re submitting is appropriate. Certainly, it was not your intent to communicate this to us, but, like I said: first impressions are a big deal. You obviously wouldn’t send in a job application that looks like a third-grader filled it out, so why would you send something like that to a professional rescue organization?

6. Don’t be a jerk

Last, but not least, please don’t be a jerk to us. I can’t tell you how many times a week we have to deal with adopters being rude, condescending, or just plain nasty to us. Not only is it inappropriate and unhelpful, but also it really, really pisses me off when I find out that an applicant has been ugly to one of my volunteers.

The bottom line is: it’s our rescue, they’re our dogs, and we can have whatever policies we want to in regards to how we place them. If we tell you “no” because of a certain aspect of your application that we’re not comfortable with, then deal with it. Calling us names or telling us that we’re hurting dogs because we refused to let you leave one of ours alone in a fenced yard all day is not going to solve anything. Quite frankly, we don’t even need a reason to tell you no – if you’re a jerk to us at any point in the process, we can simply say, “Good luck with your search” and send you on your way.

That being said, we don’t want to do that. We want our dogs to be adopted by good, loving families, because adoptions mean that more dogs will be saved. Keep in mind, however, that we are not here to serve humans – we are here to save dogs. Our volunteer status does not make us your humble servants, and we require the same degree of respect from you that you want from us. Help us help you (and more dogs) by taking the adoption process seriously from the start, and remember that dog rescue is a team effort.

What My Bad Dog Taught Me

Working in animal rescue of any sort will teach you plenty of valuable life lessons… chief among them being: don’t ever think you will cease to be surprised. This plays out in many different scenarios. You will always be shocked at the atrocities of man – I don’t care how many abuse victims you see each day, it will still hurt just as much each new time as the first. Think you’re getting a nice break from rescue for a day or two? Nope, surprise! Something needs you and that something is more important than your relaxation. And, we’ve all seen it – that dog that you thought was just any old dog, not the least bit special. Well, you were wrong again.

I’ve been staring at this computer screen for at least fifteen minutes, not the least bit sure how to start what I need to say. In truth, I’ve been mulling the words over in my head for months now, knowing full well that I have to write something. I have to, not just because the words need to be said, but because I need to face the truth that exists behind them. Grief is a monster of an emotion. It stays so long. Longer than joy, longer than surprise or fear. It would even seem that it remains longer than the feeling of love that it spawns from, but of course that is not true, because if the love wasn’t there then the grief would not be either. Grief is just so dark and looming, it shocks the senses and leaves you raw in a way that no other emotion ever could. The kicker, though, is that the existence of grief is only because of love, and so we can never even fully turn away from grief because to do so would be to push out the love we felt for what we’re grieving for.

Is there a solution, then? Can we beat the feeling of grief, or do we just have to let it run its course and hope it does not linger too long? I’m honestly not sure, but I know my personality is such that I cannot let something like it best me. Also, I cannot let something as dark, hollow, and consuming as grief mar the beauty of what I loved so much to start. I will never conquer grief, but I can even the playing field.

I’ve mentioned Kara in passing throughout this blog – in affectionate detail when introducing her and her sisters, as well as other mini-rants about dog rescue and the hurdles we face. Kara was a foster failure from Boykin Spaniel Rescue – she came to me in terrible shape, and she was only supposed to stay a maximum of 48 hours. Well, that was the first of many lessons that Kara taught me: don’t ever think you’re in control of a situation. Those 48 hours turned into two weeks so she could whelp with an experienced foster home, then eight weeks until the puppies could be weaned and adopted out, then two more months for heartworm treatment, until finally I faced the music that everyone else had already been hearing and admitted to myself that Kara was never leaving. I loved that little dog, and she loved me, and quite frankly I couldn’t think of any other adopter who could handle her.

All of our dogs teach us lessons, if we take the time to listen. Kara’s entire existence was about teaching these lessons, though. I could never list them all, but these are my favorites…

  1. Humor exists in everything

This was a forced lesson, for sure. While Kara did not exactly understand the humor she required of me, I definitely understood that if I didn’t start seeing the humor in her actions, I would lose my mind. Or jump off a bridge. Or both.

How many other dog owners can say they’ve had to “burp” their dogs? Kara was the type of dog who firmly believed in the mantra of giving everything 110% or nothing at all. She loved, more than anything else, to retrieve her bumpers from the water – somehow, though, she always managed to inhale so much air and water while doing so that she turned her compact little frame into a balloon on four legs. This would result in quite a bit of discomfort for her (not to mention danger, when her balloon would shift mid-swim and suddenly her butt was in the air like a damn duck), which in turn meant that someone had to hold her down and gently squeeze the air out of her body. Yes, it is exactly what you think – we held her down and squeezed her abdomen until she farted all her excess gas out. I can’t make this shit up.


