What to Expect When Rescuing a Dog

Written on August 13, 2018 by Christine Olesen Hospital: Bulger Veterinary Hospital

Anyone who knows me well, knows that rescuing animals is very important to me. At a young age, my parents instilled in me how important rescuing is and all its benefits.

A lot has changed since I was a kid though- we used to show up at a shelter and go home with a dog the same day, no questions asked. Nowadays there is a more lengthy process to adopt, but for good reason. I recently adopted a Chiweenie puppy and wanted to share what I learned about the adoption process so others may know what to expect, and not be discouraged!

So how does one start looking for a rescue dog?

My go-to has been websites such as Petfinder.com, though I also like a lot of pet pages on Facebook which have led me to other rescue pages. Petfinder is great because it allows you to search for specific characteristics like breed, size, coat length, age, and even if they are good with kids or cats. Petfinder also allows you to search for dogs in your area, so you can find your perfect match just a few miles from your house. Some people believe that rescues only have mutts- but that is not true at all! There are many breed-specific rescues and shelters get purebreds all the time.

Be sure to do your research and find the breed that’s right for your lifestyle, not the cutest or most trendy one. A Husky Mix will likely have many characteristics of a Husky, so even though he’s cute and fluffy be prepared for all the energy, destructiveness, and intelligence that goes with that sweet face.


I found one, now what?

If you see a dog that you’d like toIMG_4282 adopt, the first step would be to fill out an application for him/her. Every rescue varies; some applications are lengthy and demanding, and some not so much. They may ask you how long your dog will be left alone during your work week, what you will do with him/her when you’re at work, how many people are in your household, and if you own/have owned any other pets.

Along with the initial application they may want personal and vet references who they will call or email with questions about you. They may ask them how long they have known you, are you good with animals, have you kept your previous animals up-to-date on shots and tests, and would they trust you to care for their pets.

They have to come to my house?

During or after your reference check, most rescues now do home visits and will have one of their volunteers reach out and schedule a time to come by your house. But don’t stress – they aren’t coming for a white glove test! They just want to see if you have a home that is fit for the dog you’re looking to adopt.

They are also very interested in your backyard space, how big it is and if it’s fenced-in or not. If you don’t have a yard or you live in an apartment, they will want to know how you plan to exercise your dog. After looking around, they may go over a few questions about your choice in dog and why you’d be a great pet parent.

Although some people seem to think this step in the adoption process is a bit much- I do think it’s very important. It’s their responsibility to make sure the dog is going into the perfect home with enough space and a committed family and won’t be returned to the rescue.

Am I good to go now?

After everything is completed, the rescue will let you know if you’ve been approved to adopt! Sometimes you are able to meet the dog you’re interested in before you take them home. During this visit, they encourage everyone that lives in the home, including your other fur babies, to meet and greet the newest member of the family.

But there are times when you don’t get to meet the pup until adoption day, which is becoming increasingly common. Dog who come from the south often don’t get to come up north until they’re spoken for. I didn’t get to meet two of my rescue dogs until the day we took them home! Yes, it can be a little scary, I did question myself a bit. Is their adoption profile too good to be true? Am I making the right choice? I have found with my experience rescues are very truthful when it comes to adoption profiles because they are truly trying to find the best home for the dog. You will also usually be able to speak directly with their foster home down south who can send you pictures, videos, and up-to-date behavioral information about your soon-to-be-pup.

What happens on adoption day?

Since both of my rescue dogs came fromIMG_4272 out of state they had to be quarantined for two days per Massachusetts Animal Health Emergency order I-AHO-05. Nothing to worry about, it’s all for the dogs’ health and safety and once the period is up and they are cleared by a veterinarian, you are able to pick them up! When you arrive, the rescue will go over all the paperwork and answer any questions you have.

Welcome home! Now what?

If you got your dog without meeting other furry members of the family first, try to have them meet in a neutral setting. I did this so my other pets don’t feel scared or threatened. With cats, be sure to separate them for a period of time and get them used to each other’s smells before meeting face-to-face.

Rescue dogs have usually taken a longIMG_4252 journey and have endured so many changes within a short period of time, so they might be a little nervous or may not have much of an appetite. Some dogs may adjust quickly but for others it may take a little long which is okay! They will warm up and soon enough, you will see their true personality shine through. So don’t panic if they are totally freaked out or acting up, give it time!

Although rescuing can be a lengthy process, it’s completely worth it. You are saving a life and giving them a loving home that they deserve. They will forever be grateful to have a warm bed and a bowl of food every night, and know that you have truly become the hero in the eyes of your new pup. Every moment you have to wait for your new dog to come home is worth it in the end. Be patient and have fun!



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