A Sheltered Life – How to Choose a Great Shelter Dog

By Susan Claire, CPDT-KA

I'm just an average middle-aged guy. I have a non-descript tannish brown coat, I'm carrying a few extra pounds, and going a little prematurely gray around the muzzle. I've lived here at the shelter for the past two weeks. It's not so bad, the food is decent and the people are pretty nice. I know it's only temporary until some nice family sees my inner beauty and decides to take me home to live with them. I really can't wait to be in a family again, my last one was great. Too bad when they moved they thought it was best for me to come here and find a new family. I really miss them.

Here comes a young family now. The little boy looks like he would be a fun playmate. Hey, pick me, I love to fetch and I'll drop the ball right at your feet! Looks like his Mom & Dad are expecting another addition. Maybe they're trying to find a companion for Junior so he doesn't notice all the attention they'll be paying to the new baby. I can keep him company and look after him while they dote on the new one. And since I'm 5 years old, I'm really very little trouble- I'm past all that crazy puppy stuff. I'm not trying to prove anything, I just want to be a good dog in a warm, safe home. Oh, no, they just walked right past my kennel to look at the litter of puppies. Mom sure has a lot on her hands with Junior and the baby-to-come. I bet she's not going to want to potty train a puppy. Does she realize all the bending down and late night walks she'll be doing with a pup that young? In a few months, right around the time that baby comes, those cute little Labrador puppies will be big, rambunctious adolescents. I hope the family can make the time to socialize and exercise the puppy. Speaking of exercise, a Labrador Retriever pup is going to be taking them for a walk. I hope they have sensible shoes and strong shoulders. Now they're asking to see the puppies in the consultation room. Those puppies sure are cute. One of them will probably wiggle their way right into their hearts.

I think I'll just take a little nap here in my cage. Someone is sure to come by soon to see me… Oh, wait, I see the family is outside the room and discussing something in earnest. Little Junior is crying- one of the puppies knocked him down! Those youngsters are so full of themselves, they never think of how delicate the young humans are. I hope he isn't hurt. Dad's wiping his eyes and bending down to talk to him. Mom is shaking her head no, and now the adoption coordinator is returning the puppies to their cage. They're coming back through for a second look! Here's my chance to make a big impression. I'm going to give them all the signals that I'm a good choice. I'm running to the front of my kennel to greet them, my whole body is wagging, I'm so happy. Dad's noticing me, and I'm making eye contact with him. My mouth is open in a big happy grin. If they can't tell that I'm a friendly sociable boy after that display- then they don't know doggy body language! I'm so happy to see them, I want to jump up, but I'm going to sit instead to impress them! Junior is laughing and trying to pet me through the cage. I licked his fingers and he giggled some more. I think he likes me. I'm sitting real nice and polite and Mom just said to Dad that I seem like a nice calm dog. Yay!
Oh, no they're moving on to the next kennel. They're passing Chloe, the schnauzer's cage now. She's barking and leaping four feet into the air over and over again. Don't pick that one- she'll need a lot of training. Good they kept going. Now they're in front of Toby's cage. Poor Toby, he's scared of everything. They're all trying to coax him, but he's hiding in the back and won't come to the front to meet them. Toby is really scared of people and if he's cornered he might snap to let them know. He just wouldn't be the kind of playmate that kids need. I hope they don't pick Toby. They just stopped in front of Mia the Weimaraner. She sure is pretty. Her last owner ran marathons and took her on morning jogs. I really can't see this family doing that. I think Mia would be bored if she didn't get her daily workout and that can mean trouble for the humans. Little Paco the Chihuahua is trying to figure out if he wants to say hi to Junior or not. Uh, oh, Junior rushed at the cage and Paco growled at him. Those little dogs really get shaken up by kids moving fast, I don't think Paco and Junior would be a good match.

Mom and Dad are talking to the staff again and pointing this way. Here comes the adoption coordinator. He's opening my cage with the key and I'm going to the room to meet my potential new family. Here's my big chance. As I walk into the room, Mom says, "Hi Max. Are you a good boy?" I'm wagging my tail as hard as I can, and curving my body toward them. I look up into her eyes and sit for her to pet me. "Wow, he's a nice dog," she says. Dad adds, "He's not the most beautiful dog in the place, but…." And just as he does, I go over to Junior and put my head in his lap. As he pets me I quietly lick his hand. "He likes me, Dad. I want this one." I think they can finally see that I am the perfect dog for their family.