Monday, May 25, 2009

Concerns about adopting a dog

There's a lot of listings for dogs available from various humane societies, shelters, animal rescue organizations, etc. in the area, and each one of these has a lengthy and complex application process to prove we'll be responsible and capable owners. The process is a lot more complex than I expected, but that's probably a good thing.

It has made me think about what kind of dog is right for us, and to conclude that ultimately we're coming at this the wrong way. We shouldn't be shopping for a dog yet, and we certainly shouldn't be looking at specific dogs and saying "this one looks good". We need to shed the preconceptions we have from when we were kids and our families got dogs, because our family, our situation, is nothing like the situation when we were kids. For one big reason: we don't have kids.

The obvious issue here is that we're not home 10 hours a day four days a week, and that's a lot of time for the dog to be on his own at home, especially at first. Most dogs need more socialization than we can give them. But that's only the most obvious issue: it's far from the only one or the biggest.

I think the biggest is probably exercise. Many of these applications speak of the amount of exercise the dog will get, and emphasize over and over that a tired dog is a happy dog, and an unexercised dog is a problem dog, prone to disobedience, acting out, even aggression. I think it's easy to be very glib about the commitment to take a dog for a walk every single day. But it's been nearly impossible to commit to simpler, less time-consuming, less tiring exercise that doesn't require dealing with rain, snow, and cold. If we can't exercise 15 minutes a day after work five days a week consistently, can we really be sure we can live up to a dog's need for exercise?

My hope is that if we get to talk to someone at one of the shelters they can recommend what's really the right breed for us, but we have to be realistic about it, and to not be too burdened by ideas of how things were when we were kids. I hope the answer is that there is a breed that's right for us. It may well be a different breed than we've been thinking about. My worry is that we may be hard pressed to offer a dog a really good home, if we're truly frank about it.

There's another small concern and that's with the timing. Right now, I'm at the absolute last final stretch of a huge project at work, and not only can't I take any time off for the next month and a bit, I will probably be starting to work a lot of overtime soon to get through it. This is a very unusual situation for me; in fact, I've never had to work overtime for any length of time before and I don't expect to again any time soon. This is probably not a great time to have to take time off to be visited by shelter staff, to go look at dogs, etc. It's not even a good time to use my after work time on a lot of responsibilities like training a dog or going to obedience classes. Right now, I just need to spend my off time resting and burning off stress. It's going to be hard to work through this right now.

I don't have a solution to any of these concerns except to grin and bear it. We'll just have to see how it goes.

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