Kara would insist on playing fetch in the car. She would pile so many pinecones in front of you to throw for her that you could start a pine plantation. The last day I ever took her to the office, she launched herself from my chair to my computer desk, knocking phone, laptop, keyboard, mouse, and coffee cup to the ground – while my boss was standing in front of me. Despite all the trouble that little brown dog caused, you still couldn’t look at her silly, excited face without laughing. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine they say.

  1. Don’t let mean folks get you down (but do get your revenge)

Kara had a really shitty life before she was picked up off the interstate in BFE South Carolina. It’s always hard to see dogs that have spent years being abused and neglected, but sometimes I think it’s even harder to see young dogs in such awful shape, because, shit, how do you let your dog get that sick, that fast? As mad as it made me, though, Kara never cared. She never held the transgressions of her original owner/breeder against anyone she met after.

Kara greeted everyone she met with a smile and a face-washing (or a full-on second-base makeout session if you let her). She loved all living things, two- and four-legged. The worst reaction you would ever get out of her was an absolutely pathetic look of sorrow when you told her no. Well, that, and her classic revenge technique: pee on it. Nope, Kara wouldn’t hold grudges or let frustrated humans or grumpy dogs get her down – but you better believe she would look you in the eye, twist one leg out, and piss all over wherever she was sitting when you told her to quit what she was doing. I guess we all have our tactics.

  1. Don’t be in a rush to grow up

When I got Kara, we guessed her age to be around a year and a half – still a puppy by Boykin standards, for sure. She was sick and skinny, and obviously pregnant. The last thing that little brown dog needed was to go through whelping and rearing a litter of puppies, but she was pretty far along so we decided to go through with it.

Kara was a terrible mother. I mean, she did her job, but she mothered her puppies like one would expect a fifteen-year-old highschooler to – she did the bare minimum, and loved her babies, but all she really wanted to do was go to the skate rink with her friends. She hated to be locked away in the spare room with her puppies, and more than once she jumped the baby gate and carried a puppy out to me in the den to play fetch (yes, with the puppy…) One day, she decided she didn’t think her whelping box was comfortable enough, so she carried every single one of her puppies to the den and snuggled up with them all on the couch. I will give her credit for at least opting to bring them along, while not exactly appropriate.


While Kara’s life was much shorter than it should have been, she never once stopped acting like a puppy. She was in no hurry to grow up, and instead she made every effort to do what she loved and enjoy her life to the fullest. As I find myself constantly caught up in the whirlwind of work, school, family, and planning, I often forget to enjoy the moments I have now, young and healthy.

  1. Never, ever stop

Much to my occasional dismay, Kara was the epitome of an energizer bunny – she just kept going, and going, and going… Combine sporting breed energy and spaniel OCD, and you have the perfect recipe for a four-legged perpetual motion machine. A sleeping Kara was a precious thing, a treasure that seemed so rare that you would make painstaking efforts to avoid disturbing.


While Kara would rest, she never, ever stopped. She would never turn down a ball toss, or shy away from a run or car ride. It didn’t matter how cold the water was, or how dark the forest, she always plunged right in. And, in the very end, it didn’t matter that she was dying – she still refused to stop. Even the vet shook his head and said he never would have thought such an energetic, happy dog was so sick. Maybe if she had slowed down, we would have realized and caught it earlier. But that was not Kara, and she stayed true to herself until her last moments.

It has been almost a year since Kara died, and it’s still as painful now as it was then. Losing her drained me of so much energy that it really did take a year to put my heart into words enough to come to terms with what happened. These words won’t bring her back or make the grief go away, but she deserved to be remembered for the wonderful lessons she imparted. She was the “bad” dog, the one that was never supposed to stay, and the one I knew would live forever simply because of how difficult she made my life at times. I know I’ll have another “bad” dog one day, and I know Kara’s lessons will carry through to then, and that new “bad” dog will teach me lessons of its own. Until then – well, it’s true that one man’s trash can certainly be another’s treasure, and Kara will forever be a sparkle in my memories.


What the F#@k is That Dog?: Zelda’s Results Are In

Back in September, I wrote an article asking for ideas on my personal pound puppy, Zelda’s, breed mixture. I also ordered a DNA test, so we could all have an answer to the mystery. I woke up this morning to an email from Wisdom Panel – Zelda’s results were in! (Disclaimer: I got sidetracked and took over two months to actually send the test in.) As I lay in bed with Princess Ruto Kissy-Face, I opened up my results document eagerly.

And… drumroll… … … Zelda is a Bull Terrier.

Wait, what did you say? I didn’t hear you, can you repeat that please?


Right. Um. No shit, Sherlock.

To be exact (haha, like what I did there?), she is a Bull Terrier, mixed with Miniature Bull Terrier, mixed with Bull Terrier, mixed with something. Thanks, Wisdom Panel.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.26.06 PM

Oh, I’m just giving Wisdom Panel a hard time. This isn’t an exact science, I know that. Honestly, I was genuinely surprised by these results. I knew Bull Terrier was in there, but I assumed we were looking at a completely separate breed for the other side. Let’s take a look at her results!

