Two months before our wedding, my husband Tyler and I adopted our first dog. Having both grown up in “dog homes,” we wanted a dog, but I did not want to be tied down to a puppy. I wanted something older, potty-trained, and requiring a lot less energy than a playful pup. My husbands dream dog had always been a German Shepherd, and so the search began. Weeks later, we traveled to Cleveland to pick up our new family member: a five year old, all black, 110 pound GSD.
On paper, Phantom was the perfect fit for us. He was potty trained, older, loved everyone and everything he met. He was kid-friendly, cat friendly, and knew his name. We were so excited to bring this huge guy home and start life as a little family. However, as with many adopted animals, the adjustment period was about to begin.
I’m Sorry, Is this the Correct Dog?
Phantom was, well, wild. This dog did not match his “older, quiet” description. He ran to and scratched doors at every bunny/car that went by. He ran and leaped from across the room onto our bed anytime we walked into our bedroom. No longer could we sit on our couch to watch TV without a slobbery ball being forced into our lap. Oh, to think of the thousands of times I threw that darn yellow ball into the foyer from the couch. And perhaps my favorite part was the scrambling on the tile kitchen floor as I cooked. Heaven forbid I walk from the stove to grab a spatula without the dog thinking I would try to run away. However, I had luckily grown up with a dog-savvy mother and knew German Shepherds required quite a bit of stimulation.
So began the daily walks, and I do mean daily. No matter the weather, no matter what holiday, we walked. Having volunteered for a time in high school for Assistant Dogs of America, I purchased a gentle leader since Phantom was so big and strong. Walking became my morning routine, and oftentimes on nice days we would go for a second walk. Also, we noticed some discomfort in Phantom. We spoke to our vet and he suggested switching his food to grain-free to help with allergies. In about a week we saw a significant change in our dog. He was much less anxious, and though his personality still mirrored that of Buddy the Elf from that much loved Christmas movie, his need to “hug” everyone who walked through our door soon subsided. In fact, Phantom became a really great dog and lived up to the “babysitter” reputation of German Shepherds.
Four years later, we lost our beautiful boy to cancer. As hard as it was, we found ourselves wanting to honor his lovely soul with another adopted German Shepard. Months later, we felt ready and welcomed Roman into our family. If I’m honest, I was worried we would be handed another shepherd with such high energy. Therefore, we went about our adoption a little differently the second time.
Tips For Adoption
- Meet the dog before bringing him home. We drove to Northwood to meet Roman after numerous messages back and forth to see if he would be a good fit for our family. I was apprehensive about bringing a dog who had recently been rescued from the pound into our home. We had a toddler and no knowledge of the dog’s background. After meeting and spending time with Roman at the shelter, we signed papers.
- If allowed, bring your own dog to meet the potential adoptee. I have heard so many stories of dogs being returned to shelters because the original dogs do not get along with the new one. There will still be an adjustment period on both sides, but meeting before bringing the new one home may rule out any real aggression towards one another.
- Do your breed research. I cannot stress this one enough. We knew what we were getting ourselves into with a GSD. I knew they required exercise or some other form of mental stimulation. Even knowing this, I was still thrown for a bit of a loop in adopting Phantom. Please know potential quirks the breed you’re seeking has, and don’t just get one because they’re so cute.
- Be realistic. Is adoption right for you? Do you have lots of small children? Do you have other animals in the home? Are you willing to put up with potential marking or anxieties as the animal adjusts to its new home?
We have had great luck with adoption. After doing our research and putting in a little time, Tyler and I have ended up with great dogs.