It all started with one question in one of my weekly emails to my loyal subscribers. I was absolutely blown away by the responses I received. The ding of my email notifications had me in shock.
So, what was the question?
Here is the exact email I wrote:
I’d love to know, what made you decide to adopt your dog? What was it that attracted you to him? Was it love at first sight? His personality, her beautiful coat?
Thinking back at each dog we’ve adopted, I had an idea of the type of dog I wanted, but it always boiled down to the temperament and personality traits.
This is what I have been focused on teaching in my new online course Adopting Your Perfect Dog 101. It’s not about the breed or color of the dog, it’s the temperament that we should be looking for.
So I’m really interested in learning, what was your deciding factor when adopting your dog? Hit reply and please let me know. The more I get to know you and your dog, the better I am equipped to help you on your journey.
The dog adoption stories made me smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. I love them so much, I just knew I had to share my favorites with you.
I hope that you enjoy these 12 dog adoption stories as much as I did and that you learn something from each unique perspective and experience. While I received so many more stories, I felt these will be the most helpful to you…
Rescue Dogs 101's
From Rescue to Home, Your Survival Checklist
Please feel free to share your adoption story below in the comments and let’s keep this love going…
All of my dogs have been rescued with the exception of one. My first rescue dog I got as a companion for my other dog. I had searched on the Internet using Petfinder.com and narrowed it down to three dogs.
In the end, I chose her because she was at the pound as opposed to the other two candidates who were safely and comfortably at rescues. She wasn’t a great match and was quite the challenge, so I don’t recommend choosing a dog based on pity!
My next rescue dog was an old German Shepherd found abandoned and tied up in the middle of winter at my friend’s parents’ rental property when the tenant moved out. He was so old and had so many health issues I doubt anyone else would have taken him and I didn’t want to call animal control for fear he would be euthanized so I kept him and cared for him through the last year of his life.
That was a very expensive year of veterinary bills and tons of food to get his weight back up but I’m glad that I was able to give him at least one good year in his life.
Older and wiser now, the next dog I adopted was with purpose in mind! My boyfriend loves pit bulls so I wanted to find one that I could begin the process of shaping into a breed ambassador. I researched a local shelter and decided they seemed to have good programs in place to match the right homes to the right dogs. I made a shortlist (based on temperament from their descriptions) and also listened to their suggestions based on my criteria for an adult pit bull that was both dog-friendly and people-friendly with some energy for hiking and potentially agility but also the ability to relax at home.
We saw several dogs that day and I made sure to pay attention to how they responded when walking past other people and dogs. Ultimately, I went with my gut instinct and choose the third one I saw after reviewing several others! When another dog approached the fence, she happily trotted over but when that dog began to act more aggressively, she simply turned around and headed back towards us! It’s not a foolproof method because she is a little more overly friendly than I would prefer and struggles to notice cues that she’s being a bit too overwhelming with other dogs.
We worked with her for nearly a year before deciding to add a second rescue was a good idea. We went back to the same shelter and this time I had no list in mind. I went in blindly and with an open mind to their recommendations. We saw a shortlist of dogs that matched her playfulness, then went on tandem walks to narrow it down further to the best match.
Our second Pittie is both playful and cuddly. He’s very impressionable and eager to learn new things quickly. He enjoys playing with her but is also helping us to teach her balance! When he’s ready to quit playing, we facilitate a “time out” where they each lie down in their beds and have some time to relax and chew on a toy or antler. As a result, she has done much better when she sees another dog out on a walk!
Truly temperament and meeting their needs are the keys to finding the best possible match. If you have young children, a small dog that could be trampled or played with too roughly or a large dog that could trample or play too roughly with your kids is probably not the best match!
If you’re elderly, adopting a large young dog that’s strong and full of energy is probably not the safest option either – and let’s not forget how much more costly food and medication dosages are for large and giant breeds! If you work long hours, a young puppy may not be the best fit as they need so much attention and dedication to potty training, as could any rescue dog and dogs with separation anxiety should also be crossed off the list!
When I lost my last dog of thirteen years, I took it very hard and it’s still a struggle. For that reason, I wanted to adopt another senior dog but my boyfriend would not allow it as he felt I couldn’t handle losing another one so soon.
In summary, I think the criteria for finding your best match in a dog are:
Ultimately, it’s a matter of honestly answering what you are capable of and comfortable with excepting responsibility for based on your lifestyle.