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.26.35 PM


So, my first assumption is that the left hand side is Mama Mia, because we know she’s a purebred Bull Terrier. Even the DNA tests cannot always identify purebred lineage, which makes sense because every dog breed is a hodge-podge of other breeds. According to this, then, Daddy is a Bull Terrier mix.

Now, we could also ask ourselves another question. Was Mama Mia a purebred? Or, perhaps, was she a very high content mix? Mia was surrendered to the City shelter by her “owner” when she was in labor with Zelda and her brother, because she “scratched” a teenager during labor. An even creepier question – was Zelda’s daddy also her grandpa? Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit knowing backyard breeders around here; I’ve definitely seen worse.

Moving on. What insight does Wisdom Panel give us about Miss Zelda?

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.28.29 PM


Do I recognize any Bull Terrier traits in Zelda? Hmm. Intelligent, active, strong, friendly – yep, we’re good there. Reward-based training sounds about right (I think they could have worded that differently, though – maybe something like, “Stubborn as shit unless you really make them want it.”). She’s actually very friendly with strangers, but she’s a giant bitch to other dogs she doesn’t respect.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.36.12 PM


“May not get along well with other dogs.” Zelda loves other dogs. Unless, of course, they go near something she thinks is hers, and that list seems to grow every day. She will share all day with her pack, but “guest” dogs and cats will fall victim quickly to her resource guarding. We’re working on it.

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Then there’s this. Wisdom Panel does preface it with a very clear warning that these other breeds may not exist at all in the dog’s background, but then, they may. I could be convinced that she has retriever somewhere in her background, but if anyone ever even so much as mentions that she’s part Pug, I’ll shank you.

So, there you have it. Zelda is a Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier mix. I’m glad we have an enlightening answer to the mystery of the Imp Princess. Now, Wisdom Panel has offered me $15 off a second test if I want one… maybe Cady is next?

Fosters August-8

Merry Christmas! Now let me break your heart.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write an article; pulling sixteen hour days between law school and paying the bills, and somehow fitting in running a rescue, has not left much time for my creative muse. Plus, let’s be real – law school will suck your soul out through your nose and leave you feeling akin to something frightening from an AMC show. Never fear, though. I’m still around and pissing off fun-sponges and armchair quarterbacks just as well.

What am I going to hit y’all with today? Well, actually, I’m going to be nice for a change. Believe me, there are plenty of snarky rants dancing like sugar plums through my head, but in the spirit of Christmas, I will save those for the New Year. Today, I want to make you cry, and then I want to make you get in your car and go save a dog’s life.

Before I get to the nitty gritty, I need to tell y’all a story. A few weeks ago, I got my daily email loaded with photos of all the dogs and cats sitting in my two largest local animal control facilities. As usual, I opened and scrolled straight to the bottom, so I could see the new editions. Immediately, I noticed the Boykin (if you don’t know what a Boykin is, go here later). It was an awful photo, like all the shelter photos I tend to get, but I recognized him immediately and sent a text within the next thirty seconds to the director of the nonprofit that sends out this daily digest.

Two days later, I had the smelliest dog ever in the back of my car. Within two minutes, he shit bloody diarrhea all over everything, but than goodness I only had a few blocks to go to get home. I wasn’t even upset – this dog was at least twelve years old, blind as a bat, emaciated, and could barely walk straight. Green slime crusted his eyes shut and his nose looked like a desert, it was so dry and cracked. Shit, I thought. Give him a week, maybe a month.


And such is the glamorous story of how I came to own my sixth dog. Sullivan, he is named, has now been with me almost a month. It took two weeks to clear up the respiratory infection, and he’s slowly putting on weight. With the help of twice-weekly medicated baths, his skin is softening and his fur is growing back (it took four baths to get rid of the stench of weeks-old urine). At first, Sully didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Now he comes when called, if you say it loud enough. He loves his softy, squishy bed, and likes to find me and press his head into my legs and touch my hands with his nose. He tries to look at me when he hears my voice, but he can’t see anything.

I have always had a soft spot for old dogs, since my experience with Tala. This year I pulled a seven year old Great Dane named Cyrus from my local shelter, and a blind senior cocker spaniel left by her owners at Miami Dade animal control. Sometimes they find homes, like Tala. Cyrus has a foster home who loves him and understands that he may be theirs forever. Roomba, my goofy little Florida cocker, was adopted just last week – I truly expected her to be with me for her entire life, too.

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Sullivan is old, and Sullivan is going to die. It could be tonight. He could be lifeless when I come home today from work. He could live another six months or a year. And when he does die, I am going to be absolutely heartbroken. I am going to cry and it’s going to tear me up inside as if I had owned Sully since he was eight weeks old. It doesn’t matter, though, because every single minute Sully spends in my home is worth all the heartache I could ever imagine.

