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organizations (finding the right dog for you, part 1)
Our guests, Don Richardson and Nancy Campanile are volunteers with
Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue Inc (also known conversationally
as Bay Area Lab Rescue). Their terrific website
is worth checking out-- it has photos of the dogs available, links to
animal shelters around the Bay Area and beyond, and info about their
Some organizations are breed-specific (ie, they work to find homes
for one specific breed of dog). Others specialize in small dogs, or
large dogs, etc, but don't care if the dog is a particular breed or
not. Neither is better than the other-- they are each important, and
in order to handle the huge volume of dogs who are homeless each group
must place some parameters around their focus.
How to find a rescue group for the breed you're interested in:
- Call the Peninsula Humane Society / SPCA and ask them if they have
a referral phone number to the "breed rescue contacts for _____(insert
the breed of your choice here)____". They keep a notebook of
such numbers, and are very happy to provide them. Rescue organizations
usually work in close cooperation with animal shelters-- they are
all working for the safe and happy placement of dogs in permanent,
loving and responsible homes. Keep in mind that the good folks at
PHS/SPCA probably won't be able to answer your questions about the
rescue people other than to give you their phone number-- so call
for the number, and then contact the rescue folks directly to learn
about their adoption application process, etc. PHS/SPCA can be reached
- Do a search on the internet-- if you were looking for the Akita
rescue people in the Bay Area, you might try words like "Bay
Area Akita Rescue" or "Golden Gate Akita".
- Contact the American Kennel Club and get the contact info for the
local club of breeders for whichever breed you are interested in.
Most decent breed clubs have an effort devoted to rescuing members
of their breed who find themselves homeless.
What to keep in mind as you work with rescue groups:
- These people are volunteers who are doing the best they can, so
be patient and gently persistent.
- Rescue volunteers constantly have to manage their own feelings of
disappointment, frustration and anger at people who abandon their
dogs, abuse them, or cast them off at the first sign of inconvenience.
They have seen the worst side of people,and sometimes they can seem
a bit jaded. So don't be the slightest bit put off when they give
the tenth degree, asking you many questions about your lifestyle,
your history with dog ownership, and even about your financial situation.
They have a right to know because they are in charge of making sure
the dog goes to a loving, permanent and responsible home. A "forever"
- Don't take an "I'm the customer" attitude. Adopting animals
is a life and death situation for the animal, and the rescue people
have the animal's best interest in mind as their top priority. God
bless them. So be willing to put up with whatever process they request.
- Realize that they don't keep a "regular inventory" of
dogs-- so they may have no idea what dogs will be available a week
from now. If you're interested in a dog from them, go ahead and start
the application process and be prepared to possibly wait a while before
meeting adoptable dogs. Rescue groups love to have well qualified
potential homes in the wings so when they do get a dog in, they can
get it adopted out to a great "forever" home as quickly
- Rescue groups incur costs fostering dogs, taking care of certain
medical issues, etc. Expect an adoption fee, and be generous-- throw
in a donation of top of it, please. Your generosity may well make
the difference between the next dog who comes in with a medical condition
being rescued versus being euthanized due to lack of funds for medical
- Sometimes there are multiple rescue groups serving one kind of breed
or mix. They usually don't have the infrastructure to work closely
together-- so you may want to contact the different groups, and start
the process with each of them, and do let them know that you've contacted
their counterparts. Put multiple irons in the fire.
- It is extremely rare for rescue groups to get young puppies (8-30
weeks) in their program. They usually deal with adult dogs who are
8 months or older. This is because the common and tragic pattern is
for people to buy a puppy and not realize what they're getting in
to. The puppy is not trained and supervised adequately, and as soon
as it becomes physically full grown (at about 9 months or so) it may
now be a 60 pound out-of-control dog who is stuck in the back yard
all day. The owners often dump the dog. These dogs are trainable,
and have been neglected. Don't ever look for a dog you won't have
to train-- every dog deserves an owner who is willing to get themselves
educated about how to humanely and effectively train their dog.
Sometimes the dog has not been neglected, and had to be surrendured
due to life circumstances beyond anyone's control. A dear friend of
mine had to give up her beautiful yellow lab when her own battle with
cancer made it too difficult to care for the dog. She was very sick
from the cancer treatments and it broke her heart to give the dog
up, but it provided some relief from the worry and guilt she felt
in not being able to care for him anymore. (I personally fostered
him and he now lives with a wonderful family in Ross).
The point is that rescue groups should not be viewed a cheap source
of purebred puppies. Expect an adult dog and plan to have to train
it. You won't be sorry.
- While most rescue groups offer a return policy for the first 2 weeks
or so if you decide despite all due diligence upfront that the dog
is not in fact a good match, please realize that dogs take a good
month or so to settle into a new home. Expect some bumps in the road,
and be willing to work with them. Transitioning to a new home is extremely
stressful to a dog, so ask your rescue volunteers for advice in making
it easier. Read the book, "Second Hand Dog" by Carol Lea
Benjiman for a good perspective. Go slowly at first, expect to have
to supervise a LOT for the first 2 weeks, and set your dog up for
success. You can relax the supervision level after the first month
- If you have kids, don't involve your kids in the selection process
until you have found a dog that you are 99% sure you want to adopt.
Meet it and spend time with it without your kids. Don't let them influence
your decisions at this stage. Once you found a great dog for you,
go back again with the kids and make sure they all get along. Your
kids will be thrilled with any dog you bring home, and they don't
have the perspective you have that's needed in doing the initial screening.
They may get attached to a dog that isn't a great match for your family,
and you'll be dealing with their pressure to adopt the wrong dog.
You're in charge here, you choose the dog, and introduce it to your
- The adults in the family should always expect to bear 100% of the
responsibility for walking, feeding, and grooming the dog. Do not
get a dog with the intention of expecting your kids to pitch in. You
will teach them responsibility and compassion by the example you set.
If you do assign dog-related chores to the kids, do not ever consider
using "keeping the dog" as the consequence for performing
chores. Don't be one of those parents who says "If we get a dog
it will have to be your responsibility." You can remove TV priviledges,
remove allowance, remove anything BUT the dog. And don't make caring
for the dog a point of contention in your family-- if you aren't prepared
to take it on yourself, don't take on a dog. At this age, teaching
the kids to care for the dog on an invitation basis is more effective--
inviting them to lovingly brush the dog while watching TV, for example.
Set an impecible example for your kids about picking up dog poop--
and teach them that it's important to do that out in public if you
are ever not there with them when your dog leaves a mess.