Recommended reading just for you: The Adopting a Dog Process
I adopted a dog that was really too far away from me to drive it myself. I didn’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings and didn’t want to seem ungrateful that he made the trip with me twice. I couldn’t adopt that day because a vet couldn’t come until a week after to release the dog.
The dog barked furiously; her tail was wagging stiffly. She was in defense mode protecting the shelter worker. The worker wanted to adopt the dog but knew his wife would allow it.
In hindsight I realized these things; they didn’t occur to me at the time. The shelter worker didn’t tell me that the dog bit the dog she lived w/quite a few times. I read that hours after I got home and read the paperwork.
I should have taken more time to get to know the dog. I still have this dog and love her dearly but she is a fearful dog that I haven’t been able to help in 10 years.
We want to hurry up and get the dog out of fear that someone else will snap it up. We also don’t listen to our gut feelings. I knew the dog wasn’t for me, but I felt trapped because of my dad.
The shelter wouldn’t let me return the dog even though it states on their paperwork that the dog must be returned to them.
I didn’t read the reviews about the shelter. Apparently, the head of the dog department has done this to other people more than a few times. I recommend renting a hotel room if you have to. Visit the dog, go to breakfast. Visit the dog again and then go to lunch. Repeat the process with dinner. Take your time.
I think one of the important things that my dog has taught me is commitment. Yes, there is a place for you. That’s what love is all about; the good and the bad.
Not everyone is in a position to do what I do. I know in my heart that if I would have taken her back she would have been beaten, perhaps to death, or would have been put down. Shame on the people that made her that way but that is out of our control. All we can do is what we do – one dog at a time.
Remember, it can take a month or so for a dog to show you it’s true personality. My dog was a nightmare. She’s better now but I couldn’t take away/fix the first 3 years of her life with another family. I hired a trainer but it didn’t work.
I’d also recommend giving yourself some time after your previous dog dies. I was still grieving my first dog’s death. That’s easier said than done. To be honest, when my present dog dies, I’ll most likely be out there looking immediately.
Recommended reading just for you: The Whirlpool of Grief – Stages of Grief After Losing a Pet
My husband and I bought a dog shortly after we got married — and when we lost her the kids kept saying Molly was always yours and dad’s dog.
I wasn’t ready to get a dog yet, but the kids, well they were ready and wanted a puppy. We said we would rescue a dog in Molly’s memory so the kids took to Petfinder.
We went to look at a dog there but none of us “clicked” with that dog, but then Tillie became available right that day. She was found a week old in a garbage can with her brother, she had been fostered with a cattle dog and her litter.
I swear she sat in that enclosure and a little spotlight shined on her — first question is it a girl – we knew we wanted a girl. Then we got to hold her, she let us do anything to her and she licked my husband’s nose and I think we were goners.
After holding her for a bit and she just seemed to know and we knew too she was meant to be with us, she wasn’t aggressive at all and like I said she let us do anything to her and she didn’t care which one of us held her.
We just lost her almost a month ago now. I know this doesn’t help you but I think it’s important to watch them interact with you and the other dogs they are with — too many people make a snap decision a lot of shelters will let you spend some time with them to watch and that is important.
Tillie was our first rescue dog — two years after we got her we got Bella — and again we just clicked — funny story there I went to see her just to check her out so we didn’t waste all the family members time — walked in and I crouched down to put my hand out to say hi – she laid her head in my hand and the fifteen other dogs around us immediately walked away.
So yup the rest of the family came to see her later that evening and we picked her up the next day.
2-1/2 years ago we adopted Ellie — she was a real rescue we had to be super patient with her I definitely bit off more than I could chew with her — I really thought a few months with our girls and she would be great. Well, it took a year of being patient and with me, she was great and then a year of working with a trainer and she is a fantastic dog now!
And sorry making a short story long — I just wanted to say that if you are bringing another dog in to your house and it’s a rescue be careful which rescue you work with — Tillie and Bella came from the same rescue but they would not let us bring Tillie to meet Bella before so I had to hope it would work out — thank goodness they were best friends from the second we brought Bella into the house.
With Ellie we worked with a different rescue and they asked us to bring Tillie and Bella up when we went to meet her as well — they had a room and they all got to meet — and I am pretty sure the interaction between the three of them helped me decide Ellie needed us, our pack specifically – and that my two girls would be a huge help to her.