There’s a special place for people who dump old dogs. There’s an even more special place for people who stick their old dogs outside to rot for months – years, maybe – before they finally succumb to the pain, or, like in Sully’s case, somehow by the grace of Dog escape that hell and get lucky enough to find solace. But, like I said, I’m not here today to bitch about those people. They exist, there’s nothing we can do about it, and I sincerely hope that when they are old and frail, their children leave them to rot from bed sores and dementia in nursing homes.

The silver lining to all of this is simple: we can do something to make these dogs’ lives better. We being me, you, and all dog lovers and rescue advocates. Anybody with space in their home to fit a soft, warm dog bed and enough money to spare to feed an extra mouth. Old dogs don’t do much – they sleep, they eat, they go to the bathroom. Some of them are spry enough to enjoy tagging along on a walk, but others, like Sully, are too weak and wobbly to go far and would rather just sleep all day. They don’t even need much as far as vet work goes. I did a routine blood panel on Sullivan just to get a baseline, and I paid for antibiotics and prescription wet food that would be easier on his stomach. But nobody is asking you to spend a fortune on testing and medications, and cancer or heartworm treatments. All these dogs need is love.

It’s really, really easy. Get in your car and drive to your local shelter. Ask them if you can see their available senior dogs. Go pick one out – you’ll find them in all shapes and sizes. Then, take them home, give them a bath and a good meal, and love the hell out of them. Rinse and repeat. These dogs have done nothing but give their hearts and souls to humans for their entire life. No matter what kind of terrible person left them to die, they don’t deserve to spend their last days on a cold, wet concrete floor surrounded by the stench of feces (probably covered in it, too) and the cacophony of barking. They deserve to sleep on a warm bed, feel the kind touch of a human hand on their head, and die with a little goddamn dignity.

And you know what’s really, really cool about all of this? After you’ve taken your sweet old dog home and loved it, and it passes on to the other side, you can do it all over again.


Sharing – “Depression and Suicide In Animal Care Professions: What Can We Do?” an article by Jessica Dolce

I saw this article shared on Facebook today, and I couldn’t help but think it needs to be read far and wide, by as many animal-care professionals (veterinarians and rescuers) as possible.

Those of us who see darkness all around us, day in and day out, need to be reminded that there is light in the world and that it is the light who makes us who we are, and gives us strength to do what we do. Even the sassiest, snarkiest, seemingly carefree of us still feel the wear and tear of constant sadness and disappointment.

Jessica Dolce hits it home here, in this article. Please read, and please share. 

While the author of this article would probably frown upon the usual tone and context of my posts, well, we all have our ways of dealing with what the world of animal welfare throws at us. She is a brilliant woman, from the looks of her multiple blogs, and while the event that brought this article from her to the forefront is an absolute tragedy, I hope people who are in the same frame of mind can find comfort and guidance in the author’s words.

Please share Jessica’s article directly from her website, not through Dog Hair & Bourbon.

What the F#@k is That Dog?: Zelda

Have you ever seen a dog and thought to yourself, “What the f#@k is that thing?” Let’s be real, we all have. Whether it’s walking down the street, at the dog park, the vet, or roaming the wings of a local animal control facility, we’ve all been there.

I take a bit of pride in my knowledge of dog breeds. From the early age of, like, when I could read, I poured over dog breed books like they were encyclopedias and bibles meshed beautifully into a single source of wisdom for all things dog-centric. Needless to say, I’m usually that weirdo who knows exactly what breed the strange dog at the park is. I can’t tell if my friends are impressed or embarrassed – probably a mixture of both, honestly.

I do get stumped, however. For Dog’s sake, folks, I’m not always perfect. Just most of the time. And for a little fun, I have decided to try and garner a bit of public interest and breed guessing skills, with a routine post entitled What the F#@k is That Dog?

For your inaugural edition of What the F#@k is That Dog?, I give you my very own pound puppy, Zelda.

Zelda is a nine month old brindle and white Bull Terrier mix. I’m giving y’all an easy one for the first go – we know for a fact that Zelda’s mom is a purebred Bull Terrier (she’s white, deaf, and her name is Mia).

All we know about Zelda, and Mia, is that Mia was dumped while giving birth because she scratched a teenager in the home. Mia proceeded to have two puppies at the shelter, and when I found her and called Bull Terrier Rescue, we teamed up to get Mia and the pups out. Bull Terrier rescue took the family into foster care, and when Zelda was six weeks old, I brought her home to foster. The rest is history…

So, here’s where you come in – what the f#@k is Zelda? Comment with your thoughts and why you came to that conclusion.

Lastly, just because Zelda is mine and I want to add a little competitive element to the game, I will be ordering a DNA test and sending it in promptly. I’ll post the results when they’re in to follow up!

Alright, guys, let’s have some fun and judge the hell out of my dog (and I promise I won’t get mad at any yucky breeds y’all suggest).

And because I have to say it, even though I shouldn’t… yes I’m aware the DNA tests are not 100% accurate. It’s FUN, y’all.


