I grew up in the country. We always had stray animals wandering through our yard, using it as a shortcut to the lake or hiding out under the deck for warmth. My dad would find food and water bowls that I had not so inconspicuously hidden for the nearby barn cats. My first real childhood rebellion was feeding strays after he announced "If they think they're getting food here they'll never leave!" to which I'd mutter under my breath, "okay, sounds great."
We had purebred Golden Retrievers, usually two at a time. I always knew I would adopt rather than being put on a wait-list for a dog that was born just for me to buy. I guess those Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials really affected me as a child (and maybe they still do).
The Broads and I are big proponents of pet adoption. Tony and I have two rescued dogs: Bowie (1½) is a Cattle Dog/Lab mix, and Charlie (7) is a Pointer mix. Carly and Corbin have Vita (7), a German Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix, and Duke (3), who is a German Shepherd/Doberman Pinscher mix.
Here's a little bit more about our four:
Carly and Corbin's Dog Vita:
She came from a farm near Buffalo, MN where an irresponsible owner was allowing dogs to mate without consideration. With nearly a dozen dogs on his property, he began shooting the dogs. A woman fostering for Gemini Rescue heard this was happening and took all the dogs that were left, including a litter of 5 shepherd, lab, and cattle dog mixes. The pups all had Parvovirus, a deadly and contagious disease that attacks growing tissue and spreads in unsanitary environments. Vita was most likely the runt of the litter and was not responding to treatment like her siblings. She was on intravenous fluids for nearly two weeks before barely pulling through, stunting her growth even more. She was adopted at 4 months, shortly after being stuck in a cage at the vet. She was scared of everything for nearly two months, especially fast moving objects and loud noises, flinching at anything that came at her quickly or unexpectedly. She was and still is a highly anxious dog. She destroyed couches, clothes, toys, and is extremely fearful of being confined in small spaces.
Now, nearly 7 years later she has become a wonderful companion. She learned basic training commands with one try, grows more and more affectionate as she ages and is an incredibly fast and agile dog; once scaling an 8 foot wall on a whim.
Carly and Corbin's Dog Duke:
He was found wandering the streets of east St. Paul by Animal Control and was held for the maximum 7 days before being put on the euthanize list. Rescue Pets are Wonderful saved him just in time and we adopted him at five-months-old. After a successful introduction with Vita, we brought Duke home shortly after. It was evident that he had been on the street for sometime as he desperately searched for scraps on the ground. He attempted several escapes only to go hide in a corner, growling and baring his teeth to anyone who came near, leading Carly to believe he was likely abused and either escaped, fled the abuse, or was simply let go.
After working with him for months on trust, with lots of positive reinforcement, he has become the biggest cuddler. He's still fearful of strangers and prone to scavenging. And Vita is attached to him like glue.
Talia and Tony's Dog Charlie (Charlotte):
Her backstory is a little vague; she was found as a stray in Atlanta and shipped to Minnesota to avoid being euthanized. I found her at a Homeward Bound adoption event when she was about two-yeas-old. She had stitches in her ear and stomach from being picked on at the foster home where she was kept with several other dogs.
She is scared of pretty much everything: the bathroom fan, the plastic wrap on a wedge of cheese, a misplaced stool in the kitchen. She avoids going outside as much as possible because of wind noise and the chance that a tree might drop some leaves on her. She’s afraid of men, barks at police cars and is terrified of people wearing hoods. She sleeps with a blanket on top of her head every night and would prefer to be touching me at all times.
Talia and Tony's Dog Bowie:
He was a stray from Birmingham, Alabama who, along with his brother and sister, had mange and two different colored eyes. A great organization called Secondhand Hounds rescued him from a high-kill shelter and brought him up to Minnesota. He was terrified of people and nobody wanted him because of his then-patchy fur, "ugliness," and his reluctance to be around humans, so he spent a good while in foster care and doing the adoption circuit, even though his foster mom could not stress enough that he was the nicest little dog ever. He was terrified of us and didn't want to come close, spending most of his first days after adoption sleeping.
Bowie took to training pretty well, though he does still love to belt out a good howl when a stranger walks by. His perfect day would be spent running in circles around the yard or chasing squirrels. He bounces when we get home from work and climbs on top of us because I think in his heart of hearts he believes he is the size of a Pomeranian.
On Bowie’s one-year adoption anniversary Tony posted his rescue story on Reddit with a few photos. He quickly became Reddit famous thanks to his giant ears and heterochromia. One commenter let us know that there’s a new sub-reddit called BeforeNAfterAdoption. The photos are both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and immediately made me tear up. Here are a few of my favorites:
Spokey Before and After:
Pillow Before and After:
Mr. Whiskey Pants Before and After:
And if this post wasn't enough of a PSA already, I leave you with this: there are hundreds of thousands of animals waiting in shelters to be adopted. You can find a purebred animal at a shelter – you just might have to drive some distance. Not all shelter animals have been abused; often people need to surrender animals due to change in financial situation, divorce, or living circumstances. You can find puppies and kittens too.