As I communicate with more and more members of the public, I am struck by the variety of individuals who contact us about meeting our sweet Georgia peach. Adopting a new family member can be such an exciting time, and we are so thankful for the many people who are considering her as the perfect addition. I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss not just the facts behind the adoption process, but also the perspective I hold as the foster.
The first step to adopting a dog from LCPO, is to fill out an adoption application. This is pretty standard stuff. The application includes questions about your family members (both two and four-legged!) as well as your daily routine (ie: how often will your pup be left alone?). It will request information about your living arrangements, such as whether you have access to a fenced-in yard, and whether you own your home or are renting from an agreeable landlord. The rescue will also want the contact information of your veterinary clinic, and a few other references. Please understand, these references will be contacted.
Once your application has been approved, the next step is typically to set up a home visit. This home visit simply serves to confirm that what you have listed on your application was honest and genuine. Trust me, as a foster, I was nervous for my home visit, even though I knew I had nothing to hide. I have told a few of our interested applicants that it is not much more than assurance that you are not a drug addict or an animal hoarder! However, it is the rescue’s first impression of you as an adopter, so it is important to put your best foot forward. They will want to meet any resident pets, as well.
The third step is, of course, to meet the prospective pooch and foster family! This is often called a meet-and-greet. It is about meeting the dog you have probably already fallen in love with, through pictures and stories, and assuring that it is a match made in heaven. Remember, for some rescue dogs, their first impression may not be the most realistic. In Georgia’s case, she often seems excitable when meeting new people, because new people are her FAVORITE! But through what you have read about her up to this point, you know that in the home, she is about as low-energy as it gets. It is important to remember that while the foster families have probably been working very hard to improve their temporary pup’s social skills, you should not expect an ‘insta-pet’. If you are applying to adopt this pup, it is important that you be committed to slowly assisting the dog in a proper integration into your family, and all of the additional training that may require.
The other part of the meet-and-greet, is for the dog to meet any resident pets. In Georgia’s case, I am pretty confident that she will do well with cats, but other dogs will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. What should a family’s expectations be for these introductions? With some dogs, particularly puppies and youngsters, it is absolutely realistic to expect play-time to ensue! This also may be realistic with dogs that have been well-socialized from a young age. However, with dogs like Georgia, that may not have always been properly socialized, a meet-and-greet should start slowly, similarly to the process we outlined on dog integration. If, by the end of the intros, the dogs are able to walk happily beside one another while leashed, with positive body language, then the meeting was successful! The two-week de-stress will take care of the rest (more on that later).
If the stars have all aligned up to this point, you and the rescue may decide that the pup is a perfect match for your family! In our rescue group, the adoption fee is $200. This may seem like a lot to the amateur owner, but those of us who are seasoned pet owners understand that this is truly a bargain! Georgia’s medical bills included all of her updated vaccinations, as well as her spay, heartworm treatment and monthly medication, medications for her skin allergy, and even the costs associated with all of her puppies! Whew! I can guarantee that this cost our rescue many times the $200 adoption fee. In addition to that, as her foster family, we have provided her with many toys, blankets, enrichment, and of course, her food. We have also donated the funds for her behavior and obedience training. If you truly analyze the costs and benefits, you are getting a true bargain! In Georgia’s case, she will also go to her new home with a Freedom No-Pull harness and leash (lifetime warranty!), cupcake martingale collar, medicated shampoo, her crate bed, special blanket, winter coat, and some of her favorite toys. While the adoption fee may not come close to covering the investments of the rescue or foster family, it does serve a few additional purposes. First of all, it prevents someone with less-than-honorable intentions from easily adopting a pup. Additionally, it suggests that the family is in a position to financially provide for the dog’s medical needs in the future
Finally, arrangements will be made for the dog to go home with you! Please understand what an emotional process this will probably be for your foster. They have loved and nurtured your family member for anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more! They have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with the dog. They have probably dealt with behavior issues, home destruction, medical problems, and doggie integration. They have also experienced late-night couch cuddles, outdoor adventures, and training breakthroughs. This dog has their heart as much as it might have yours, and they are trusting you with something they care deeply about. Respect their sacrifice, and see it as a show of trust!
While the dog coming home may seem like the light at the end of the tunnel, be aware that this is where your hard work truly begins. LCPO, and most other reputable rescues, requires that new adopters integrate the new dog by utilizing the two-week de-stress process that we outlined in last week’s posts (here and then part II here). You have made a commitment to loving and protecting this dog, and so that means that you are also committed to his or her training and integration.
I want to keep this post positive, but I do have to touch on a few surprises I have learned as new people contact me. The vast majority of interested families have been kind and compassionate and all-around wonderful! However, we have been surprised by a few responses. We had one person complain that we hadn’t moved quickly enough, when three days after they sent their application to LCPO, they hadn’t yet been contacted for a home visit or meet-and-greet. Remember, our rescue is very thorough in checking references. This is a marathon, not a sprint! The process exists to protect the dogs, which should be everyone’s first priority. Secondly, there have been a few individuals who have insinuated that they are doing us a favor by expressing interest in our sweet Georgia girl. We need to get one thing straight with that. While we are endlessly greatful to anyone that chooses to adopt a needy pup, we are not interested in pawning her off on the first person that comes along. This is not about ‘first-come, first-served,’ but about making the best match for everyone involved. Along those lines, our rescue will always accept multiple applications on a dog. It is clear that only 1 out of about every 10 applications that they receive, will actually result in a successful adoption. If you look at bringing Georgia into your home, as a favor to us, or as a right because you are the first applicant, you are probably in the wrong place. The foster and adoptive families should approach this as a team, both looking for the ideal end result; a wonderful forever home for the pup, and a special new family member for the adopter. You should be willing to make an effort to achieve this goal. Remember, the rescue probably has any number of available dogs, and therefore many emails to answer, applications to review, and adoptions to process. You are not their only ‘customer’! Please be patient, and appreciative of the process they are trying to uphold. Of course, the foster family and rescue want to make you happy, but you should also be making an effort to show them why you are worthy of this dog, in whom they have invested so much of their hearts and effort. You should show them why you would be a great fit, how much you want to make the dog a part of your family, and how much effort you are willing to put into the process.
While there are many reasons to consider adoption in place of purchasing a dog from a breeder, one benefit our rescue offers is continued assistance to adopters. LCPO is always available to help with any issues you might face with your dog, from financial issues to housing situations, as well as any behavior problems that may develop, and training. They can even help with trouble-shooting medical problems and make recommendations for veterinary assistance. Finally, LCPO requires that if at any point, the dog is no longer able to remain in your capable care, he or she be returned to the rescue organization. Of course, as the foster family, I will always want to remain in contact with the adopters, and am willing to go to any lengths to help make sure the dog becomes a successful part of the family.
If you are interested in adding a new family member to your household, I highly recommend that you check out this post, written by my friend Morgan at Temporary Home, Permanent Love. She talks about the fact that while indiscriminate breeding is a problem facing the world of companion animals, the bigger problem facing this industry, and the world as a whole, is a lack of commitment upheld. While we welcome any interest in our sweet girl, please be sure that you are ready to commit to her for the rest of her life. She deserves nothing less than the best!