I loved having that peace of mind and then when they dropped her off for the house visit and that went fine Ellie got to stay with us and since they had all met already it went well!
Thanks for the info on rescue dogs — won’t have a dog any other way!
Recommended reading just for you: The Best Way to Introduce a Second Dog Into Your Pack
The dog I adopted came from an adoption agency that has fosters down south. In a case like this, you are completely dependent on the agency’s write up. Sometimes it’s accurate, and sometimes in an effort to have the dog adopted, only the positive characteristics are presented. You have no choice but to adopt sight unseen and that’s too bad.
In my case, the dog was supposed to be a Lab Mix. (What I was looking for.) Not true, according to DNA results. And many other issues should have been presented but were not. Perhaps the issue that troubled me the most was how shy the dog was and how obvious the abusive background.
While it troubled me and we’re still dealing with it, it probably led me to want to keep the dog and work through this with her. I’m pleased with the progress in two months (how long we’ve had the dog) and how she now has a place in our hearts. She has her forever home.
Unless you’re very lucky, adopting a dog is not easy. It requires work and dedication which, perhaps, is not expected. My advice to those wanting to adopt is to speak to several owners that have adopted and listen to what to expect in the first several months.
My previous rescue, Belle, chose me. When I went to the shelter to look at dogs, the ones I had picked out on the site were already on hold, so I couldn’t meet them.
I went down into the dreaded kennel area to look at other dogs. Belle was the only dog who showed any interest in me. I put my hands on the glass of her kennel and she put her paws on the glass. It was basically love at first sight. And her mix. They had her documented as a shar-pei/lab mix, but she was obviously a lab-pit mix. I love pitties!
My new rescue, Kira, came after we lost Belle. It was a little too soon for me, but my husband really wanted to get another dog. It seemed like the stars aligned.
I’d called the rescue inquiring about a few dogs, but none of them checked all the boxes. We were just about to stop looking at dogs when I found Petfinder.com (through your site actually!).
I was too sad to keep looking (so many dogs out there), and my husband texted me and said, “Did you see Cissy?” (Cissy was Kira’s name before we changed it). I took a look, and it was kind of like, OMG, I have to meet this dog. She checked all the boxes.
We filled out the application, they told us it could take weeks to hear back, but we could not wait that long. So we found her foster parents on Facebook and told them we put in the application. They called us the next day and said they had never seen the rescue push an application through so fast!
Stars. Aligned. Am I right?
We met her and she was so wiggly and adorable. We adopted her on our way home and the foster parents dropped her off that afternoon. They told us they had such a good vibe from us, and when we left their house, Kira cried and cried. When they saw our amazing backyard, they were sold.
I have to say your site has really helped me in bonding with Kira. Knowing that it takes time (3-3-3) has helped me a lot. She’s settled in nicely in our home, and she’s been through basic obedience.
She has the makings of a great dog. We just need to keep working with her and figure out how to curb her love of barking. Haha!
My current rescue dog, Badger, is a giant Alaskan Malamute (142 lbs) I rescued him because the previous owners DID NOT know or research their dogs before they took him, to them he was a cute fluff ball.
Previous owners both worked, lived in a condo and as any dog person would know, NOT a good set up for a Mal. As he got bigger and started destroying, they got aggressive on discipline before giving him up.
I’ve had these types of dogs before and knew he needed Loving Discipline and room to run! He was just over a year old when I got him and now he is 2-1/2 and being a typical, back-talking, wanna love you Mal! Yes, he had some issues, but I started over on training and within the first 2 weeks of being with me, he learned to sit, stay and lay down. We still are and always will be working on “come” as Mals are stubborn!
I hoped this help, the takeaway being people should research – look into the type of dog they want or are getting and what that breeds needs are.
Hi! 4 months ago, I was looking on my local humane society website and found this adorable 3-year-old girl, so I went in to visit her. She was beautiful I planned on taking her out to play but seemed very reactive to other dogs and not interested in me at all.
The dog next to her (my girl May) was calmly laying on her cot, perked up when she saw me and didn’t mind the noise of the others at all. I ended up taking her out to walk and play. Our energy just fit.
The next weekend I came back and took May home! 4 months later and she is the happiest little girl and best friend I could have hoped for. She’s good with other dogs loves all people and is wonderful with children! Sometimes we just get what we need instead of what we plan.
Baron looked like our dog, Tebow who would have been with us for 10 years on October 3rd.
