Consider Animal Rescue

“It has to be a puppy. Shelter dogs can’t bond with you and aren’t as trainable as puppies. An adult dog isn’t as loyal.” Friends, it is a good thing we were at the bar and I was a couple drinks in, so that I had something on which to blame my slight frustration and raised volume.

Okay, fine, I got downright belligerent and said something along the lines of, “F**k you! You clearly don’t know sh*t about dogs,” and some other assorted insults with other four letter words attached. When I had this conversation, I had spent a year working at one of the oldest animal rescues in the United States, and had a rescue of my own. Meet Thor:

Brown dog (possibly a chocolate lab mix) looking up at the camera with his mouth open in a "smile"
Saint Thor of the Perpetual Smile

Thor could be the poster dog for the awesomeness of animal rescue. Admittedly, we did not go searching for him, nor did we adopt him from a shelter. He found us, he adopted us, and he refuses to leave. Thor was a stray who showed up in our backyard. For a few days in a row, Mom saw a brown animal run through the woods while taking our other dog, Loki, for a walk. One day when she got back, the brown streak was waiting by the back door without a collar or tag. (We later found out that he chews off his tags, so we had to get him a special one.) He was skin and bones.

Brown dog being pet by his owner

We tried to find his owners. We went through our rural area knocking on doors, asking if anyone knew this dog. No one did. We went through the neighborhood again, asking if anyone wanted to take this dog, since we already had one. No one did. No one wants an adult dog. Everyone wants a cute, roly poly puppy, and this mangy animal seemed to be at death’s door. We called the shelters. They offered to take him, but said they were at capacity, and he would probably have to go to Animal Care and Control. We didn’t want him put down. So we kept him.

This is where people expect the punchline of how awful and untrainable he was. But that wasn’t the case. Thor just wants to be around the people he loves, and he wants desperately to be loved back. This is the case with many adult dogs. They’re so eager for the human companionship for which we have bred them that all they want is for their companions to never leave them behind. As for trainability, Thor is smart as a whip and often picks up on things before the other one. He has recently learned the command of “Everybody Dance Now” in which he tap dances around the kitchen, smiling at everyone he can see.

Brown dog sitting in the yard with his toy at his feet
Playing fetch. The other one is behind me, ripping up someone’s nightgown in the backyard, to the neighborhood’s endless entertainment.

Of course, not all rescues are just like Thor. But the personalities of animals are as endless as humans, and they all need different things. I’ve seen a dog so scared that she couldn’t bear to be in human company, until the humans around her noticed that what she opened up in the company of other humans. I’ve met a pit bull so starved that he couldn’t lift his head, but with the help of a great human, Oscar is a sweetheart who loves to be twirled on the other end of a tug rope. I’ve seen cats that will quite literally reach out and grab passersby. Thor has his issues, too. His constant need for attention can be exhausting, but at least his humans are not the only ones who can fill it.

Brown and white dogs snuggling

So don’t tell me a rescue can’t be trained, and don’t tell me an adult dog can never bond with new owners. I’ve seen the so-called “impossible” happen and if you’re really lucky in life, so will you. Before you skip to “puppy” or “kitten” as default, think about the forever friend who is just waiting for you to walk by. The perfect pet might look like an unlikely choice, but he might just show up in your backyard and make himself at home.

Brown dog wearing a red collar with a tag that says Thor

Usually I write about etiquette, but sometimes I like to write about other things that are important to me, like animal rescue. If you do have an etiquette question, email me at, message me, or drop a note in the comments!

By amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

29 replies on “Consider Animal Rescue”

I support everything in this post, including the profanity-laden yelling.

My dog was a shelter dog, too, though I adopted her as a puppy. I worked at the shelter she came from, so I’ve seen plenty of wonderful animals languish too long there. It’s so sad. When I’m on my own and in a place where I can have animals, I’ll probably get a shelter cat (I have a couple of long days each week which wouldn’t be fair to a dog). I want an adult, actually. I don’t really have time to put into a high-energy kitten.

One of my friends works with cat adoptions/rescues, and she gets so angry at people who come asking for kittens when there are so many sweet older cats needing homes. Both of her cats are rescues and are the sweetest kitties imaginable.

For us, we got our cats when they were fairly young. Pippin came from a shelter and chose us. He was about ten months old when we got him, but he had been with four other families first. He has abandonment issues, but he’s quite the lover and well behaved too! Rosie was only about a month old when we got her–or so the vets thought when we brought her in–and she was born under my sister-in-law’s house to a feral mama cat.

They both get along pretty well, although Rosie tries to steal Pippin’s food once she gobbles hers down, and they are very very affectionate. We love them. :)

I actually find that rescues- shelter or not- tend to be the ones that try harder to bond with their human. But that might just be our luck- We’ve taken in strays, taken in dogs from people who couldn’t maintain for financial or even health reasons, or whose existing dogs hadn’t accepted the dog into their pack , and Ms. Molly was being abused and starved by her former owners before my brother took her off their hands.