A Very Unscientific Index of Adopters

I’m going on my seventh year of active dog rescue, and I’ll be the first to admit that I still have a lot to learn about dogs, fostering, running a rescue, and dealing with the wide variety of people that I come into contact with daily. You have your volunteers, your shelter workers, your donors, your wannabe-rescuers, your surrender-ers, and your adopters, just to name a few.

Today I want to talk about the adopters. I’m going to resist the urge to rant on about some of the more pet-peeve issues regarding adopters (you know, like being needy, thinking they’re the only adopters in the world, forgetting that we have lives and paying jobs…), and just focus on sweeping generalizations about adopters as a whole. I’ll divide them up into classifications to make it a little easier.

Category One – The Ignoramus

These “adopters” (or wannabe adopters, because you couldn’t pay me to give them a dog) are the most entertaining. They offer plenty of opportunities to poke fun and share screenshots among board members, and their fair share of head-scratching as well.

Mode of contact? Typically Petfinder inquiries, complete with bad grammar and incorrectly spelled everything. Oftentimes the dog’s name is spelled wrong and they forget the gender halfway through, and they never actually read directions and follow the link to our website for complete biographies and adoption procedures. Most inquiries are no more than, “Is _____ still available?” or “How much does ______ cost?”

However, some of them are a bit more exciting. Here’s a little taste of “Shit Adopters Say” (complete with my desired responses):

RE: Auskie Males
MESSAGE: does this dog eat only dog food or he could eat other type of food to
Why yes, E, this dog actually prefers filet mignon.

RE: Auskie Girls
FROM: E (a different E)
MESSAGE: Has the Blue Merle puppy with pure blue eyes still there
My brain doesn’t compute terrible grammar. However, props to you, E, for being original and wanting to adopt the blue merle puppy with blue eyes. We’re working on our Aussie eugenics experiment; we’ll keep ya posted.

RE: I really don’t know
MESSAGE: As the adoption costs?
As the wind blows?

RE: Auskie Males
MESSAGE: i would love two have a puppie
I would love two have a million dollars and a private jet.


Long story short, Ignoramuses will never get a dog from me, but I do genuinely appreciate the bright moments of laughter they add to my life.


Category Two – Rebels With No Cause Whatsoever

These adopters are serious enough to actually fill out an adoption application, but that’s typically where the positives end. In many ways, they are the most obnoxious of adopters, because they did read the qualifications and procedures and they clearly just don’t care, or think the rules don’t apply to them. Or, they checked the box that said they read, when they obviously didn’t.

Most often, these adopters provide vet references that don’t check out, don’t contact their personal references to let them know we’re calling, and apply for dogs they are seriously under-qualified for. Then, they get frustrated with us when it takes two or three weeks to process their applications and the dog they wanted has been adopted by another family that was pre-approved or had their shit together.

To make matters even more fun, the “Rebels” usually get quite the bad attitude when we deny them for whatever reason – their dogs aren’t vaccinated or altered, they have an adult female and applied for a dominant Aussie bitch (most are). They demand their application fee be returned, tell us that we’re hurting dogs by being too picky, and exhibit plenty of other less-than-classy reactions. These adopters almost always end up going to a rescue of less caliber or a shelter to find a dog, because the rescue process “is just too hard”.

Category Three – The Flakes

The Flakes – the category of adopter loathed most by rescuers around the board (or so I would imagine). These adopters look great on paper and pass all the reference checks and home visits, and thusly we generally devote a great deal of time to them. We answer their emails more quickly than anyone else’s; we may even venture to speak to them on the phone. Everything is perfect and ready to go, the dog has an adopter in the bag, and then BAM – “we’ve decided to wait,” or even better, “we stopped by the shelter this weekend and took a puppy home.” OR, no communication at all – mysteriously radio silent on emails following weeks of conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that situations change. I also get that there is a level of positivity to the fact that at least they saved a dog, no matter where from. However, many Flakes back out for other much less respectable reasons – they realized that the four hour drive was just too much for them to handle in a weekend, or the Craigslist puppy for fifty bucks was easier to swing this month. All in all, the most appropriate word to describe the Flakes is simply “rude”. Flakes are the reason why my rescue requires an application fee, as well as puppy deposits to secure puppies from in-house litters. (Do you have any idea how infuriating it is to have an adopter back out on a 9 week old puppy two days before pick up?)adoptermeme

To top it off, Flakes also tend to be the most argumentative adopters – they know best, no matter what we say. Because there’s no way that the actual rescuers and foster homes could know their dogs best.

Category Four – Plain Jane

Plain Janes are cool and easy… we like them. They pass the approval process, adopt a dog, and if we’re lucky they will supply us with regular-ish updates. Pretty clean operation, and they are definitely a breath of fresh air when the majority of our applicants fall into categories one and two.

