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.

10 thoughts on “A Very Unscientific Index of Adopters

  1. erniethepitbull September 11, 2014 / 6:16 pm

    Yup, I think you got it.

  2. FlipFlopBeotch September 11, 2014 / 6:37 pm

    I literally heard angels sing when I got to “Flakes”. We rescue pit bulls…not French Poodles so you can imagine the types of questions and answers we get. Granted, not ALL Pit Bull owners are “bottom of the barrel types” (considering I have one and so do all my friends and rescue cronies) but the majority of our applicants can’t spell, read or comprehend basic English.

    OR basic dog ownership.

  3. FlipFlopBeotch September 11, 2014 / 6:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Twisted Rescue Bitches in Flip Flops and commented:
    THIS. Just change “Aussies” to “Bullies” and it’s like an episode of “this is your life”.

  4. ApsoRescueColorado September 12, 2014 / 11:14 am

    Had what I thought was a Golden Child, ie adopted then fostered, helped w/events, etc. Totally bummed when they moved back to the Midwest. Until they called wanting to return the now 8-year old adopted dog because they were retiring and had bought a condo in FL on a busy street that didn’t have a yard. Beyond flake ….

  5. Amy Fabri September 12, 2014 / 3:13 pm

    Dealing with a late-term Flake right now! Wants to return dog after two years because they are moving and they don’t want the Lab to ruin the new carpet. WTH?

  6. Morgan Jethro September 15, 2014 / 1:40 pm

    This is precisely what I needed to read on a day like today. Can we require an IQ test as a part of the application process, I wonder…? Cheers to you Heather!

  7. Sam Davies September 29, 2014 / 3:48 pm

    ❤ your blog Heather. Recognise your descriptions. I'm in 'cats' and we adopt out to 'rebels' the reason – when they get a pet (and they will) and it goes wrong (and it will) we can try and pick up the pieces whereas your shelters or lesser calibre rescue may well not. Does mean for more of the emails that make you excessively grumble (hell we take on the ignorants too – maybe there's some latent masochism at work here…) but hey the category 5 emails make it all worthwhile. Last one that got me with a wet eye – two torti girls mother and daughter both old 11 and 12 and very shy, would spend most of the day hiding in a ball of two. 'Here is a photo of my Nan with Elsie and Mo' showing a very happy elderly lady with two very relaxed cats, one on her lap and the other stretched along the back of her sofa 🙂

  8. gograyproductions December 28, 2014 / 12:10 pm

    Reblogged this on Babe. Pig Dog in the Big City. and commented:
    This is a truly succinct catalog of adopter types (as seen in the animal adoption sector). Also, check out her blog bourbondog.wordpress.com for more excellent reads about animal rescues and dogs in general!

  9. gograyproductions December 28, 2014 / 12:20 pm

    I used to work at a shelter and the Ignoramus was my all time favorite. I think I visibly shuddered when people said they didn’t want their new dog to be “spaded.” One person wanted to get rid of her cat because it didn’t “match the couch.” Of course, because I’m a stickler for spelling, I also couldn’t help but roll my eyes every time someone listed the “Shepard” or “Chiwawa” as their preferred breed.
    Thanks for this awesome post!

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