Molly is one of the “clingy” dogs out there, but she’s a sweet heart. Oreo (RIP; boxer) was a huge sweetheart who bonded fairly quickly with my parents- and who was a double rescue, as we got him from a family who had rescued him as a starving stray (a drop him off in the country b/c dog got too big thing) but whose existing dogs wouldn’t accept him into the pack. Jack (a chihuahua who was killed by a different neighbor’s dog who wasn’t a rescue) had been rejected by a neighbor’s other two dogs. Sarg (Pit bull-boxer) was my sister’s dog, but she couldn’t afford him because he’s a (loveable) idiot and destroyed the neighbor’s pool, and now lives with our mother and loves it. Sara (a childhood dog, RIP; Lab-retriever mix) was a rescue, and she led me out of the woods after dark once. All were/are wonderful dogs, warm and sweet.

Yay, lets hear it for the oldies! My last cat was a rescue – we knew we wanted an adult cat because we couldn’t guarantee having someone at home all day for a kitten so a sensible cat that would be happy to doze during the day and have lots of company morning and evening was the plan. I didn’t expect to come home with a 14 year old — but she was the loveliest, sweetest tempered little house cat there ever was, and my heart just melted when they said her previous owner had to go into a retirement home where they couldn’t take cats.

We all had six happy years together and I know her last years were happy ones (for all of us) and you can’t really put a price on that. So .. yeah, don’t overlook the older animals.

This is what I go to bed with at night now – she demands a whole mattress to lie on during the day but at night curls up into a little ball.  Sometimes she runs in her sleep too – legs kicking, tail wagging and everything!  She’s a bit lame in real life (combination of age, abuse at her former home and living in the wild for a few months) so I imagine she’s dreaming of being a young, able-bodied puppy, chasing squirrels!

I don’t understand how people can write off old dogs – I’m sure the ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ adage has been debunked but even if it were true – who cares? Why does my old dog need to learn tricks? When I’m old lady I just want a nice place to relax and that’s what all these dogs deserve.

I love big dogs and boyfriend likes small dogs.  I’ve negotiated my way to (an at leas)t 3-year-old, medium-sized lab.  That way, I get a bigger dog, but we’re out of the crazy lab puppy stage that lasts FOREVER.  I also want an older hound.  I don’t know why, but they just make me giggle.  I think it’s because as they get older, their faces get droopy and serious.  I love it!

Moxie is our first shelter dog. We got her just before Christmas last year. She was about a year old, and she had been in 3 homes. In the first home, kids mistreated her, and the 2nd and 3rd owners both took her to the shelter.

Honestly, she was trouble at first. She chewed everything, and she was not completely house trained. We are not great at training dogs, either. But after being in the house for a while, she learned to behave quite a bit better.

She has an amazing array of cartoonish noises, and she loooves to play. She is a world champion snuggler. If you’re sitting down or lying down, she wants to be in your lap or right next to you, as long as she can. She barks at my husband when it’s almost midnight and time for him to go to bed, which I really appreciate, because he never listens to me!

We are just crazy about her. I can’t imagine not having her!

Freya cat was about five when we got her. She came from a friend who needed to rehome her and she settled it with TANK cat pretty quickly. She is the first cat I’ve ever had that likes to be brushed, even if she get so excited about it that she dances around while you try to brush her. Older pets can be awesome.

I got an 8 year old Great Dane on Sunday and I know it’s been less than a week but she’s an absolute dream! Sweet as can be, completely potty trained, doesn’t chew, doesn’t jump up, doesn’t bark all the time.  All she wants is a nice retirement home, where she can have some cuddles and naps.  I get a companion to cuddle and nap with!  It’s a win-win situation!

Both of my dogs are rescues. We got Boy Dog when he was 6 (he’s now 13), and Girl Dog when she was 8 (she’s now 11). They have some, shall we say, issues, but I love them both to pieces, and the thought of either of them having to endure even one minute at the pound (Boy Dog was in twice for a total of a few months, and Girl Dog was in for a little more than a month) breaks my heart.

It makes me so freaking sad that so many adult dogs languish in pounds and shelters. And because I think everyone should have to be crying, too, here’s this:

Also, speaking of animals in shelters being sad, I had a dog that I was in LOVE with, and made my personal mission to get adopted.  His name was Hamlet and he was a black lab that was, admittedly, certifiably insane.  That having been said, if you could get him to stand still for two minutes, he was so sweet.  One day he disappeared off the floor after being there for two months, along with another black lab.  One was sick and one was put down for behavioral issues.  I started to cry, because I just KNEW it had to be Hamlet, but if they had euthanized him, it meant that something had happened where there was quite literally NO WAY they could rehabilitate him.  He showed up again 2 weeks later.  Turned out he had gotten sick and just needed a little time away.  He was adopted by a guy who loved to run the lakeshore for miles a few days later.  They were a perfect match.  :)  Sometimes an animal isn’t languishing at all, he’s just waiting for the right person to come along.

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