I grew up having a dog or two my whole life. Our first family pet, a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen named Kringle, was from a breeder. Griffin, our Chihuahua, was from a pet store — the same place where we got our next Chihuahua, Raider, once Kringle passed.
When I went off on my own, not having a dog was strange, to say the least! It took a few years, but once I graduated from college and got my first real-world job, I was ready to find a canine companion of my own. I knew I wanted to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, but I didn’t know where to start.
Luckily, Dodger, my first Chiweenie, pretty much landed in my lap — and that’s still where you’ll find him most days! I had received a random call from my uncle asking if I was interested in a dog who was being fostered by a nearby family. Sight unseen, I said yes. It just felt right. I met Dodger for the first time at my uncle’s house. His foster family brought him and an application over. After undergoing a phone interview and becoming approved via my paperwork, Dodger and I were officially each other’s.
Three years later we adopted Daisy, also a Chiweenie, from the same rescue. Having had multiple family dogs, I can say no love matches the one you have for a pet, but with rescue pets, it can be even more special. They each come with their own set of challenges, and as you help them overcome these hurdles, the bond you form is truly something else.
I was pretty lucky, stumbling upon the rescue that saved our two dogs. But, if you’re looking to rescue a pet yourself, there are some important points to consider and special steps to anticipate. Here are six tips to help you find not only rescue dogs available for adoption, but also the RIGHT rescue dog for you.
1. Ask For Referrals
Pet professionals, such a dog groomers or trainers, can be a great resource for giving you the inside scoop.
“The first step is to ask around for rescue referrals. Ask any pet professionals you feel comfortable with — veterinarians, dog groomers, dog trainers, or pet sitters,” recommends Tonya Wilhelm, from GlobalDogTraining.com. “These are people who are likely going to have firsthand experience with the individuals who care for the pets while being fostered, run the rescue organization. Not to mention, they are also going to have experience with the pets and new pet parents after adoption.”
2. Friend/Follow Rescue Groups On Social Media
After I adopted Dodger, I friended the rescue group, Friends with Four Paws, on Facebook. That’s how I saw Daisy was available.
Many rescues frequently post new adoptable pets, along with a few pictures and a short bio. They’ll also share the pet’s location, including, possibly, who’s fostering them while they wait for their forever home, and basic information like age, breed and personality.
3. Search Online Listings
Online listings are a great resource when searching for a rescue pet. Petcha, for example, will help you find adoptable dogs from rescues and shelters nearby. You can also narrow your search based on gender, age and breed as well as other filters.
Many rescue organizations take in animals from states that have kill shelters, so don’t be surprised if the dog you’re interested in was transported or will have to be transported from many miles away.
4. Confirm The Rescue’s Credentials
“A reputable rescue organization will have a 501(c)(3) available for an owner to see,” says Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian, pet owner to nine rescued Spaniels and a pet foster mom.
A 501(c)(3) is one of the most common types of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. A rescue group that has one has gone through the necessary research and created a board and mission statement that are needed to set up a reputable organization.
And you should expect to undergo a background check yourself. Many rescue pets, especially those adopted at more mature ages, come with their own set of special challenges. In some cases, they were abused or neglected and need to be matched with a person who will be sensitive to their needs.
I adopted Daisy when she was 3 years old, while Dodger on the other hand was adopted when he was only 1 year old. The fact that I had a dog already from the same rescue did not actually makes things any easier. I had to share veterinarian records, financial information and prove my housing situation before ever meeting Daisy in person.
5. Ask for The Pet’s Health And Behavioral Information
“Previously we had purchased and adopted dogs from stores and shelters and adopted them off the street,” says Kristine Tanzillo, a rescue dog owner in Myrtle Springs, Texas. “We found the rescue organization to have far more information about the dogs in their care than those we chose from a shelter or store. The rescue volunteers were able to share information about Amelia’s personality, habits and issues. When we have adopted from a shelter we were never told anything more than the dogs’ possible age and sex.”
You should also confirm that the dog has been spayed or neutered. Most respectable rescues spay and neuter pets before adoption, and the cost is typically covered in the adoption fee you’ll pay. My sister rescued a Puggle who was supposedly spayed. Boy was she surprised when the dog gave birth to nine puppies two months later! Ask for medical records and even follow-up with the veterinarian’s office to confirm this has been handled, if the rescue shares it has been.
6. Consider A Meet-And-Greet Prior To Adoption
We had two meet-and-greets prior to Daisy’s adoption so that she and Dodger could interact with each other. The first was in a public place and the second was at our apartment. Both settings allow pets to become comfortable with one another and helps display the prospective pet’s true personality.
If this is the case with the rescue you are interested in, your pet may have taken a train, plane or automobile to get to your state. Foster families will house pets until their forever home is found.
Becoming a rescue pet’s forever home is one of the greatest things you can do — in my NSHO anyway! They’ll change your life forever and help open your heart to new experiences. Like I’ve mentioned, some come with special challenges — Dodger was afraid of everything from the wind, to men, to stairs — but supporting them through their struggles will help them adjust to the loving home they now share with you.