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October 9, 2007 > Are you ready or not?

Are you ready or not?

Submitted By Nancy Lyon

"...If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death."
George Graham Vest - c. 1855

Senator Vest's eloquent portrait of the dog reflects the true nature of this wonderful being... loving, non-judgmental and ever faithful, a picture of man's best friend. Yet each year more than 10 million dogs go through shelter systems to meet an unknown fate.

October has been designated as National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and animal lovers and potential adopters will hopefully be checking their local animal shelters for that special new member of the family. However, before you act to save a life, consider just what bringing that new friend and loving companion into your life means.

Are you really ready? A decision to adopt a dog should never be taken lightly or without proper forethought. Bringing a dog or any animal into your life and home is very similar to adopting a child - the commitment to insuring his or her well-being should be lifelong.

Before you adopt, you need to give serious thought to the following:
Have you done your homework and learned about obedience training, socialization, potty training and the daily care of a dog?

Have you considered your current commitments and lifestyle and really know what type of dog is the right dog for you and your family?

Will your working hours allow enough time to provide the care and exercise a dog needs every day, not just when it's convenient?

Also, spending more than eight hours alone is not advisable for most dogs and is a set-up for the dog to get into trouble. Will other activities allow you to meet your dog's needs not just your own?

If you have children and school events, will you be able manage enough time for your dog's need for companionship?

Adequate time is very important if you are thinking of getting a puppy. Who will be there to provide proper guidance and who will be there every 4 hours or so for potty breaks so you can teach the little guy to relieve himself outside? A lonely, bored puppy without proper oversight can easily become a problem - it will be your problem and your fault.
Are your children ready to live with an animal? Children may promise to provide all care for the new dog forever but that quickly fades when the newness wears off - you will be the person responsible for taking care of your dog's needs. Are they old enough to understand to not pester a dog or let a dog out the door?

Will you be able to watch the dog at all times when other children visit your home?

Will you give priority to your dog's well-being and have enough money to cover not just food but toys, annual vet exams, vaccinations, flea control, unexpected medical costs, grooming, training, and boarding fees when you travel?

If you move, travel frequently, or your lifestyle changes can you make the commitment to take him along or make arrangements for his temporary care?

If you move, are you willing to make sure your new housing allows dogs and large enough to comfortably house your dog? Dogs should never be expected to live their lives confined to one small area, such as a single room, a crate, or outside consigned to the backyard.

Can you make the commitment to care for this trusting animal for his or her lifetime? Large dogs can live to around 12 years and smaller dogs may live to be 15 to 17-years-old.

Behavior problems top the list of reasons for companion animal relinquishment to shelters. Thousands of dogs, cats and other animals are given up because of lifestyle changes, such as the birth of a child, or human health issues such as family members with allergies or serious medical problems. Still others are given up because their caregivers couldn't find animal-friendly rental housing, or because their guardians simply had unrealistic expectations about what it meant to care for an animal companion.
Fremont's Tri-City Animal Shelter that now houses strays from San Leandro as well as Newark, Union City and Fremont due to a questionable action by the City of Fremont is presently over-crowded with dogs and other animals. Because of the lack of space and other options very adoptable dogs and cats are being killed - there simply is not enough room.

Adopting a shelter animal can be more rewarding than you can imagine. If you are prepared to proceed with not just compassion but careful thought as to what your new canine family member will require of you - then you and your new friend and companion will enjoy your years together to the fullest.

If you have Internet access, be sure to check out area shelters on PetHarbor.com. The website has pictures of most shelter animals and their pertinent information.

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