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10 Pet Adoption Points No One Ever Mentions

Article by Dr. Jeanne Pickard

Deciding to adopt a new pet is always a very exciting decision and definitely a life-changing event. But it can also be a very emotionally challenging journey - no matter how much you would like to, you just cannot take all the cute fur babies home.

And unfortunately, to make this big, exciting, life-changing event happen, there is quite a lot of effort on your behalf and it’s not always very glamorous.

BE MENTALLY PREPARED

To start off with: most welfare organisations are situated in very low income, poverty-stricken locations in South Africa. And visiting them can also be quite stressful and overwhelming, especially with so many dogs incessantly barking in small cramped spaces. Money is always short and the staff at the welfare can often be brisk, overworked and underpaid. They deal with a lot of really sad cases of abuse and neglect and are generally trying to deal with too many things at once. This means that you might not be their primary focus on the day that you visit. The whole idea behind saving a little life can be completely overshadowed by a very sad and stressful situation.

For these exact reasons I have often heard people say that they just cannot face going to an animal welfare organisation, as it is just too sad. And I agree, it is very sad. But focus on the positive and the reason that you’re there: it’s not to be treated like a hero but rather to be a hero. Realise that every small good deed adds up and makes a big difference to the world we live in. And that one small, good deed will give some small adorable soul a new lease on life, a new home and a forever-friend.

Knowing that a welfare organisation can be a very sad depressing place before you go there can help you mentally prepare better, rather than just be overwhelmed.

WHEN CHOOSING YOUR PET:

(Remember what you’re about to embark on is a lifetime commitment)

1. Don’t expect to be treated like you are special when arriving at a welfare, just because you are adopting a pet. The staff at welfare are very busy and deal with a lot of people every day. Remember that often they are animal-people, not people-people. And most of their emotional output is probably already spent on the animals, as they see a lot of sadness and neglect. And believe me, this is emotionally draining.

2. Get the animal that suits your family, not the dog the welfare wants you to take. Staff members will often have their favourite animals and will obviously want them to be adopted first. But this animal might not be right for your family. Choose what suits you as this is a lifelong commitment and no one wants an adoption failure.

3.
Try to stay clear of the sickly animals. This might seem harsh but people often get attracted to them because they think no one else will adopt them or because they are just different. This is not how your decision process should go. You really need to take the animal that suits your family. Sickly animals can be very costly and emotionally draining. Not only do you need to have the finances to bear this burden but the emotional strength too.

4. Don't expect them to be perfect from day one. Their true colours only shine through in a minimum of three months. Remember they have come from a stressful environment and need time to adjust.

5. Most people have thoughts of regret and think things like, "Oh my goodness what have I done, this was a mistake" when the going gets tough. Especially in the early days. Remember some rescue dogs have never even had dog food, never mind a home or a kennel or love. They need time and patience.

6. If your perfect fur family member isn’t jumping out at you don’t feel obliged to take any old one, the right one is out there. Take your time and get the right pet.

7. Be prepared for accidents in the house. Many of these animals are unsure and nervous. Most often they have never even been indoors. Give them time to adjust. A poo or wee indoors may happen a few times, but this definitely doesn’t mean it will last forever. They just need time to learn what you want, and what is right and wrong.

8. They won't necessarily be socialised and like all other dogs. Rescue dogs might have had to fend for themselves and fight for food. Other dogs may be a threat to them. This becomes even truer when they are used to and love their new human. They might not want to share you. Be patient and get help. All dogs benefit from dog training and there are brilliant teachers out there.

9. They might be scared as everything they are used to has changed. Don't mollycoddle rescue dogs but be kind and understanding. Teach them what you expect from them and how to be confident. And again if you are struggling, get professional help.

10. And lastly, on a sad note, not all adoptions are successful. If you have adopted a pet and the situation is really not working out, rather than you and the pet suffer, be proactive and take the pet back to the welfare. Adoption failures do happen for various reasons. There may be a better-suited home for that animal out there, just not with you. Please remember that just because one adoption did not work out it doesn't mean all rescue animals won't work out. Every animal is unique, special and different. There are always options.

Adopting an animal is a very special event that should bring you joy and happiness. It should never be something you regret. There are so many lovely pets with such varied personalities out there. And your perfect fur baby is there, you just need to find them!

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