Adopting a Rescue Pet, with Kids

You may have noticed I’ve taken a little bit of a step back from blogging lately. We have so many amazing guest bloggers carrying the torch right now, I feel like I’ve left the blog in very good hands, and have so enjoyed reading about their lives and unique experiences.

I did, however, have something I wanted to share with you guys.

First – a confession – I have never adopted a rescue pet.

I am embarrassed to say I have always shopped and not adopted. For a number of reasons that are pretty flimsy in retrospect:

  • I want a very specific breed of dog – and dachshunds are not always the easiest to find (Except you CAN find them here and here and sometimes here)
  • I want a puppy – also hard to find (myth – our local Humane Society has many litters come through fairly regularly)
  • The dog may come with behavioral issues or bad habits, and I’d rather start with a clean slate and a new puppy
  • What if it doesn’t get along with my current dogs? A new puppy is easier to bring into the fold
  • What if the dog is aggressive with our child? A new puppy can be more easily molded to better behavior
  • The adoption process is so picky and selective, it seems like a lot of trouble

However, as of February 27, 2020, we welcomed our first rescue pup into our family.

Lulu with her new doxie siblings, Oscar and Ruby.

The Backstory:

We currently have two senior dachshunds – ages 10 and 12. And while my son loves them, and they love him, they do NOT want to play with him. They are old and lazy, and when he throws a toy or tries to engage them, they basically just give him the side-eye and resume their naps.

(Which honestly, makes them the perfect dogs for ME and my lifestyle, but not so much him. Lol.)

So we’ve been debating and playing with the idea of getting a new dog for Teddy for oh, about six months, and finally, we took the plunge.

My hubby and I went to the Humane Society of Wichita County, and took a look. We knew we wanted something small, and preferably a little older than a puppy (to bypass the extreme chewing and destruction phase), but still young enough to want to play with Teddy – about 2-3 years old.

We talked to Director Cheryl Miller, and told her what we were looking for, and how we were apprehensive about bringing a new dog home with two other dogs and a small child. We needed one that would be tolerant, friendly, and not aggressive.

She recommended Lilly (whom we renamed Lulu – thinking it would be close enough she might still respond to it.)

Now, I know every dog is different, and many dogs looking for forever homes can come with challenges and past abuses that take some time to work through after adoption, but our experience has really been like a dream.

Myths Debunked:

  • First of all, the adoption process was SUPER easy. We are stable humans with a yard and previous track record of taking good care of dogs and had our vet listed as a reference. Done and done and approved within minutes!
  • There are some SERIOUS advantages to getting an older dog. The two biggest: 1.) Less chewing and destruction of property, 2.) Housetraining. Lulu is still young and needs toys and exercise to keep her engaged and out of mischief, but so far we’ve only lost one slipper, and she’s been VERY good, and as far as we can tell, fully potty-trained.
  • Lulu has meshed perfectly with the entire family – canine and human. There are no behavioral challenges to report. She is super sweet, loves love, not aggressive at all. She is playful with Teddy and occasionally gives a few little puppy nips when playing, but does not bite. The geriatric dachshunds have warmed to her, and Oscar especially loves playing with her.

Embracing the chaos that makes life colorful.

My Tips:

  • Talk to the staff at the shelter and let them know what you are looking for. Don’t tie yourself down to a specific breed, but instead focus on personality and demeanor, age, energy level, size of the dog. Lulu didn’t catch my eye off the bat in our initial walkthrough, because she didn’t necessarily have “the look” I wanted, and that would be have been a tragedy.
  • Make sure your kids know proper dog etiquette. It helped us a lot that Teddy has spent his whole life with dogs, so he knew the basics –
    • Respect their personal space, and help them feel safe
      • Don’t mess with them while they are eating, don’t put your hands near their bowl
      • Don’t pull their tail or paws, grab them too hard, or try to pick them up
    • Set boundaries and only reinforce good behavior
      • Play with the dogs, but if they start getting too hyper and jumping at you and biting, take a break and tell them “no” firmly but calmly
      • Understand that if the dog nips at you while playing, they’re not trying to hurt you but we do need to tell them “no”
  • Make sure you adequately entertain and exercise your dog. Have plenty of dog toys, make sure they run around. A tired dog is a good dog. A dog destroying dog toys is too busy to destroy other things. Lol.

(More tips on kids interacting with dogs can be found here and here.)

  • Most Importantly: Yes, you may have gotten the dog for your kid. And you may have made them swear up and down they would take care of it. This. Will. Not. Happen. (Unless you are some sort of magician or master in coercion, in which case we need to talk.)  It doesn’t matter if your kid is 4 or 15, Lord knows you will be the one taking it out for a 4:00 am pee-break, regardless of what plans and high hopes you had for your child’s burgeoning sense of responsibility. The bottom line is that a dog really belongs to the whole family, and it is the whole family’s responsibility.  It works best when everyone pitches in anyway. The best you can do is to involve your child in learning what it’s like to take care of and consider the needs of another, layer in as much responsibility as you can along the way, and work under the assumption that you will be steering the ship the entire time. If you start with this mentality, you will save yourself a lot of resentment and frustration in the future.

My Takeaways:

I knew when we adopted Lulu that she had been previously adopted and returned to the Humane Society. I had a hard time with not knowing why, and I kept guessing – “maybe it’s because she likes to bark at squirrels too much in the backyard” or “maybe she is too energetic” but my mind is really stretching to come up with a legitimate reason that can’t just be written off as “she’s a dog, that’s what dogs do” and anyone who has ever owned a dog should be prepared for dealing with those things.

It took me about two weeks to realize something I really already knew – it’s not a dog’s fault for ending up in a shelter – it’s humans’ and perhaps our unrealistic expectations of what it’s like to own a dog. I used to joke with my sisters (who haven’t become moms yet) that if taking care of a baby is a 10/10 difficulty level, taking care of a puppy isn’t much easier – it’s probably about a 7/10.

Dogs require attention, time and dedication. They require regular doctor visits and checkups, and sometimes special medications or foods or emergency care. They require supplies and money. They require lots of exercise and attention – or else they act out in destructive ways. They require schedule and routines so that they are calmer and more secure and know they can depend on you, and know what to expect in each day. (This helps with potty-training big time! Routine, routine, routine.)

The good news is, if you have a child, you already know how to do alllllll of these things, and with any luck, bringing a dog into the mix means they will play with each other and wear each other out and you can check both off your to-do list.

And after two months, I can say that Lulu is the perfect-fitting piece that was missing in our family. She is sweet and playful and loving. Teddy LOVES his new best friend, our other pups snuggle her and occasionally play with her as well, and she has decided my husband is her PERSON. And we never would have experienced any of this if we hadn’t taken a chance on a rescue.

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