Our Dog Adoption Journey
The past few years have been a catalyst for change in almost everyone’s life, ours included. What that looked like for Paul and I was to change our focus from the fun in our twenties to the responsibilities of our thirties. Ideally, we would’ve loved to have started with establishing ourselves in a home of our own, but we’re still laughing at the joke they call the housing market, and we had to switch gears. For most people, that means expanding the family – and in our case, that means providing a home for a dog. We’ve been together for a long time, and have fantasized about the kind of dog we’d like to call ours. Growing up with labs and retrievers, we always thought that we’d bring home a puppy and show them the ropes from a ripe young age. Since we rent a townhome, we were dealing with a set of restrictions that made the task of bringing a dog home a little trickier and it definitely meant that we’d be looking at adoption. Here’s what we were working with:
The dog had to be at least one year old
In our particular unit, we could have two dogs that weigh up to 100 pounds, so we had to keep our weight limit to 50(ish)lbs
There were at least a dozen breed restrictions that we were up against, including shepherds, huskies, many terriers, and a few more. If you’ve ever perused a pet adoption site, you’ll see that the majority of the medium to larger breeds are at least a mix of one of those so it ruled out quite a few candidates. **For the record, I’d just like to say that I totally disagree with the conceptions behind a lot of these breeds – it’s 100% on the owner, not the poor sweet baby doggo. Behaviors are learned, don’t at me.
With all of this, and our desire for a lab/retriever-like dog, in mind, we started hunting. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know what we were getting into. I stuck to websites like petfinder.com and adoptapet.com – this gave me a lot of search filtering options and I was able to view multiple rescues adoptable pets all in one place. Ultimately, we found our Indie girl through the Adopt A Pet website, but I’ll get to that. We focused mainly within a 250 mile radius of where we live – that covered all of Wisconsin and a few more Midwest states to the south of us, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t extend my search nationwide a few times because I so badly wanted to find our forever friend. We did want to make sure that wherever we found a candidate, we’d be able to transport them easily since such a big change is scary enough for these animals. I was extremely diligent in searching, checking the websites several times a day for any newcomers that sounded like they’d be a good fit for us, and that fit into our community’s criteria.
What I didn’t realize was how differently each rescue organization operates. Each application process was different, and it felt like each one we filled out got more and more rigorous. They were very detailed, some asking us how we’d discipline the dog in certain scenarios, what a day in the life of the dog would look like, the vaccination schedule we planned on following – you truly had to put yourself in the shoes of, “this dog is mine”, while you were filling them out. I feel my emotions very intensely, so this part of the process was pretty grueling for me. Once our applications were submitted for a dog, each rescue proceeded differently and it felt like we were constantly on our toes.
That being said, the most important piece of advice I can give is to be sure what the rescue's process is before you apply. If you have a preference, narrow your search to organizations that follow the process you'd prefer.
There are places that allow you to submit applications for a specific dog and they'll hold that pet until you're able to meet them.
There are places that allow you to submit a general application for approval, and once you see a pet that looks like a good fit, you can meet them and take them home (that was the case with Homeward Bound Rescue Animal Welfare Group, where we got Indie).
And there are places that allow you to submit general applications, but their pets are first come first serve. We ran into this a few times and got beat out every time, which was very frustrating.
One thing that helped me get over the amount of applications and fees that we submitted was that each application fee does go towards the welfare and care of the animals at each rescue, so at least our attempts were benefitting someone.
The first application we submitted was beat out by someone who submitted theirs minutes before us.
We had two organizations decline our applications because the dogs weren’t ready to be rehomed quite yet or we needed a fenced in yard.
Twice, we had applications in and approved and had planned to go visit the dog, but the organizations were first come first serve and other families were able to get there before us.
This market was almost more competitive than housing. It was heartbreaking. It was gut wrenching. And it was all for a reason.
The sixth application we had placed was at a rescue in South Bend, Indiana. This was one of the cases where the dog was listed, but still not quite ready to be rehomed. When they turned us down, they reminded us that they list new dogs regularly and that we’re already approved so if we see someone that’d be a good fit to give them a call. I was pessimistic at this point, thinking to myself, “yeah sure I’ll get right on that” with some sassy expletives to follow – but the next morning something made me check their site again…and there she was. Our Indie girl.
The rescue gave her the name Smile A Mile, and we could see why. This happy little purebred English Cream Golden retriever had just turned one on Valentine’s Day, clocked in at 51lbs, and had been surrendered to the rescue because of the death of her family member and she could no longer be cared for. As soon as I mopped up the puddle my heart melted into, I left a voicemail trying to play it cool, but definitely dibbsing this beautiful baby. A few hours and details worked out with the rescue later, we had plans to go meet her a day later and if all went well, bring her to her new home. I’m sure you can imagine we hit it off immediately and there was no turning back once we saw this little angel trotting out to greet us. Smile a Mile didn’t really roll off the tongue, so we decided to change it – for the state we found her in, and for Harrison Ford and Sean Connery…we named the dog Indiana.
We honestly felt like we had finally hit the dog lottery after months of searching. The wait was SUCH a roller coaster, but we are so thankful that we put in as much effort into our search as we did because it certainly ended up paying off. Adopting a slightly older puppy has actually been perfect for us because she was already house trained, is a great leash walker, and is so polite while we eat meals. That’s definitely something we would’ve had to dedicate a ton of our time to, and instead we can focus on the snuggles, play time, and more advanced training. We may have dreamed about raising a dog from the puppy stages for over a decade, but I’m here to tell you that there are so many pets out there that are smart, trained, and ready to love you for the rest of their life if you’re willing to look a little bit. We had an idea of what we thought we wanted, and in my opinion, ended up so much better off.
Pets aren’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a furry friend to bring home, I can’t recommend adoption enough – just make sure you’re up front with yourself about what kind of relationship you’re looking for and have patience and faith that they’ll find you! It’s been about 4 months since we’ve had Indie as a part of our family and we’re learning so much right along with her, but we can’t say enough how much this pup has lit up our lives and changed them for the better. She was very much worth the wait. If you're interested in following along on her adventures, find alllllll the photos and videos of her on Instagram, @indieszone!
Happy International Dog Day to all the dogs, dog owners, and fans of dogs out there!