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Adopt a shelter pet

Why were you inspired to do this?

I'd already adopted and fostered pets as a volunteer for an animal rescue group, but I read a heartbreaking article in Los Angeles magazine about the L.A. city shelter system that made me want to save a dog's life immediately, even if it was just temporarily until the rescue group could find a permanent home.

What were 3 things you did to make this happen?

Though they are not official and should be taken with a grain of salt, there are listings online showing animals which are scheduled to be euthanized at individual shelters in Los Angeles, often not for health or aggression reasons; the shelters are simply overcrowded. Shelter websites often have photos of all available animals, and database-driven sites like have massive lists of animals who need homes. I used lists posted on craigslist to find "the one", so to speak - the dog whose life I knew I had to save, just by looking at that sweet, happy-go-lucky face. He was scheduled to be killed the next day, so I called the shelter and asked them to hold off until I could get there a couple days later.

Since we already had a dog, I needed to learn how to successfully integrate this new potential family member. Many shelter dogs - especially those labeled as "pit bulls" like this one - have negative reputations for being aggressive toward other animals. Before introducing the dogs on home territory, I took the two dogs for a long walk, side by side, without ever letting them meet face-to-face. By the time we got home, a good romp in the backyard and a couple weeks of supervised socialization were all they needed to become best friends.

I went through an existing animal rescue group to get him out of the shelter. If you're unsure as to whether you actually want to keep an animal but are certain that this particular one will make a good pet, sometimes you can appeal to local rescue groups if you agree to foster the dog and bring it to adoption events until it finds a permanent home. Rescues receive a discounted rate for taking a dog out of a shelter if they have a nonprofit card (for example, it would have cost $100 for me to get Milo out, but the rescue group was charged $47), and they will usually help you pay for medical care or offer you a reduced adoption fee if you decide to keep the animal yourself.

How did you feel once you had accomplished this?

As renters trying to find a new house, we were apprehensive about permanently adopting a dog that could be labeled a Staffordshire terrier or a "pit bull" (though I hate that term) because it's much more difficult to find a landlord willing to rent to an owner of one. But once we made the decision to keep him and try our luck anyway, it felt wonderful knowing that not only had we saved a life, we'd found a very special new family member.

Additional notes and tips: is an addictive resource for anyone considering adopting a pet - or just looking!  Local pet boards can be valuable if you can see past all the crazy and educate yourself about owning a pet and the adoption process.  Before adopting pets, I read training and behavior books, watched a lot of Animal Planet, and volunteered with a local rescue group to get a wide variety of viewpoints and resources.  There is no one right way to raise a pet (do you feed raw or packaged food?  hire a trainer or do it yourself?), but the more information and experience you have, the more enjoyable it will be for all involved.

1/9/2011 8:28:29 AM

Congratulations, we have linked your story on the My Life List 90 (#61) to inspire others. Thank you so much for sharing this touching story.

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