I wish there was more to say about Plain Janes. Occasionally, down the road, they graduate into Category Five. Sometimes, they go the opposite direction and become late-term Flakes, returning a dog six months or a year later for one silly reason or another (“I didn’t realize how much time/training/money/common sense owning a dog required!”). Usually, however, they simply live their lives and we live ours, and there is a lot to be said about a relationship as mutually beneficial and simplistic as that.

Category Five – The Golden Children

There are always those class-pet overachievers in every group, and adopters are not exempt. The Golden Children are the cream of the crop and we love them.

Adopters turned volunteers – I heart them.

Golden Children not only pass the approval process with flying colors, but we may or may not literally beg them to adopt a dog. Or two, or three, or however many they want because we will give them anything they ask for. They typically have a specific type of dog in mind, but are flexible and open to our suggestions. Oftentimes, Golden Children are repeat adopters, whether from our rescue or another. They also have a greater frequency of being involved in canine extracurricular. Most of them drive great distances to adopt the dogs they are interested in, or wait weeks or months for the right dog to come around.

Beyond that, Golden Children are often invited to be a part of our cool kids club. They enlist into the ranks of volunteers and/or foster homes after adoption, and might even climb the ranks into a leadership position. I may or may not save their numbers in my phone and text them regularly.

Did I mention that we LOVE them?


If you’re looking for a moral to this story or a takeaway point… well, there is none. Do you have a category you would like to add? Comment away! Until next time, y’all.

Why dog people are crazy… but also totally awesome and better than you. Probably.

I don’t reblog often, but I loved this piece from a fellow dog lover and rescue volunteer.

Six Dog Blog

This morning I awoke to that constricting feeling of when your blanket starts to get wound a little too tight around you… Usually uncomfortably exposing a foot which becomes about 30 degrees colder instantly. Flailing around I finally escaped from the blankets grasp and half-asleep dug around for the phone.

Where the hell is it…. oh god I hope it isn’t on the floor… The thought of having to get out of bed before actually knowing the time was too much to deal with this morning.

Finally my hand felt the cool glass of my screen. Clicking the center button illuminated my digital Mickey sneering at me. Looking above my snarky digital dog, the clock proclaimed it was “6:57AM.” I stretched and felt the familiar and satisfying crack and pop of my back waking up. I also began to hear the scratching of the gate being moved back and forth against…

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The Love/Hate Relationship of Social Media and Rescue

Oh, the double-edged sword of Facebook. Rescuers know it well – what started as a brilliant method for sharing dogs in need and utilizing well-meaning volunteers has effectively become what many of us will consider the biggest thorn in our sides. This is a long read, so get comfortable.

Facebook – social media in general, really – is responsible for the lives of thousands of animals that would have never made it out of the shelter alive. Suddenly, low-budget shelters with no ability to share photos and information of the dogs in their facilities gained a free platform to spread the word about their strays and adoptables. Animals started finding rescues and adopters from all over, just because somebody saw their picture on Facebook and decided to help. Groups were formed for transport coordination, breed rescues, etc. and folks really jumped on the bandwagon to help the animals. I mean really jumped on the bandwagon.

I know I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. Facebook is wonderful; Facebook users, not always so. What was once such a blessing has turned into chaos and frustration. Many rescuers, myself included, have started avoiding social media altogether due to the pandemonium it creates.

At one point (I’ve worked very hard to rectify this situation), you could look at my personal Facebook page and legitimately think I was a dog. There were no pictures of me – just dogs! Dogs, dogs, dogs! Not even my dogs, but dogs of every make and model all across the country that somebody, somewhere thought I needed to be aware of. Fortunately for me, I do have a social life and employers, and I would rather them see pretty little ol’ me on my Facebook, not some hound dog in Florida.

I digress… There is a right and a wrong way to use social media for the benefit of everyone – rescues and dogs alike. Unfortunately, many people have come to see social media as a way to feel needed and important. They have a purpose in life, even if it’s just sitting on their couch tagging everyone in kingdom come in a shelter dog’s picture. That, my friends, is the wrong way. And below, I have explained this in more detail, as well as things you can do to actually help your local shelter dogs and rescues.

Things You Need To Stop Doing:

1. Crosspost Crosspost Crosspost!

If your Facebook name includes “Crossposter” or “Xposter” or anything similar, don’t request to be my friend. I’m going to deny it. Why? Because I really don’t want to get fifty notifications a day from you, tagging my name on pictures and sharing dogs on my wall. That’s my Facebook page! For me! Plus, chances are, I already know about the dog if it’s the type of dog I rescue. It’s probably been emailed to me five times by 10 a.m., the shelter has probably already called me themselves to ask for my help, and I do check all the shelter pages myself.

Another issue I have with rampant crossposting – it scatters the information to the wind. Every thread has a different set of comments and nobody ever checks the original thread for updates. I’ve all but ceased posting updates on dogs on Facebook because nobody pays attention. Also – if I’m rescuing a dog, letting everyone know the status on Facebook is not my first priority. Believe it or not, coordinating with the shelter and local volunteers personally is my priority. And my guess is, any other serious rescuer trying to help that dog is probably doing the exact same thing, so they don’t need to see it on Facebook either.

