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Pets in the City - Adopting a Dog

By Jeni Published: December 3, 2009

The Invisible Force of a Dog

What force drives us to get a dog? Is it the need for companionship? Someone to love us? Something to take care of? The need for a baby (a puppy)? Protection? An unseen urge; an idea that just won’t go away or be settled?

I had a cat. I was never really a “dog” person. I was a “cat” person. Cats can snuggle or leave you alone. They are ok overnight if you go away for a day. They are self sufficient, and creative about getting into and out of trouble. They entertain themselves. Yet they love you. In their way.

A dog… the walks, the whole licking your face thing… they follow you everywhere. Dogs are like the Robert Palmer back-up dancers. You move and they move. You get a drink of water, they get a drink of water. You get ready for bed, they get on your bed. You go to the bathroom and they go to the bathroom. Everybody moves together in “time”. It’s very interesting.

I found a painting of a Golden Retriever at an estate sale. And suddenly the seed of an idea took hold and wouldn’t let go. I didn’t consciously water the seed, but I started looking in the newspaper and scanning online… A Golden is a large dog. I couldn’t picture it in my situation, and yet I couldn’t get rid of the thought. When a woman is trying to get pregnant, every woman she sees seems to be pregnant. Everywhere I looked, I saw people – happy people – walking a Golden Retriever. Goldens are supposed to be the complete family dog. Loyal, beautiful, kind, gentle and fun. I wanted some fun.

I was picking up some cat food when I saw a woman at PetsMart holding a puppy. A tiny, golden, mooshey-faced, little, beautiful baby Golden. The young woman holding this little bit of soft squishy baby said that she was on the highway and the car in front of her slowed down, so she slowed down too. The car in front of her rolled down the window and chucked the baby out onto the highway and then took off. She literally rescued this baby from certain death.

I am so totally over people.

The seed had just sprouted a little green leaf.

I watched the newspaper ads, I visited pet stores watched people and their dogs and decided that what I really wanted to do was adopt a rescued or abandoned dog. If you are looking, check breed specific rescue groups, like GRIN (Golden Retrievers in Need). There is a rescue group for lots and lots of breeds. I had been frequenting the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter on Sweet Valley Road in Independence Ohio for several weeks. They have a great web site with pictures of the dogs. I looked at the posts every day that I didn't visit in person. I didn’t have any intention of actually adopting a dog. I thought I would volunteer and walk dogs at the shelter. (The Sarah McLaughlin “Arms-of-the-Angel” commercial really gets to me – so does the Animal Planet show, Animal Cops – I was thinking “volunteer, volunteer”.) It wouldn't hurt to visit the shelter, right?

Routine: Sign in, walk in, hear the dogs go nuts barking, walk up and down the aisle with each dog looking at me with deep, expressive eyes as if I might be the one who saves them from the symphony of howls from the adjoining cells. I would look at a dog, offer a knuckle at the kennel door, make a connection with one, take it to a side room, do a little brushing, combing, play a little, give a snack… the dog would go back. I would leave and talk to myself all the way home. Are you NUTS? A DOG? And yet, twice a week, I would make the trek to Independence and visit again. Follow the routine. Still just a sprout and a little green leaf.


1: Decide if you want a puppy or an adult dog.

2: Decide if you want to rescue a dog or purchase from a breeder.

3: Watch out for puppy mills. Read about them online, get references and think about it before supporting a puppy mill type of purchase.

4: Check the local shelters for adoptable animals. With the current economy, many people are forced to give up quality, pure bred animals that they can no longer support. The officer at the animal shelter told me that if you wait, every breed will come through their doors.

5: Spend time with the dog before you think you would like to take it home.

6: Look online and really think about the breed you think will fit.  There is a lot to consider. Good with children? High activity? Lap buddy? No shedding? Low maintenance? Lots of grooming? No grooming? Temperment? If you want a Golden Retriever, look online and read all about it.

7. Be thoughtful. Watch Animal Planet Dogs 101. If you want a dog that will run miles with you, search for active dogs. Protection? Companionship? Therapy dog? Little dog? Big dog? Designer dog? Manly dog? Soon you will be narrowing down what fits you and your household best. It's a big decision and a lifetime committment for you and your dog. Be ready for unconditional love!

(next post...Finding MY Dog)

Jeni Cox; Dog owner, "Mom" to Sandy, (medical office therapy cat), Horse owner; Works with Sit Means Sit Dog Training. Watch our amazing videos at !

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