While many consider adopting a pet, just visiting local animal shelters can also be a great option for families. It’s a wonderful way to give animals that don’t normally get personalized attention, some love and affection. Whether you find a small shelter near you, or visit the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare division, there are lots of opportunities to visit local animal shelters.
This past January, one of our dogs got hit by a car. It was a tragic accident that left our family confused and upset. While we had to try to explain the death of our dog to a toddler, we also had to find ways to cope as a family. One of these ways was going to the shelters. While it was not our intention to immediately adopt, we did find a furry friend that fit well with our family just two short weeks later. In those 14 days though, we visited the animals shelters almost every day or every other day to love on some dogs that just don’t get the attention they deserve. We visited the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Division the most, but also Edmond Animal Welfare. We have also visited the Central Oklahoma Humane Society in the past and they have an active facebook page as well!
Whether you are interested in just visiting or you are looking to adopt a new pet, you should definitely do your research before going. While we were very prepared before entering and had been several times before, this was our first time bringing in our toddler. Here are some things to remember and some things I learned:
- Visit a small animal shelter or adoption event first. This means there is less chaos. It’s not so overwhelming to visit a small establishment and it’s a little easier on little ones to not be in such a big and noisy environment.The first place we went was actually a PetSmart adoption event. There were fewer people and pets around and it’s a very informal setting. Also, most dogs that are at these events have not been in the shelter, but have found foster homes. Having been in a foster home means that there is someone who knows that dog really well. It’s a less intimidating feeling to know that someone has spent one-on-one time with an animal.
- But don’t forget about the larger shelters. While it was definitely a very noisy and, at times, tearful experience, it was very good to go to the Oklahoma City Shelter in Del City. There are endless amounts of pets available to adopt. Many dogs share a cage with a buddy and there are about 3-4 rooms of dogs, several cat rooms, and even a room with rabbits and other animals. It can be loud and it can be intimidating at first, but it is so incredibly rewarding. We picked about 7 dogs to take out individually and pet, give treats to, and play with in the “get to know you” rooms.
- Bring Pencil and Paper. This is so you can walk through and write down the ones that immediately attract your family. Whether you’re looking to adopt or just visit, you want to make sure that you’re interacting with animals you feel comfortable with and ones that you feel like you can connect to in a real way.We walked through without looking at any of their information and wrote down the names of the ones that stood out to us. Then we went back and did the hand test. We would take the back of our hand and glide it side to side across the cage. If the dog followed our hands, then they were social enough to stay on the list.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to get the dogs out. Like I said before, we got some of the dogs out and took them into holding rooms where we played with them, gave them a ball, and fed them some treats. It’s such a great way to give them some socialization outside of the four walls they are used to and away from all the noise. (Just be sure you’re careful not to let the other dog out of the cage like my husband did 😉 )
- Love on them. Don’t be afraid to show some emotion or to let your kids show emotion. Especially if this is part of healing and coping, give them love without thinking about attachment. The reality is that it’s hard to get attached when you love on so many at once. For us, it forced us to decide what qualities we wanted and didn’t want in a dog. (Do we want them to be needy or aloof, shy or expressive, energetic or laid back?)
- Talk about it and Go Back! Don’t go just go once, especially if you’re looking at adopting. We went 5+ times before we even found a dog we liked. And then we visited him three days in a row before taking the adoption plunge. We talked about the animals in general and what we could do to help. It turned out to be great teachable moments and family time together.If you have another family pet, and are considering adoption, bring them in to see if the personalities mesh well. We brought in our other dog and let them play with each other in the holding room for a little while. Especially since both dog were male, we wanted to ensure they could get along with each other.
- Donate. You don’t just have to donate money to be a blessing to the local animal shelters. Donating food, toys, beds, and more is a huge help. Toys get torn up a lot during enrichment times, so they can always use more. Money and food help too because it’s hard on a dog’s digestive system to switch foods all the time. So finding out what they have and buying more can be helpful. And finally, donate your time if you can. There’s no substitute for the love that we can give to these animals.
In the end we found a great dog for our family and had a great time in the process. His name is Samson (renamed from Zeppo) and he is a St. Bernard mix (presumed to be with Anatolian so he’s bound to be one BIG dog!) Shelter dogs are some of the sweetest animals because they want nothing more than to love you and it’s definitely a myth that all of the dogs “left” are unwanted. Samson is the prime example of a great dog rescue from the local animal shelter. Thank you Oklahoma City and Edmond Animal Welfare for such a great experience.