I want to adopt a rescue dog, but what is involved?
In the spirit of starting as we mean to go on, let’s be frank.
You’re not Madonna. And this – contrary to what this obscure pop reference would have you believe – did not begin in Africa.
If a tiny being to cherish and care for is all that you seek, you might want to look into adopting a human baby. It will probably be easier and more fulfilling.
When you adopt a rescue dog, it can go one of two ways:
- You regain consciousness to find yourself in the rescue centre carpark, tethered securely to a cheerful, gooey-eyed mongrel, signposted ‘Please look after this dog.’ And you only went out for milk.
- The mere glimpse of your new canine companion is withheld from you until such time as you have proven yourself worthy. You will em-bark on a series of complex and ridiculous quests. For the lucky few who emerge triumphant, only then will you be deemed a worthy candidate for a potential adoption.
It depends entirely on where you go in search of your perfect pooch. In this post, I’ll be talking you through my experience adopting Lola from The Dog’s Trust. Their adoption process definitely veered towards the latter, which to be honest I was really happy with and I’ll explain why.
I’ll be touching on the other end of the spectrum in a future post.
Adopting from The Dogs Trust
When I first looked at adopting a rescue dog, I did a lot of googling around. Overall, I had a very positive experience with The Dog’s Trust. Although their adoption process felt tedious and was frustrating at times, it obviously works. Their system prioritises the mental as well as the physical welfare of the dogs in their care, which I liked.
What’s it like adopting from The Dog’s Trust? I’ve detailed my experience in this handy and in no way irritating listicle.
Step 1: Phone ahead.
I phoned up DT in advance, to check the pooch I was interested in was still available. I was initially surprised that I couldn’t get through to the centre itself, but I can see why they do this with so many calls. The call centre weeds our unnecessary calls to allow the adoption centre staff to get on with their jobs. As things progressed it was good to know you could get through to the call centre outwith office hours and post-adoption you can use their Vet-phone service too. Also, the call centre staff are super friendly and helpful too.
It’s worth noting that you can just turn up at the centre, but we had a fair trek and wanted to be on the safe side.
Step 2: Paperwork, anyone?
On arrival, you are given a form to fill out. Your usual details are required, plus a little about your lifestyle, what kind of home you can offer – is your garden secure? How high is your fence? What are your working hours like? – and so on. You can also detail what kind of traits you are looking for in your new dog (see: identifying your non-negotiables) here. I made sure to note that I lived rurally in a cottage, with walks on the doorstep, a secure garden and wouldn’t need to leave my dog at home during the day.
It’s worth noting that these forms are per-centre, so if you’re visiting two branches of DT be prepared to do the paperwork again. It only takes 5 minutes.
Step 3: Into the mad house.
A clean, tidy, well organised one, but it still feels like a mad house all the same when the kennels are full. Centre set-ups vary, but you can walk around the kennels and view the dogs through the glass, each with a little bio about themselves pinned to their room. Obviously, it’s pretty difficult to tell anything about a dog in this environment, some look depressed and introverted, some perfectly content and others lapping up the attention from passing perusers. It can’t help but feel like a bit of a cattle market, but as kennels go it was a nice environment. The Edinburgh DT centre had lovely ‘outdoor’ kennel blocks. The dogs I saw were mostly kept separately unless they were pals to be rehomed together. You can stroll around the kennels, reading the bios and saying hello to their tenants.
Don’t go expecting to be introduced to any of the dogs straight away, that’s a bit down the line yet.
Your next move is to catch a centre volunteer and let them know which dog(s) you are interested in. The few lovely people that I dealt with were great, checking my form against each animal’s record, then if suitable, talking through the file with me. Each dog has a file detailing their medical history (if any), any previous owners and their reasons for rehoming, any behavioral issues and their ideal type of home, along with other relevant information. It’s useful and I did find a lot of the dogs I had seen online had more in-depth backgrounds than I had expected from their short bios.
The staff were really helpful. This part of the process is extremely thorough though, and I found it took about 30 minutes per file. Make sure you have plenty of time. I went with a shortlist of dogs I’d seen on the website, but even then I wasn’t introduced to the dogs straight away. I actually like how they do this, it minimises stress to the animals and they are hopefully only meeting serious potential homes. It’s a pain in the ass but I guess you have to be playing the long-game.
Step 4: Meet yo pup.
Yay, the moment of truth! So your pup meets your non-negotiables, the DT staff are happy that you meet their criteria, and then its time to meet some doggies.
The handler initially brought Lola out to the carpark for our first meet and greet. The words ‘oh’ and ‘shit’ crossed my mind more than once. She was properly wild and spent most of the short intro on two legs. It was difficult to get a real idea of her personality and her brain was clearly blown by all this. But the handler was great and had a lot of time for me, giving me as much insight into Lola’s personality as she could and chatting through training ideas.
If you’re going to see a dog in kennels, don’t expect to see their true colours straight away. It’s a stressful environment for any animal.
I went for three meets before adopting Lola and she was still an entirely different beast once we’d got her home. In a good way! So give a rescue dog a chance, even if it looks a bit demented during the first meet. I’m sure plenty of the dogs are more chilled about being in kennels, but I didn’t meet any of them.
Step 5: More paperwork.
So you’ve got your heart set on a certain pair of puppy-dog-eyes. Now for a bit more pencil-pushing. I was given a vet registration form to take to my vet for signing. This is to prove the dog is registered at a vet clinic before they leave the centre. This needs to be returned when you come back to collect your dog.
You’ll also schedule your home visit at this point. Although I was sure I could offer a great home, I was really nervous about this!
We scheduled our home visit for the following Wednesday (eek!) and to collect Lola on the Saturday. Before you can take your dog home, each new parent must attend a Pre-Adoption Talk. This was actually less excruciating than it sounds and I’ll cover it in one of my next posts.
Would you like to offer a rescue dog a new forever home?
You can follow my experience of the full adoption process in this blog series. My aim is to encourage people to choose a rescue dog, give a little insight into what’s involved and offer my 2 pence on how to best prepare for doggy-adoption.
Check out my next post to hear all about how I got on with my Dog’s Trust Home Visit. Oooh, suspense!