This post is about rescue dogs. I’m not talking about dogs who rescue people (although… well, I’ll go into that later) in the classic sense of search and rescue. Those are fine animals who have saved countless lives (9/11, earthquakes, floods, etc.) What I’m talking about are dogs that come to be beloved family pets after they have been adopted from shelters or from rescue organizations.
Way back in the mid-1990’s, my husband, Jim, was working nights for Northwest Airlines. Being home alone (especially living next to a graveyard) was starting to bother me a little. I wanted company. We had cats, but I really didn’t think that they would be much of a deterrent. So we decided to start thinking about getting a dog.
Our first thought was Great Dane. We went to a couple of specialty shows and I must say these gentle giants were really wonderful. Then I started reading…Maximum lifespan (at that time) was around age 7 or 8? Nope, knew that wasn’t for me. Then I started talking to my friend from work, Janet Barwick. She was integrally involved with Atlanta German Shepherd Rescue. She thought she had “just the dog” for us as first-time German Shepherd Dog owners.
The more Janet told me about Cheyenne, the more she sounded like a perfect match. Cheyenne (who would later be nicknamed, Sissy) was about 2 or 3 years old. She had been with the rescue long enough to be successfully treated for heartworms. Her previous people had gotten her first as a puppy and then she’d been passed on to friends and family until such time as she landed with someone whose son turned out to have allergies. Cheyenne went to rescue. They tested her and found the heartworms, but she was such a sweetheart that they took the chance and the expense of treating her.
Jim and I drove to the veterinarian’s practice where Cheyenne had been while going through her treatment. She’d been fostered long enough to know that she was a very polite girl with no vices (no problems with anything – even cats). We met her and I fell in total love with her. As you can see in the photos, why would I not! She was such a beautiful, sweet, well-behaved girl.
We signed the papers, agreed to have our home checked for appropriateness, and adopted our first dog. Cheyenne was Jim’s first dog – ever! I’d had dachshunds while growing up, but the only German Shepherd Dog I’d ever known well was my cousin’s fabulous girl, Pagan, who hiked the Appalachian Trail with him every year.
Cheyenne was such a perfect dog, it was like she’d always been there. I was a little over-protective at first, but didn’t need to be. Cheyenne already knew all the rules.
That’s the thing about dogs from rescue – especially the non-puppy ones – they’ve already started learning the ropes. Either their previous owners (or, more likely, the foster parents) have already taken care of the housebreaking, initial training, and learning how each dog relates to other dogs, cats, and kids. When you bring home a dog from a rescue organization, you have a whole lot of your questions already answered.
Coming next: In Praise of Rescue Dogs (Part II)
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