Ask proud pet owners and they'll tell you that bringing their furry friends into their lives was one of the best decisions they ever made. Pry a little further, however, and you might find that the decision to bring home a pound puppy or shelter kitty also upset their lives for a period of days, weeks, or months because they weren't properly prepared.
For reasons that are usually no fault of the dogs or cats themselves, adoptive pet parents sometimes find that they've made a serious miscalculation as to whether they really have the time, patience or desire to regularly change litter or scoop poop.
To help prospective pet owners avoid this adoption pitfall, we've put together a guide to bringing home the dog or cat that is right for you.
* The lifestyle checklist
The most important thing you can do to prevent adopting a "problem pet" is to not start out as a "problem owner," that is, someone who glosses over all of the responsibilities of pet ownership. Sure, it's possible you could get home from the shelter with a perfectly obedient and housebroken pet, but don't count on it.
Though we firmly believe that there's a perfect owner out there for every pet in a shelter, some pets are simply more -- how do we say this? -- low-maintenance than others.
Do you really have the time to housetrain a puppy? If not, look for a mature dog. Cats are often considered low-maintenance pets, yet they still require a significant investment of time and, yes, money. If you're not willing to make time to be a responsible pet owner, then the only pet for you is a stuffed animal.
Another crucial consideration, according to Petfinder co-founder Betsey Saul, is lifespan. "Pets can live a long time," she says, so think about what your life will be like in five, 10 or 15 years. Will a pet still fit into your life?
* Meet and greet
When you go window shopping at the shelter, former AVMA president Dr. Greg Hammer recommends that you take note of how the animals behave in their pens or cages. Is the cat coming to the front of the cage for attention or cowering in the back, hissing?
Though it's possible that some animals may truly be in a state of shelter shock, it's more likely that you can glean important details about their demeanor right on the spot. For example, take note of whether the cat you're looking at likes being handled. And when you meet a dog at the shelter, "The animal should come up to you and want your attention," Hammer tells Paw Nation. Most of the time, an animal will blossom in a home environment once it feels safe, secure, wanted and loved.
* Ask questions
While you're at the shelter, ask the staff what they know about the animal's personality, temperament and health. For example, Hammer recommends asking, "Is this a dog that's been jumping up and down in its kennel all day?" If so, that's a pretty good indicator of that dog's energy level. It will need a fenced yard to romp and have plenty of playtime.
Other questions might include: How does this dog get along with cats? Does this cat use a litter box? Is it outgoing? Is it aggressive?
Look at it as an insurance policy for the pet as well as yourself. If you're adopting a special-needs dog or cat, it's best to find out before you've fallen head over heels. Buying pet insurance to help with any unforeseen health costs, as well as micro-chipping your new family member is a good idea.
(Source: Paw Nation/Josh Loposer)
This and that at the shelter: Don't forget the Fifth Annual Tommy H. Lipford Memorial Four-Person Golf Scramble will be held on Saturday, June 18 at 1 p.m. at the Dyersburg Municipal Course. Lunch will be served to participants at noon. Show your support for the shelter and help local homeless shelter pets in the process by participating.
The shelter is still full of flood pets plus the 100 strays/surrenders we receive weekly. If you would like to help, besides monetary donations, we need paper towels, Germex hand sanitizer, Clorox bleach, dog blankets, high-quality dry dog and cat food, canned dog and cat food for special diets, kitten and puppy food, and pet baby bottles, kitten and puppy formula and low-dust kitty litter.
We need fosters for our regular population (not flood pets) as well as volunteers to hand out treats and toys, walk dogs, groom, and socializing the pets. They all want and need extra attention. If you are an animal lover and have extra time, please help at the shelter. We keep the shelter air conditioned for the pets' comfort.
One way of helping local homeless shelter pets is by making an honorarium or memorial donation to the shelter. Please specify who the donation is to, with complete address where notification or acknowledgment should be sent and your complete address. We will do the rest. Categories are: The Cot Fund (dog beds), The Beagley Fund (heartworm treatment) which seems to stay depleted, General Fund, Champ Lewis Fund (monetary adoption assistance), Save-a-Life Makeover (professional grooming to make a pet more appealing and adoptable), Honorariums and Memorials. Mail to the Dyersburg-Dyer Co. Humane Society, P.O. Box 223, Dyersburg, TN 38025-0223. Thank you for helping the animals!
Please visit the shelter between 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday. The shelter is closed to the public on Sunday. Our telephone number is 731-285-4889.