Adopting a Rescue Dog in the US

When Mocha died five years ago, I thought I would never get another dog because I didn't want to go through the pain of losing a beloved pet again.

Though he never wanted to have a dog before we met, my husband urged me to get one as I've been missing Jo-Joe the family dog, as well as friends and family in Singapore since I moved to the US. I told him that if we were to get a dog, we should adopt instead of buying. I wanted to make a difference even if it was just for one dog. 

Aside from Honey the Chihuahua who was given to us at the age of 7 and lived till she was 14, my parents and I bought the rest of our dogs when they were puppies. 

Pet Adoptions in the US

There are many avenues if you're looking to adopt a pet in the US. In addition to government-run animal shelters, there are several non-profit rescue groups that are fairly active in organizing adoption events and fundraisers. 

We spent weeks researching online to shortlist breeds of dogs that would fit our lifestyle eg. shedding, activity levels, and noise levels. We sent a few applications, attended adoption events and visited several animal shelters. I even waited in line for at least an hour per shelter at a few shelters on Clear The Shelters Day on August 19, 2017. It was draining as we had a hard time finding a small dog that wasn't too active or aggressive as it would be my husband's first dog and when we do find one, it was already adopted. It was also hard to see how many dogs were eager to find homes and how nervous some of them were in the shelters.

I was about to give up and take a break for a few months but we had a final glimmer of hope. We had a Meet & Greet session the next day with Roo Roo a three year old Yorkie mix under foster care by Animal Friends VA as a follow-up to our adoption application.

The adoption event that changed our lives

Chewie at the adoption meet and greet event on August 20, 2017

Chewie at the adoption meet and greet event on August 20, 2017

I was so tired from driving over a hundred miles over the previous two days to visit animal shelters in the blazing summer heat, I got my schedule mixed up and arrived at the adoption event two hours early. I was lucky that the PetSmart staff at Potomac Mills told me that the organizer, Beth, was setting up so I got to speak to her.

When I saw that Roo Roo had a pending adoption on the white board, my heart fell as it was to be our final shot before we take break for a few months. It turned out that I was the first approved adopter in line to meet and adopt Roo Roo. I was pleasantly surprised when I was told that he could go home with me. I guess we were lucky that a batch of dogs had just arrived from West Virginia and the volunteer group was trying to find room for all of them in the foster homes.

Chewie going to sleep in the crate on his first night

Chewie going to sleep in the crate on his first night

a fresh start

He was probably overwhelmed at the event so when Beth gave me his leash, he followed me as if he knew that he was meant to go home with me. He even walked into a crate to test it out while a PetSmart staff and I were trying to determine the optimal size for him. 

He didn't have any records. The vet who did his surgery and rabies shot estimated that he's three years old. To mark the start of his new life, we renamed him Chewie, as he looks like Chewbacca from Star Wars and picked 20 August to be his birthday. 

When Chewie walked into his crate and fell asleep on his doggy bed the first night, my husband and I thought that we were lucky to adopt a docile dog that didn't bark.

Chewie in a blue hoodie

Chewie in a blue hoodie

Chewie gets settled in

Chewie got more rambunctious by the day. We wondered what happened to the angelic dog from the first 24 hours. Nonetheless, we were glad that he seemed to be comfortable enough with us to reveal his devilish nature. 

Little is known of Chewie's past beyond what was told to the rescue group by the animal shelter. He was placed in a shelter after the police found him in pretty bad shape when they raided a home for suspected drug abuse. The house that he was living in didn't have water or electricity at the time of the raid. He was neutered, placed in a foster home and microchipped after the rescue group got him out of the shelter. He was adopted shortly after. 

I guess his past explains why he tried to drink from puddles of muddy water in the beginning, why he jumped onto the dining table to get food and why he gobbles his food as if he doesn't know when his next meal will be. 

An intelligent boy, he rolls over on his back for a belly rub when he's in trouble and quickly took to getting dressed for walks on chilly days. 

Medical examination

As part of our adoption contract, we had to take Chewie for a medical exam within a week. Since many of our friends have a Banfield Pet Hospital Optimum Wellness Plan, we downloaded a coupon for a free medical exam (worth over US$50) to check out their services. 

During the visit, the staff shared details of the plans. We chose the Active Prevention Plan which provides complimentary consultation for a year, dental cleaning and urine testing in addition to basics such as vaccinations. 

Chewie was given his shots and an Elizabethan Collar to stop him from licking his surgery wound. 

Obedience Training

Chewie's rather jittery. He barks and seems to want to display fear aggression towards most strangers (especially men), perhaps as a form of self-defense. Even a lady whom he walked up to for some pampering in a pet shop noticed that he bristles when a man walks by.

We wondered if he might have been brought up with aggressive play. We'll never know what he went through but we hope that with time and obedience training, he'll learn to socialize well with people and other dogs.

Here he is being disciplined by the trainer for being too noisy in class. He has the dubious honour of being the noisiest (and quite possibly, the naughtiest) dog in class

Chewie wearing an Elizabethan Collar to stop him from licking his wounds

Chewie wearing an Elizabethan Collar to stop him from licking his wounds

Chewie in obedience training class

Chewie in obedience training class

Chewie may be a handful but he's filled our home with lots of laughter and love. We'd gladly do it all again.

Pet Insurance

I was intrigued when a friend told me that she has pet insurance for her dog. We can't buy pet insurance in Singapore so when Mocha was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease at the age of five, I paid about S$1,000 (US$740) monthly for medical reviews and medication for years before he stabilized. Mocha had to continue with medication till he died at the age of 12.

After reading a few articles on the top pet insurance options in America, I chose Healthy Paws Pet Insurance - the same provider as my friend's, as I thought it complemented the medical plan that we have for Chewie and I liked that they cover congenital illnesses.

Healthy Paws is currently the only insurance provider to offer unlimited lifetime benefits with an annual deductible, no caps on claims and they reimburse on the actual bill instead of a schedule. As with all insurance plans, there are caveats such as enrollment before the age of 14, a 15-day waiting period for illnesses and accidents, and the coverage doesn't extend to costs of preventative care or veterinary office visit fees (just to name a few). For a detailed overview, download your free quote and enjoy a special discount if you sign up using my link.*  

Click to get your free Healthy Paws Pet Insurance quote

Click to get your free Healthy Paws Pet Insurance quote

* Disclosure: I will earn a referral fee (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase a Healthy Paws plan with a valid credit card using my link and if you're a completely new visitor without any previous referrals. 

Planning to adopt a pet?

You might like to try looking at the sites and shelters listed below. Some dogs were taken from high-kill shelters and placed in foster homes to give them more time to find a forever home. Hope they find a human family soon. 

Be prepared to commit to training and providing adequate medical care for your new pet. Do let your references know that they may get a call or email from an adoption coordinator. Click here to view a standard adoption contract. 

Animal shelters we visited that you might like to check out:

1) Fairfax County Animal Shelter
4500 West Ox Road, Fairfax, Virginia

2) Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center
7315 Muncaster Mill Road, Derwood, Maryland

3) Prince George's County Animal Management
3750 Brown Station Road, Upper Marlboro, Maryland

4) Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
4101 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia

5) Animal Welfare League of Arlington
2650 South Arlington Mill Drive, Arlington, Virginia