Influence Positively Interview - Jessica Bush
Dog Etiquette: Holiday Company

Third Annual Pet 'Net Family Event! Choosing a rescue dog can be the best gift

PetNetFamily With the holidays just around the corner, there is no better time to honor and give thanks to the ones we 'additionally' love – our pets!  And to do just that, (, the popular online destination for pet owners and pet enthusiasts has organized a virtual Pet 'Net Family Event – a consortium of many of the Web's favorite pet-focused sites.

This time of year is often spent enjoying holiday cheer with family and friends – and what better way to celebrate than to share stories of the love and companionship of a family pet.
Today, each participating site and blog will highlight content devoted to the special role pets play in families, with hosting a comprehensive one-page hub ( with links to all of the special coverage.  We are honored to be a asked to join in this day of celebration!

Choosing a rescue dog to complete your family can turn out to be the best gift. Pet adoption sounds simple but if done right is equal parts nervous worry to incredible joy. Five years ago when we chose to adopt our first dog right before the Thanksgiving holiday, we experienced the unease of bringing a large adult dog into our home that we knew little about.  However we were ready for the emotional investment, and what we received in return was the immediate and steadfast love of a new four-legged family member.

Rescue Dog is Best Gift

Do your homework. Deciding to open your home and heart to a dog is a big step especially if you live in a big urban city like we do. We had to be honest about our lifestyle and what type of dog would fit.  Did we have enough room inside our home for a dog to move about freely?  Knowing this dog was going to complete our family, we made sure we were financially prepared.  We had open and honest conversations about rearranging our schedules and activities in order to provide regular attention to a dog.  We did our homework, asking ourselves lots of questions about our expectations.

Did we want a dog to take hiking or jogging along the city streets?  What type of dog could safely navigate the many stairs in our house?  How much time did we want to spend on training the dog?

Visit the ASPCA online and try the ASPCA Meet Your Match program. According to the ASPCA it is the only method in existence today that evaluates an animal’s behavior and interests and matches them to an adopter’s preferences.

Adoption rather than buying. When we were ready to enlarge our family, we chose pet adoption rather than buying from a pet store or a breeder.  It broke our hearts to see puppies in mall pet stores but millions of dogs are in shelters waiting for a family.  We knew there had to be one who was meant to complete our family. We looked at adult dogs from both purebred rescues and shelters for months before finding Cleo at our local SPCA.

Character judgment. With a rescue dog, learning the dog’s complete background is not always an option. In our case, Cleo was surrendered to a shelter hours north of San Francisco.  The San Francisco SPCA knew that she had been surrendered, she was already neutered and she was between 2-5 years old.   In the two weeks they had her, the SF/SPCA judged her character and traits but what if they missed something? Cleo was 72-lbs when we adopted her, clearly big enough to do damage if she wanted to.

Typically it takes about four to six weeks for a dog to acclimate to a new home.  Not only did Cleo need to get acclimated to us, her new home and life in the big city, but we also needed to adjust our lives and routine to include our first dog.  That day we made an emotional investment in Cleo. We told her over and over how much we loved her, how smart she was and how we would always take care of her.  We didn't have much information about her background but we knew her future would be with us.

Once we committed to Cleo, she became a true family member.  She takes her role seriously investing her time in watching out for intruders, and making sure we all feel equally loved.  Cleo walks slowly up to you and leans in close for long periods of time.  She holds your gaze for long moments.  She also makes us aware of when she needs to go outside to do her business.  From the first rainy night we brought her home, Cleo has been diligent in this task.  She woke us every two hours throughout that first night by licking our hands.

We are dog lovers but also first time dog owners.  In San Francisco, the SPCA doesn't "hold" an animal for you.  If you want to adopt and they accept your application then you bring home a new member of the family.  In the beginning the fear of the unknown was at times overwhelming. We decided the stoic side to Cleo’s personality was more “regal bearing” than “mad dog waiting until night to bite our faces off”.  Fortunately we were right.

Pet adoption through a reputable shelter or humane society goes a long way in making sure you find the right match. It surprised us when the SF/SPCA offered to take Cleo back within a year if we didn’t feel it would work out.  Knowing this “money-back-guarantee” was there eased our worries during the first few months. 

It has been a roller coaster adopting a large adult dog. One of my favorite people, Dr. Temple Grandin, wrote a book "Animals Make Us Human".  In the chapter on dogs, she says in households where there are just one or two dogs, it may be more appropriate for the human to be a parent. "A good parent sets limits and teaches his kids how to behave nicely," Grandin writes, "and that's exactly what dogs need, too."  This has been the best advice for us.  Remembering she is a dog but treating Cleo with respect has worked well.

The five years since we brought Cleo home have flown by.  She will always hold the special place of being our first dog.  Choosing to adopt just weeks before Thanksgiving was scary but going through the SPCA helped greatly, as did Cleo herself.  She was ready to trust us and made it clear from the start that she wanted to please us.  Having Cleo rely on me is a wonderful vote of confidence as a human.  We are appreciative of how a dog can positively influence a family and a community.  Adopting a dog from a shelter and finding Cleo to complete our family has been the best gift.

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