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Adopting an Australian shepherd

The big question:  To adopt or not to adopt?

If you’ve looked at the Resources page, you may already be aware of my opinion regarding choosing an Australian shepherd as the breed of dog for your household as well as adopting versus buying from a breeder.  Since I am in the process of adopting another Aussie, this is an excellent opportunity to talk about the process and what has gone into my decision.

My preference:  Easiest is best

I love having Trooper and the simplicity that comes with caring for one dog.  However, I can also see myself becoming ‘the dog lady’ someday where I save dogs off the streets and foster as many as I can afford.  I love dogs and have been told I have a gift for making them comfortable and responsive to training, so why not put it to good use?  There are some downsides:  With every dog that is added to a household, one should expect vet bills, food costs and dog interaction time to increase and spare money and free time to decrease.  For me, the time issue is not really a true concern, because Trooper is with me most of the time, so dog time is built into my regular routine.  Money could be an issue, but it’s all about priorities and investing in that which inspires you.  To sum up simply, I’m neutral at this point about adding a dog:  I could afford it and would enjoy another pet, but it’s not a burning need.

Trooper’s preference:  Some dogs suck but fun playtime is the best

Trooper has lived in households with varying levels of pet load.  When he was a puppy, he thought it was natural for a parrot to be walking around, for two cats to be allowed on counters (a.k.a. in charge) and for there to be animals in two large cubes, one holding a lizard and one holding water and fish.  Everyone co-existed fine.  As he got older, he herded the cats and was not a fan of the bird; but that behavior coincided with his needing more stimuli and exercise and not getting any.  The resulting opinion was that maybe a single pet household (Trooper only) was best.  We did not get to try that out right away, because we moved and ended up living with two other dogs – a really old border collie and a super anxious, but overly friendly golden retriever.  Trooper did not understand the old dog and avoided her but he loved loved loved the golden.  They were the best of friends and would run and chase until they were exhausted.  It was a good match.

We moved around a lot as I was relocating for different projects, so his next home was all his; no other pets.  He had squirrels to chase and the occasional deer or turkey to run off the property, so he seemed content.  However, I realized that I was the only source of his stimulation and interaction.  If  he did not play with me, then he did not play at all.  He is a velcro dog after all, so it isn’t as if he is content to run around the yard by himself.

The next environment was temporary and featured another two dog household – an anxious, unpredictable doberman and a LARGE shepherd-chow cross who was the most lovable dog I had ever met.  He was so big that Trooper could walk under his belly and barely touch him.  Trooper had found his next best friend.  Because Trooper has a tendency to try to claim dominance (i.e. mount) every single dog, he benefits from having a dog friend that is assertive yet easy going; one that puts Trooper in his place but does so in a friendly way.  This giant dog was a great match and was therefore a huge gift to me because I could count on Trooper getting some of his fulfillment from somewhere else.

The temporary stay has ended and we are back in our home where his main ‘job’ is to watch the squirrels while I am away and watch for my return.  He seems happy enough:  He is sad to see me go and ecstatic when I return (even if it was just to go get the mail).  But it does not feel enough.  He seems lonely.  Now that he has been places where he had a dog friend, his enthusiasm in our one dog household seems a little lacking.

My preference, revised

Given how Trooper is so inspired and engaged by other dogs, my neutral standpoint has been swayed toward getting a second dog.  I thought about it for awhile and then submitted an application online to adopt from the Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline, Inc.  You can view their available dogs on their website and I found an ideal match located about 4 hours from where I live.  I’m looking for a dog of similar age and temperment, who has basic manners and is good with other dogs.  Nothing fancy, just a good demographic match for Trooper.  I received a response from the coordinator for the region and we got started on the process right away.

Adoption Process

  • Submit online application (give yourself about 10-20 minutes to fill it out; it’s long)
  • Coordinator e-mails you with instructions to continue
  • Drop off release form with your vet so the adoption coordinator can get your records.  It is imporant that they verify you have kept past and existing pets in good health and maintained regular checkups.
  • Respond to your coordinator and confirm that you have dropped off the release as well as provide more information on your household and what type of Aussie you would like to adopt.
  • Coordinator checks with your vet and your references.

The coordinator for my region is currently checking my references.  I cannot say for certain what the next steps will be, but I believe I will have a house call so they can verify I am not a hoarder and that I have a safe environment for another pet.  When approved, I believe I will be able to contact foster families and set up meet and greets.  We’ll see…

Summary:  Consider your lifestyle and goals in adding another child (Whoops, I mean dog…..are they different?), but also keep in mind what works for your pre-existing animal family.  If you make your current pup(s) unhappy, there is no way your family environment will benefit.

Share your thoughts!

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