It’s hard to believe it but we adopted Winston one year ago this month! I can’t imagine life without his little presence. I love his happy greetings when we come home, his quirky personality, and just how incredibly affectionate he is. But believe it or not our start with Winston was actually very rocky and we almost returned him to the shelter. I’m so glad that we stuck with him and wanted to share the lessons learned from getting a rescue dog.
Some lessons may seem obvious but you have to remember I have never owned a dog before and was learning on the fly with Winston. So I’m writing this post to encourage folks to adopt a rescue dog, but also keep in mind that it’s not always going to be smooth sailing.
Knowing what to expect will make sure the adoption is a success and help you understand that the good and bad you’ll feel along the way is just a normal part of the process.
Your dog has feelings too – respect them
Dogs often show one personality in a shelter and then their “true” selves once “at home.” So when first adopting a rescue dog you’re not supposed to have many people over and should keep them in a quiet calm environment. At the shelter Winston was super chill, so what did we do? We had so many friends and family members over to visit Winston (I know, I know, in hind sight we were so stupid). We stressed the poor little creature out and Winston started acting out by growling and nipping.
I always thought dogs were happy go lucky creatures, and for the most part they are, so I expected Winston to be like this from day one. But do you know many humans that can move into a new place and not be fearful or nervous? How would you act if thrown into unfamiliar social situation and suddenly have folks hugging and touching you all the time? I can speak for myself at least, and the answer is not good. So go slow, and quietly give your rescue dog time to get to know its new home and family members. Dogs, like people, need time to learn that are in a safe place and to recover from their time in the shelter.
Adoption regret is 100% normal
When we brought Winston home he latched on to me immediately and decided that Ted was an enemy to be driven out of the house. Suddenly we had this little creature following me around the house like a shadow. But when Ted came home he would growl, nip, and bark like a mad creature at Ted. We had a “what have we let in our house” feeling those first few weeks with Winston. This is 100% normal and actually quite common in pet adoptions (google it, it was my therapy those first few weeks).
To help change Winston’s perception of Ted, he became the sole giver of food and walks. So all things “amazing” in Winston’s world came from Ted. Well after a few weeks of patience and love, Winston and Ted are the best of friends. Even if I’m home and Ted leaves the house, Winston watches the door until his favorite playmate comes back.
Expect the unexpected
When adopting a dog I fully expected to have potty and house training problems. Well Winston in this department – is utterly perfect. To this day he has never had an accident or ruined anything in our house. He’s so good; he roams the house freely when we’re at work.He’s our clean little gentleman.
It’s actually Winston’s socialization issues that require our training and attention. It’s a classic case of you expect one thing from life and then the universe laugh. But you know what? Having to deal with Winston’s anxieties has made me a more patient, understanding, and responsible person. He didn’t even know how to play with a toy at first, and now it the best feeling to watch him enjoy life and learn that the world isn’t such a scary place.
It will be one of the best things you’ll ever do
We adopted Winston from Heartland Animal Shelter, a no kill non-profit shelter in the northwest suburbs. Heartland rescued Winston from an overcrowded shelter down state that had him on their “kill list.” Heartland has a beautiful saying when you adopt, you save two lives. The animal you adopt and the one that replaces him. With Winston we’ve saved a life, and helped give an innocent, loving creature a home. With us he feels safe and happy – and that gives me a warm, proud feeling that no words can describe. Open your home to endless snuggles and laughter – because that’s what you get with a dog.
So those are some lessons that we learned from Winston. If you’re looking to adopt a rescue dog, ask me any questions about the process. I promise it will be one of the best things you’ll ever do.
Christina has always felt like an old soul and is a lover of tradition and all things vintage. A typical Libra, she loves beauty and is always trying to balance her love of cozy nights at home with her adventurous spirit (23 countries and counting). By day she works for an international accounting firm. By night she works on her blog, My Petite Joys. On her site, you’ll find her featuring topics on travel (near and far), baking adventures, crafting, and thoughts on life’s simple joys. She lives in Chicago with her husband and high school sweet heart Ted. In her spare time she enjoys bookmaking, watching documentaries, and yoga.