October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” month.  You can find out more about it from the American Humane Society and the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) websites.

I think this is awesome and very appropriate, since I just recently decided to start volunteering for a local animal rescue.  I just went through my orientation last night, and I go back on Sunday for animal care training.  What I really want to do is being an adoption counselor for them.  I have two adopted rescue dogs myself, and it’s something that I am passionate about.  I’ve been a volunteer for some other organizations before, and it’s always been something that I am really interested in and want to help with at the time.  The most recent one was back in Indy for Outreach, Inc., which is a great organization that works with homeless and at-risk youth.  All of their staff I worked with there were really awesome people, and I’m so glad for my time as a part of the organization.  I definitely learned a lot there and have some lasting memories and friendships from it.

So back to dogs.  I love animals, dogs most of all.  I’m definitely a dog person more than a cat person, and I think that my upbringing has a lot to do with it.  I don’t really sit down and spend a lot of time thinking about my past, but growing up I have a lot of experiences with animals interspersed among my family.  From birth, I have grown up with a dog in my house.  The first dog we had was a half chihuahua and half toy Manchester terrier named Teddy.  The poor dog became jealous of having a new baby in the house and had to be moved to our porch where he stayed a lot of the time.  And almost as soon as he passed, we decided we had to have another dog.  This one was a mixed terrier, probably mostly Jack Russell, at least that’s what she looked like.  Her name was Missie.  I still remember going to pick her out.  We had found a family that had had a litter of puppies.  There were four of them, and we were going to pick which one we wanted to take home with us.  Two of them were black and brown and looked alike, and were pretty calm.  One of them was kind of a very light brown, almost white and had a bunch of energy.  Then there was Missie.  She was kind of in-between, not too calm and not overly energetic.  And the way her fur was, she had one “black eye” and one “white eye” (just the fur around it, not her actual eyes).  She was perfect, and we loved her.  She lived with my parents even after I moved out of the house.

Having a dog isn’t the only way I grew up with animals.  My parents used to own a pet store, both one that they had before I was born, and then later they reopened one when I was a kid.  We actually didn’t really sell dogs or cats there, only on occasion, but we had lots of fish (I also grew up always having an aquarium with freshwater fish in it in our house) as well as sometimes hamsters or even lizards.  (I remember finding an intact newt skeleton from one that had escaped in the pet store and taking it to school for show and tell once – yeah, I guess I was a weird kid.)  We even bred hamsters at one point.  My dad (a cabinetmaker, that was his primary occupation) built cages for the hamsters that we kept in our house.  We often had more than one at a time, and we used to name them all after candy bars.  We had Hershey, Snickers, and Zero, and they all kind of were the colors of the candy bars they were named after.  I mean, as far as animals in my family, the list goes on… I know quite a few relatives that are dog lovers, and my aunt and uncle even used to raise peacocks at one point.  So I am definitely no stranger to animals.

When I grew up and moved out on my own, I didn’t have any animals for a while.  I had enough to worry about just learning to live on my own.  But it wasn’t long before I decided to adopt a dog.  I found Chase, a black cocker spaniel mix, on Freecycle.  He was my first dog on my own, but being in school and working at the time, I kept a lot of weird hours, and Chase had some pretty severe separation anxiety.  I came home one day to discover that he had ate through the toilet pipes in my bathroom and water had gotten everywhere and leaked into the apartment below mine.  Not good!  Since my dad was disabled and my parents were home a lot then, he ended up going to stay with them for a week that turned into forever.  My parents fell in love with him, and he got them through some rough patches, especially after my dad passed away.  I know my mom is now much more lonely without Chase there to keep her company.  He passed away a couple of years ago.

Once I graduated and had more normal hours and was living pretty close to work, I ended up deciding I wanted to have a dog again.  Via Petfinder, I found Sophie.  She is a dachshund mix that was having heartworm treatment and being fostered by a family that had two beagles of their own.  I went to meet her, and she ran right to me.  The couple keeping her commented on that, that she seemed to take to me immediately.  The rest is history, and she has been my best friend now for five years now this summer.  She’s been around longer than Ricky!  And I’m very proud of her for making the trip across the country with us to Arizona.  She’s my baby.

Fast forward to last December.  Sophie had had some health problems (she’s all good now) and I became very sad at the thought of how it would be if I lost her.  I knew I would be devastated.  Meanwhile, when we had first moved to Arizona in May, I had considered volunteering for an animal rescue then.  Because of Sophie, I had fallen in love with dachshunds and thought I might volunteer for a dachshund rescue.  I ended up not doing that then because I got a part-time job to help with some debt, but somehow I wound up following several dachshund groups on Facebook.  One day one of them posted a dachshund that was available for adoption that sounded (and somewhat looked) like a miniature boy version of Sophie.  Their description of his temperament sounded a lot like hers.  I had not even thought at all about getting a second dog, but I sent his picture to Ricky and was like, “what do you think?”  Ricky worried at first about the fact that I had been worried about how devastated I’d be to lose Sophie, and how I would be if I had two that would potentially pass on, especially since they seemed to be about the same age.  But ultimately, he was ok with it.  (He says he hates dogs, but that doesn’t seem to jive with all the affection he gives our two wiener kids.)  So Charlie Brown (we just call him Charlie for short… or “mini-ween”, since Sophie earned the nickname “ween” some time ago) became ours last December.  Sophie mostly gets along with him, although she gets jealous and snaps at him from time to time.  And he is an absolute sweetheart.  We couldn’t have been blessed with a more perfect and loving dog. Guide to Keeping Your Dog Safe is what you need if you plan to adopt a dog.

So there’s my story.  I can’t tell you how happy my two wiener kids make me.  I get so excited to get home every day and see their happy faces.  Some days I struggle with my self-esteem and feel like I’m not very good at what I do or the things I try to do, but then I remember how I made the decision to rescue these two sweethearts and give them a home to grow old in.  I may not be the perfect dog mom all the time, but our pet-sitter made the comment last time he watched them that “they almost seem too happy”, so I can’t be doing too bad, right?

I’m so thankful that even on the bad days, I get to come home to two adorable faces that I know love me unconditionally and just want to be with me no matter what.  I tell Ricky all the time how I love our life and family.  We all just fit together so well and have so much fun together.  (It’s no wonder I’m an introvert… being at home is so much fun, why would I want to go out?)  If you’re considering adopting an animal, provided it fits into your lifestyle and will be loved and taken care of, DO IT!  It’s a commitment, for sure, but one that will pay off on so many levels.

17 Reasons a Shelter Dog Could Be Your Best Friend

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