Crossposting these days does little more than create absolute hysteria surrounding shelter animals. It feeds off the over-emotional users who aren’t checking the facts before posting, and frankly it’s making our lives (rescuers and shelter workers) more difficult. Panic does not solve problems, coordination and action does.

2. “I wish I could help, but…”

Stop, stop, stop. STOP. If you can’t help, cool. We get it. But there is absolutely no point in posting, “I wish I could help, but I’m 1,000 miles away,” or “I wish I could help, but I have five dogs already.” If you can’t help, that’s fine, but stop cluttering threads with your sentiment. I can look at a thread for a shelter dog with forty-something comments, and not one single one will actually be offering to help – they’re all just crossposters tagging names and people saying, “Oh my, look at that baby, what an angel, I wish I could help.” You’re just trying to make yourself feel better about not helping, and nobody needs to see that.

Well, those comments sure are helpful.

Similarly, stop finding dogs in shelters that are a five hour’s drive from you, and posting, “I’ll take this baby but I can’t drive.” What a HUGE help you are. Unless that comment is followed by, “But I’ll pay to have the dog boarded and transported to me,” you just need to stay out of it. Frankly, I think that any group who relies on the word of some rando on Facebook committing to adopting a dog and pulls that dog under that assumption is just asking for a world of trouble. I’ve done it once, and lo’ and behold, guess who got stuck with a dog? Mmmhm. Fortunately for that dog, I don’t back out on my commitments and she came into my own rescue program. Not every rescue abides by those same standards, however (and that is a blog for another day).

3. “Someone NEEDS to save this dog!”

This one really, really irritates me. Unless that someone is you, keep your dang mouth shut. Because, at that point, you are taking it upon yourself to place responsibility on others beside yourself, and that, my friend, is a load of B.S. If you’re not willing to get off your butt and do something yourself, don’t you ever expect someone else to do it. That’s about all I have to say about that one… pretty self-explanatory.


Things You Should Do More:

1. Donate

Whether I agree with rescues pulling based on pledges and sponsorship or not, the fact is that many do. Especially with dogs in the South, where heartworm disease is rampant, many rescues can’t afford to take dogs whose vet bills will run in the multiples of hundreds. The adoption fees will never cover the treatment, and that’s a surefire way to run a rescue into the ground – take dogs you can’t afford. However, when dogs get pledges and sponsorships, doors open. That money can go toward vetting and/or transportation (since many northern groups use professional transportation services) and it actually can be the difference to whether or not a dog lives or dies. We all have little things we spend money on that we don’t need – if forgoing that daily latte´ means you can donate twenty bucks a week to getting shelter dogs out and to rescue, why wouldn’t you?

2. Get Off Your Butt

Seriously. Get off your butt and out from behind the computer. FOSTER. It’s not that hard, really – I promise. Even if you’re just a temporary foster that holds animals for transport, you’re saving two lives – the animal you’re taking home and the animal filling its space at the shelter. Most rescues cover all expenses for fosters, and anything they don’t cover is tax-deductible. You’ve all seen that meme that floats around Facebook with the cute dog that says, “I’m Alive – Because I Had A Foster Home.” It’s as simple as that. Fostering saves lives, more than anything else.

If you genuinely cannot foster, there are still other ways to help. Drive for transports, evaluate dogs in your local animal shelter, or take pictures of their available animals. Become a general volunteer for the rescue of your choice and call references, help with data entry, do home visits, help at local events. The folks who run rescues have jobs, lives, families, and a million things to do that actually have nothing to do with rescue, on top of what rescue responsibilities they have. You have no idea how wonderfully helpful it is to have somebody help us with the little things.

3. Utilize your skills/time

Finally, we all have skills. A lot of rescues could really benefit from those skills. If you’re good with a computer, web design, graphic design, etc., offer to help build a rescue’s website or design a snazzy logo for them. I am sooo lucky that I have both a graphic and a web designer on my board, and because of them my rescue’s stuff looks pretty bomb-ass, if I may be so bold. Not all rescues are that lucky, however, and they definitely don’t have the budget to pay someone to do it. If you’re a good photographer with a decent camera, offer to take pictures of foster dogs or dogs in shelters. A picture is worth a thousand words, we know, and it’s proven than better pictures get animals adopted faster.

Your skills could really be used for just about anything. If you’re an accountant or a bookkeeper, offer to help with records. If you like to sew, make collars or beds that can be donated to shelter dogs or sold at events. Two of my volunteers make tutus in their spare time for us to sell – TUTUS! The list goes on!

tl;dr – Social media is not your platform for affirming self-worth in the rescue world. If you really want to help, do something more constructive than creating mass hysteria and begging for 11th hour rescue.