To be completely verbose about it, here you go –
My wife was very lonely after losing Tebow. Though I was not ready, Ruth was. So we started looking and we stumbled upon a dog named Buster B.
My wife fell instantly in love with him and showed me the pictures. She broke me, I did not have my defense up and she flat out broke me. I told her to stop showing me the pictures, I was about to cry, he was Tebow. Yes…. well a big lesson learned; he only looks like Tebow.
Though we are not of the reincarnation crowd, my wife was absolutely sure (hope, hope, hope) that is is TEBOW, HE CAME BACK TO US, RISEN FROM THE DEAD! OK, sorry I got carried away with my ridiculousness.
Personality, night and day. He requires a lot of understanding and love. We have no idea what happened to him before he became part of our family but… something did and sadly it was not good.
But with each passing day, he is getting better. He is still to this day easily startled. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good boy but is still adjusting to life with a family that gives him more love than he has ever known.
Baron actually does not know what to do with all of the love, it was a new concept to him. I think we brought home an abused dog, I almost cry just thinking about it. Just in the past few weeks, this cowardly (I say that lovingly) dog is comfortable enough to bark and tell us something is going on outside.
He is still warming up to our son, he is fearful, and we don’t really know why. All we can do is continue to love his and encourage him.
He is a really good eater now, at first, he was confused about food, weird right? A dog confused about food. He receives homemade dog food from a doggy recipe book. My wife, Ruth has become a doggy nutritionist, he only gets the very best. We had an older friend years ago who cooked for her dogs, we thought that was a bit strange, and look at us now, we are running a doggy restaurant for one fur baby! LOL!
Yes, he is spoiled rotten, but he minds fairly well, there are times when we have to use the parent tone (never yelling, just a change of tone) and he stops what he is doing and sits down. We really love him; he is very special.
So there you have it with some…. OK a lot of TMI. That is how Baron became part of the family.
Recommended reading just for you: 53 Questions You MUST Ask a Rescue BEFORE Adopting a Dog
Hi Debi, My first dog is Charlie, a loving Boston Terrier who just turned 10 on October 1st. He was abandoned and I found him in the middle of my yard.
I’d set out for my swing with my morning coffee when I saw something moving, I went to see what it was thinking maybe a rabbit when to my surprise, it was Charlie. I searched for 2 weeks for an owner but no one claimed him.
I took him to the vet, she checked him over and by dental records, he was around 3 months old, lucky to be alive. When the vet came back out with him she told me if I wanted him he was all mine.
She helped me get him healthy, he got his first shots and of course, I adopted him right away and gave him his name Charlie. He’s just one of the fur babies that I adore.
I also have Hailey, She’s also a rescue dog, half Boston half Fox Terrier. She came into my life 3 months after Charlie at 3 months old. Her family decided they didn’t want her, so sad. I took her in.
She and Charlie have grown up together ever since. Playful, happy, and both are true blessings to my life. I can’t imagine life without them. They go everywhere with me.
My husband and I have adopted two kitties and now two dogs together. We have one cat who is 17 years old, and the other one is 10 years old.
We lost my heart dog, Sydney, in December of 2018. We adopted her when she was about 1 year old and she lived to be almost 15. She was the BEST running partner I have ever had.
We had moved to a new city and the only people I knew were my in-laws. I run trails and I wanted to explore all the new ones here on the Central Coast, so I told my husband I wanted to adopt a dog to go with me!
Sydney and I spent countless hours running and exploring for about 13 of her almost 15 years (her last year she was unable to run due to health issues and arthritis.) She was an Aussie/Border Collie mix (we think) and she was the most amazing dog I have ever had (we always had dogs and cats growing up.) I think of her every single day and miss her terribly.
Since I missed running with a dog so much and it had been almost a year and a half since I was able to run with Sydney, it was a natural process to start looking for another canine running buddy through rescues and shelters.
We found Luna at a shelter in Bakersfield, about 2 hours away from where we live. We had gone to Bakersfield to meet a dog that was with a rescue and it was not a match.
So we decided while we were there, we would look at the shelter. Luna was about one year old when we adopted her in May. When she came to us she had a respiratory infection that turned into pneumonia. She had a few IV treatments and several antibiotics before she was well.
We then discovered she was pregnant! She had not been spayed and the shelter let us take her with the condition that we would have her spayed. But when we took her in to have this done, they said she looked like she was in heat and we needed to wait about 6 weeks.
