Exploring Animal Shelters … Approved ✅

IMG_8812This has been  a very exciting and busy week for us, and we couldn’t be happier. For the past 2 years, Back-to-School week has coincided with Buster’s Gotcha Day. It’s hard to believe this big ball of energy has only been in our lives for 2 years, because I can’t imagine life without our Velcro Dog. He is a Stage 1 Clinger for sure!

When he joined our family, I wasn’t even sure I was ready for another dog. Our last dog, an English Bulldog names Sgt. Major, has a terminal diagnosis that required me to make the decision to put him to sleep alone. George was stationed in Korea at the times and it was such a heavy and heartbreaking decision I didn’t think I’d ever want to be in a position to have to make that decision again. Bust George thought after 2 years, that maybe another dog would be good for all of us and Jamie was getting old enough to have some of the responsibilities of caring for a dog so it would be a great lesson.

So George searched all the local shelters and found a Mastiff (a dog he’s always wanted) at a neighboring community’s shelter. We left phone messages and hoped for a call back. The next week or so, we still hadn’t heard back but he heard that shelter was going to be at a local PetSmart, so we headed over there. He spoke with the staff while Jamie and I explored the “free zoo”. George said the staff couldn’t remember a Mastiff at their facility and invited us to go there and see if we could find him, so he got directions and we headed over. We didn’t realize until we got there that we had either gone to the wrong PetSmart or we had gone on the wrong day and a different community, League City, had been there.  Well, it was an honest mistake considering we are in one of 13 communities in the Houston-Galveston corridor! (If you watch TLC’s Outdaughtered League City, Texas may sound familiar.)

IMG_3453We decided to explore their options anyway since it had been a week since we left a message at the shelter and still hadn’t gotten a phone call. Walking in, the shelter was like many other’s I’d been to. Lots of pet smells and noise, and a building full of staff and volunteers who really had a heart for animals. Each of the dog kennels had a small bucket on them with treats that you could feed the dogs and get to know their personality. Buster’s kennel was right as you walk in the door, to the right. He was so quiet and still, but his eyes followed our every move. His tailed wagged incessantly, but he just sat there sniffing us as we fed him treats, talked to him and petted him through the fence. We looked at a few dogs that day, though George was still set on a mastiff, so we didn’t make any decisions, but said we’d come back.

That whole week Jamie and I talked about how much we liked Buster, and I think we wore George down. After leaving more messages for the Mastiff’s shelter but having no response, we went back to the League City Shelter the following weekend. We had the chance to take him outside in a gated area and play with him and he was a little more active than before, but still pretty tame. Once I had decided I wanted him the week before I had researched his breed and other information about transitioning older shelter dogs. He was an estimated 4 years old at that time. We were told that Buster must be fostered for a week before an adoption would be allowed. We had never heard of that but it wasn’t a deal breaker, we’d come back the following week to fill out the paperwork, so Buster came home with us on August 13, 2016.

IMG_8859The following week, we learned so much more about his history when I filled out the paperwork. From staff memory, he had been dumped off outside the shelter as a pup. The guess that because of a raspy catch in his throat when he got excited that he wasn’t sell-able to his breeder. Luckily, the breeder/original owner had not spent time or money to crop his tail, something many Amstaffs endure. His docile and saddened demeanor was an allure to some people, despite the shelter warning that some dogs perk up and have more energy than what is seen at a shelter. So this led to Buster being adopted 3 times in those 4 years and returned after a few weeks or months. That really broke my heart. I can’t imagine thinking you’ve found a forever home, only to be returned because you were too happy.

Over the next 6-12 months we really saw his demeanor change. We certainly learned patience and how to discipline a dog who exhibited signs of minor abuse. He doesn’t like things looming over his head, he cowers if you move a broom, bat or stick too fast. He has an energy level that can either exhaust you or encourage you to collect miles and miles of walking. We have chosen the latter, and he and I often do virtual 5Ks together.

Each year  near his Gotcha Day, we collect donations for the League City Shelter and taken them to the shelter as a thank you. This No Kill Shelter continued to take our sweet pup in when others no longer wanted him, and we are so grateful because otherwise we would not have found him. Shelters across the United States depend on donations and volunteers to help them stay open to take all of these pets in need.

When I was a Civilian Journalist with the Army, I spend hours at the on-base shelter photographing and working to find homes for these abandoned pets, so bringing home my own shelter dog was a no-brainer.

38929007_2111950649131568_837069966141292544_nThis week we were also excited for Jamie to learn that other kids spend their time and energy supporting shelters and abandoned animals as well. We attended a friend’s birthday party where she asked for food and toy donations for the Friendswood Animal Shelter in lieu of gifts. It was a great opportunity for Jamie to see others find ways to give back, and I’m sure give parents a chance to talk to their kids about supporting organizations like this that benefit our communities. (Thank you to Sweet Miss G’s family for letting us be a part of your efforts to support a local shelter.)

While we don’t march on the steps of the capitol building or stand outside of pet stores and breeders’s facilities protesting, we are big advocates of the “Adopt, Don’t Shop” philosophy. We use what forums we have, such as this blog, to show people that adoption is a viable and hopefully primary option when looking for a pet to add to your family. We also advocate that people should not make this decision lightly. Adding a pet to your home is a big responsibility and you should go into it fully prepared to accept all the things that come with that. From food to training to medical care and knowing your community’s regulations, pet ownership isn’t for those looking for “cool” points or a way to pacify your kid, only to get rid of it later. Pets, whether a goldfish or dog, are not toys to serve as temporary forms of entertainment. Owning a shelter pet can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do. If you don;t think your family is prepared to take on a pet full time, I encourage you to consider volunteering at a local shelter. There are so many life lessons that you can learn, even as an adult but spending time helping animals who just want someone to love them.

I am so excited to see what the future holds for us and Buster. If you have been following our social media feeds you know this guy has his own personality. Feel free to follow us on Facebook or Instagram and keep tabs on this pup’s journey of exploration. So far he is a big fan of all the beds in the RV. Camping and hiking are certainly more fun when you have a four-legged friend to share your adventures with!

Some of our favorite Buster Moments:

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