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What You Need to Know Before Visiting Your Local Dog Shelter (Part II)
When visiting a dog shelter, be sure to observe how the shelter staff members interact with the animals. You should be able to tell whether they truly know and love the dogs or whether they're just feeding and walking them because it's their job. They should be able to talk to you intelligently about the characteristics of the various dogs; however, they should never be in a rush for you to adopt a dog. You want them to be as careful about this adoption as you're going to be. Indeed, if they seem to want you to pick a dog, any dog, and take him or her home with you right away, then they aren't looking out for their dogs’ welfare, or for yours for that matter. Shelters that are too hasty in their matchmaking aren't responsible shelters.
It's important to remember that a well-kept, well-run shelter doesn't have to be a large, flashy facility. There are many small, financially challenged and perhaps physically unspectacular adoption shelters - some that are completely operated by volunteers - which are wonderful places to adopt. In fact, small shelters with volunteer staffs (you might call them "labor of love" shelters) often know their animals more closely than large shelters do, and they will usually take the time to give every dog and potential adopter lots of attention. The bottom line is this: What matters isn't whether a shelter has fancy displays and silver dog dishes, but whether it has clean facilities, a committed and informed staff, and reasonable adoption policies and procedures.
When you visit a shelter, you probably won't be the only one taking notes and making evaluations; the shelter’s staff will be checking you out, too. There is no reason to be nervous. This doesn't have to be like meeting your in-laws for the first time. Nevertheless, be aware that adoption is a two-way street, and the staff members of a responsible shelter will most likely have as many questions for you as you have for them. Be impressed rather than anxious by their interest, even if their queries occasionally seem snooping or irrelevant. There’s no reason to be defensive or apologetic, and answer honestly; after all, you're a trustworthy adopter with nothing to hide, right? The shelter employees aren't trying to trick you or trip you up. Remember, the more they know about you and your lifestyle, the better prepared they'll be to help you pick the right dog when the time comes.
Lastly, some shelters will ask you (either during your preliminary visit or when you return looking for a dog) to fill out a written "pre-adoption" form before they'll even show you their dogs. These forms aren't binding; they are just informational and are used to help the staff get to know you and your needs. Other shelters may have "counseling rooms" where staff members will sit and talk with you before taking you to see their animals. However, most shelters will simply interview you informally as you visit their facility.
About the Author: Dan Irwin has been 'in love' with the Golden Retriever breed for nearly twenty years now. For a limited time, receive a free copy of "101 Ways to Spoil Your Dog for Under " when you sign up for his free golden retriever newsletter