Well, in six weeks it was clear she was not in heat. There was no way to know she was pregnant when we got her as she was only in the shelter for two days.
Fast forward to now, Luna is finally well and her personality is coming out. She is hilarious and has so much energy. We absolutely love having her, although there are some challenges.
We adopt because there are so many animals who need good homes and we really never thought about having an animal join our family from anywhere else but a shelter or rescue.
I wanted an older dog (we’re a bit older ourselves), a quiet, calm dog that liked cuddles.
Helen from Wendy’s Woofers suggested we foster a 9-year-old dog she’d identified so I decided to go ahead.
Eric settled down fantastically, well within 24 hours of arrival! He was calm, gentle, clean in the house and prefers to go to the bathroom when out for his walks so my garden is clean.
He is remarkably obedient, rarely barks and welcomes everyone with a waggy tail and looking for strokes and petting. We have lots of people coming and going every day as my husband is disabled and has two caretakers at a time, four times a day.
Eric sleeps all night and isn’t a boisterous dog except when I pick up my trainers and his harness and lead!
After only 3 days I decided that I couldn’t bear to part with him, so we adopted him ourselves! The best thing we ever did he’s a fantastic wee dog and we love him to bits!
I rescued Hank because he was very happy even in his shelter circumstances. The fact that he had a natural mohawk just reassured me that he was meant to be with us.
Let me explain… My husband and I were joking the week before about how I was going to find him at home alone with our new (unknown at that time) pup that he would have bonded with giving him some crazy style like a mohawk. So when I noticed that Hank’s hair was naturally forming that way, it was kismet! From that day forward, we had an awesome family.
One thing I always wondered since we brought him home, was why he hadn’t been snatched up already. He was a very happy, energetic, and super friendly at the shelter. He is a mixed breed of a terrier and our best guess… Shitz Shu maybe?
Anyways, the shelter representative that aided us in his adoption told us that he had been on the local news a couple of times with their adoption segments, was used for therapy at some local nursing homes, and was super friendly with all the animals and people they introduced him too.
I still can’t figure it out. I am so very thankful for it but still befuddled. Although that little, hyper mutt with the rough hair and the oh so cute underbite, isn’t the classic pedigree pup, he still exceeds any expectation of what a best buddy should be. Take a chance on the mutt, you will never regret it.
Our first dog we adopted was from the local pound about 13/14 years ago now. We wanted a dog, we had no real idea of what kind of dog.
But we did know that we wanted a pound puppy and preferably female. So off we went.
We were walking up the hallway looking in the various kennels. It was very depressing, all those lonely dogs. Some seemed happy and excited to see humans. Others were sitting way back looking dejected. So sad.
We paused at a couple of kennels when a dog would catch our eye. sometimes the dog would be excited and come forward sometimes not.
But then we paused at this one kennel. It had two near-identical looking dogs in it, they were young, maybe 4-6 months old, still puppies but not quite cute little puppies.
One of those dogs came forward, tail wagging, sat down looking at us through the fence gate.
She was beautiful. She took some deep sniffs of us, then finally jumped up to say hi. She sat back down when we squatted, stood up when we did. Never really breaking eye contact.
We asked the jailer about her, was told it was her and her brother and that they came from across the mountains (we are in Seattle, they were brought in from Spokane) The pounds there were out of space and sending dogs over to Seattle.
We looked back into that cell, she was still sitting there looking at us. We continued on and she started barking. She kept barking. I walked back and she sat down and went quiet.
I knew then we found our dog. Or I should say she found us.
Recommended reading just for you: The Ultimate Guide on How To Adopt A Dog
The challenge! Our guy was about to be euthanized because he was so aggressive. And yet, he loved puppies, kittens, and children. He couldn’t be all bad, could he. He at least deserved a chance.
We knew he came from a good breeder who breeds sweet loving labs. So we took this huge 100-pound lab home. It was a trial.
He got along with our 35-pound mutt who didn’t get along with many dogs. He ignored the cat. He went ballistic in his crate. He growled at everybody. He nipped at us. We couldn’t touch him. So it had to be the challenge.
His tail did not wag for a year. Now it is a lethal weapon for anything on the coffee table. He covers visitors with his love. Was it worth all of the work? You bet.
Please share your adoption story below in the comments… you may not realize it, but it could help someone else in a similar situation.
Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, two dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.