Anticipating hopes when adopting a new pet
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By Mickey Zeldes  November 14, 2013 11:00 am

Sometimes, the hardest part of doing adoptions is trying to get people to have realistic expectations.

Yes, I know this dog may look exactly like the one you had for 14 years that just died, but trust me, he will not act the same. He may actually be better than the previous dog, but usually there is some disappointment and frustration when things aren’t the same from the get-go. No, the new dog will not follow you on your daily walk without a leash like the last one did.

Remember, it was only the last nine years you trusted that one off leash and you spent the first five years training it to that routine. Not only that, but this dog doesn’t know you yet, or even have a name to respond to. That’s not to say this dog won’t learn the routine and eventually be the great walking buddy that you miss so much – but it is a process. And if you’re not ready to put the work into that process, then maybe you aren’t really ready yet for a new pet with the training and challenges that come with him.

People quickly forget what it was like the first year or two they had a dog – especially if she lived to a ripe old age and was a mature dog for most of the time together. We tend to remember the recent chunk of time most clearly, and the early years are tucked away in long-term memory storage (or blocked out altogether if that dog was the puppy from hell). Don’t forget you are also now 14 years older than when you adopted that pup, so be realistic about your energy and tolerance levels for puppy hi-jinx and supervision needs.

We spend a lot of time talking to people about what they are looking for when they come in to check out our adoption animals. We know it’s easy to fall for a cute face and a wagging tail, and most people feel bad for the animals sitting in a cage and want to “rescue” one right away. What we try to do in the match-making process is make sure the personality is a good match. We get valuable information, of course, from previous owners when they surrender their pets and for strays, we rely on both our temperament tests and the feedback from the staff and volunteers that interact with the animal on a daily basis.

If that cat resists sitting on our laps, there’s a pretty good chance that he will not suddenly become a lap-cat in your home. If he’s a lazy lap-cat and never shown an interest in the string toys we try to coax him to play with, chances are high that he’s not going to be the mouser you are wanting for your property.

After the match is made though, the real work starts in getting the bond going with the new family and learning how to communicate and understand each other. With dogs, training classes can be a great kick-start to a new vocabulary learned together. Having a trainer to help you through the initial adjustment glitches can also be very helpful. No matter how experienced you are, each animal will inevitably present a new challenge. Whenever we hear complaints or frustrations about a newly adopted animal, it always starts out with “my other dog never….” Well, this one does!

The important thing with each adoption is that you are realistic in your expectations and prepared for the adjustment period and work involved in integrating a new animal into your home. It can’t be rushed, and it can’t be put off until you have more time. But the rewards – a great new loving pet that fits into your lifestyle and family – make it all worthwhile.

Upcoming Events:

Have casino fever? We have many wonderful animals just waiting for their luck to change. Take a chance on a shelter animal and make the dream of a home a reality. Then spin the wheel and get a deal on the adoption fee! We have discounts including $10 off, 2-for-1 special, half price and other great deals. Come take a gamble and make this a lucky day for one of our shelter animals – you will go home a big winner!

• Free pet ID tags and microchips are available for all Rohnert Park and Cotati pets. Stop by the shelter during our open hours to protect your pet – Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 1-5:30 p.m. and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

Post Your Comments:
November 18, 2013
Very nice article and very timely for me. I lost a great dog on 9/1/13. He was just 9 and was in seemingly great shape until his sudden illness and demise. Though I know grieving for him will go on for a long time, I am a dog person and find it hard to be without a dog. I have been going to the shelters and rescue organizations in search of a replacement for my lost best friend. It is definitely a challenge to try to get expectations to come to terms with reality. I can only hope that whatever led to to find Owen 9 years ago (he was a rescue from the Petaluma shelter) will guide me in my search now. Thanks for the article.
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