Tala’s Story: Lessons From a Mean Dog (Part Two)

Read Part One first…

Come Christmastime, I took Tala with me to North Carolina to visit my father. He’s the reason I have Aussies to begin with, and he adopted my very first foster dog, Tucker. I tried to convince him to adopt Tala, since there was plenty of reason to assume she was in fact Tucker’s mom (same county, I was just full of crap). He didn’t buy it, but we had a blast anyways. Tala enjoyed the snow and she was finally at the point where she could be completely off leash without issue. She still hated to be grabbed, and she snapped at me in the den when she had an accident and I jumped up with a “NO!” and went to put her out. Belly up, on the floor, I forgot about her little game and grabbed her. Whoops. This vacation, however, was a definite sign of our much better relationship. She trusted me, and she didn’t want to leave me.


January brought heartworm treatment, finally. She still hadn’t gained much weight, but we opted to go ahead. Tala was such a trooper; she never complained, never acted the least bit sick or in pain with the injections. Two months later we had a clean bill of health, and a month after treatment, our little blue bug weighed 36 pounds! Tala learned how to play with toys, and she loved tossing a tennis ball to herself. She no longer needed a crate to sleep in, and spent her nights on the rug by my bed with Rugby.

Okay, I knew this would happen. Here’s where I’m going to start typing through my tears. Curse my womanly emotions.

100_8687We were nearing the year mark with Tala in foster care. My hatred for this little dog had turned a 180 and blossomed into full-fledged, unconditional love. It was more than just me caring about her, and more than just me liking her. I loved that dog with all of my heart. I remember one morning laying in bed and looking down to where she and Rugby rested on the rug together, grooming each other affectionately. I loved her, Rugby loved her, and I wanted nothing more than to keep her forever – whether forever was six months or three years. However, I was in undergrad, had two dogs already and couldn’t logically commit to a third. So I kept her up for adoption and fought back the tears every time I thought about her leaving.

It was nothing short of a miracle when my rep told me about a repeat adopter in North Carolina that only adopted senior dogs. They were interested in Tala. To date, nobody had been interested in my now eleven-year-old scrappy Aussie girl.  I had lots of mixed emotions, but they came down to South Carolina for a visit. There wasn’t much to it – she was my dog, and didn’t care too much about visitors, but they liked her and so we arranged a weekend for me to drive to their place to see how Tala did with their other two Aussies and the cows.

Tala did wonderfully, of course. I was so happy and so sad when the adopters said they would like to keep her. My success was also my worst nightmare; I had to say goodbye to a foster that was just short of a “heart-dog” in my life. I stood there in their kitchen, choking on my words and doing a really crappy job of holding back my tears (exactly like right now, thank goodness there’s nobody around to see me and wonder why the heck I’m sitting in the back of the law school auditorium crying). The sweet couple smiled and said they would give me some time with Tala, and as they closed the door behind them I sunk to the ground, wrapped my arms around her little neck and bawled. I cried like baby for fifteen minutes before I gathered myself enough to stand up and walk out to shake hands with the adopters, and thank them for giving my sweet girl the opportunity to have a great rest of her life. Then I left, and I cried the whole way home.

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Tala lived for two more years on her farm in North Carolina. She was pampered and adored, and could not have asked for a better “retirement” home. She passed away last spring; she had developed adenocarcinoma in her mammary glands – probably from years of puppy rearing – and succumbed to the cancer in her sleep one evening. Of all the heartbreaking calls I received last year concerning my foster dogs, hers was by and far the worst. I sat on the back steps and wept hard and long. I knew she was old, and I knew I would get the call eventually, but I was heartbroken all the same.

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In the year that I fostered that scrawny little blue dog, I learned more about fostering and rescue than many people learn in decades. I learned, first, that patience is not just a virtue – it’s a necessity. Dogs will learn, and they will adapt. There will always be foster dogs that are more difficult than others. The key to success with these “project dogs” is to never give up. They feel your frustration and animosity towards them, and it hurts them and makes them anxious. On the flip side, they can also feel your resolve and your patience. It may take weeks or months, but when you and the dog do finally reach an understanding, there’s nothing that can break that bond.

Second, I learned that the dogs that touch our hearts are not the ones that we need or that we want or like, they’re the ones that need us. And we don’t get to choose which dogs need us – they just appear, and it’s up to us to recognize their need and be the rescuer they’ve been waiting for. I’m not religious, but I do believe that things happen for a reason. Tala came into my life to make me a better person, and a better rescuer. I might have saved her life, but I owe her more than I could ever repay. She is the dog I think of when I’m frustrated with a foster. She is a memory that makes me smile and laugh, and she is the reason that I do what I do. She didn’t deserve the life she lived, but damn if she was going to take the fire out of her. If only humans could learn to live with such positivity and resiliency.

Rescue is hard. Fostering is hard. Balancing school, work, and life in general with this mission of dog rescue is incredibly hard. The heartbreak when we lose a dog that we loved so very much, even when it wasn’t even “our” dog, is excruciating. It’s always worth it, however, because every dog and the lessons they impart during their time with us makes us better human beings.