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Considering adoptng from a shelter-need feedback?


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Hello to All,

It has been a couple of months since I have participated in this forum. As many of you know, on April 1st, I lost my beloved 6 1/2 year old Cairn, Zoe, to a sudden illness.

Everybody here offered an outpouring of emotional support, prayer and sympanthy for whiich I will be forever grateful.

We have a 6 month old Cairn, Cody. We got him at 8 weeks old, shortly prior to Zoe's illness.

He is just an adorable, loving, bundle of joy and energy. We are so glad we have had him during this time of grief.

We got Cody as a companion for Zoe. We now realize Cody may need a companion. He just adores other dogs. So much so, that as we take our daily walks throughout our neighborhood, he will stop and sit ouside of our neighbor's homes that he knows have dogs. He will bark, then whine and cry, waiting for someone to come out and play!!

I have considered doing a rescue and have been searching on Col Potter's network as well as petfinder.org.

This past weekend, I located a little 5 year old Cairn girl in a shelter not too far from our home. She was just surrendered by her owner on Friday, June 10th becasue the owner was moving to a place that did not accept pets.

We took Cody and went to the shelter to meet her.

She is very cute. Not much is known about her except:

She is overweight

Badly needs grooming.

She has never been spayed.

It was also mentioned by the owner she has shown some "food aggression".

She growls and backs up if you approach while she is eating. The former owner said she has never bitten.

She is afraid of thunder.

Loves to dig, loves to ride in the car, loves toys.

Likes most other dogs.

When we meet her, she was obviously a little withdrawn, shy.

After a few minutes, went over to my 21 year old son, and rubbed against him, she allowed him to pat her.

She came over to me but moved away when I tried to pat her.

She did initiate play with Cody. They played well for about 5 minutes.

I guess the bottom line is:

Given little knowledge about her background, and her reported "food aggression", should I take a change and adopt her???

There is a 30 day "return" policy. Honestly, I don't know if I could give her back.

Really looking for some OBJECTIVE feedback.

Sorry for the length of this post!


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That is a really hard question. I don't know how to be objective when it comes to pets but here's my $.02 worth.

If you have any young children at home I would not get the dog.

Is there anyway you can get more info about her prior owners, medical care (vaccinations and such) or even her vet? That might help you with your decision. Is she housetrained? At five it might be an issue if she isn't.

Many wonderful Cairns have come from resuces. You didn't mention exactly how far away this shelter is from your home but if it's rather close you could always spend time with her there. See if she relaxes a bit with you, see how she does with Cody in different situations (giving treats, toys) Maybe take her out for a walk or a ride in the car.

I can't imagine making a decision like that because my heart rules my head.

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Hi Kay,

Thanks for the reply. The shelter is about 50 miles away from my home. They have very limited adoption hours so it makes it difficult to spend time there. The worker who brought Candy to us did not encourage an extended visit. It was very hot and humid here yesterday so she did not want to take the dog outside but placed us in a small room to interact. She is housebroken by owner's report.

I was told they do not "hold" dogs at the shelter. So if I wanted her I would have to make a decision or risk losing her to someone else.

She is to be spayed on Wednesday, and if I don't reconsider, she will be here by Thursday.

I did email the shelter to ask if any of the workers have observed her aggression but the dog has only been in the shelter since Friday morning. I am waiting for a reply.

I do not have any small children in my home but many small children visit us on on our daily walks.

I seem to be having some apprension regarding my decision. I just am not sure how well this shelter evaluates animals prior to placing for adoption. Col. Potter's evaluates prior to placement and most dgos spend some time being fostered so you know more about the dog.

Also, I am wondering if I should give Cody more time to bond with us and settle in our home before introuducing another dog.

Thanks again for your feedback.


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I applaud you for your decision to rescue this little girl. I have two cairns, Tucker, who we got as a puppy, and Scruffy, who we adopted when he was 9 mo. old. Tucker was 6 mos. old at the time. There were some food aggression issues so I started feeding them seperately. Tucker gets fed in the diningroom and Scruffy eats in the kitchen. I watch them both to make sure there are no fights. They get along great now.

I agree that if you had small children in the house it might not be a good idea to take this girl in. I think she'll probably open up more to you. Use a crate so that she has a safe haven to go to if things get heated. It sounds like she's confused and scared to death from being left in the shelter, and rightly so. Go with your gut. Please keep us posted!


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Guest rottndobie

IMHO rescues are the best. You said she has food aggression issues but has never bitten.. I'd say go for it. Food issues can be resolved with training. You mention she was a "little withdrawn, shy" and this is also workable. When I rescued Shadow he was the most abused and shy dog I had ever seen since I rescued Hobo (coyote/malmute) who had been wild. These guys need a lot of TLC but come around beautifully.

All that said, keep in mind that most rescues come with "baggage" and sometimes that needs to be worked through. In my 30 odd years of having dogs I have rescued at least 6 or 7 not including Shadow. All my rescues were big - 4 Dobes, 1 GSD mix, Hobo, and I know I am forgetting somebody. They all came with baggage but with work turned out to be excellent companions. I would not trade their time for all the tea in China. I have had my shot with the better bred Dobes and from this point forward I will only be getting rescues. It is very rewarding not only to save a life but the bonding that comes from working with them is unparalled.

Also keep in mind that the first 3-6 mos of having a rescued dog is considered the "honeymoon" period. It usually takes that long for them to settle into their new home. It is at that point you really see what you have...lol.

Good luck if you choose to go this route.

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Guest posting as: Pepandfriend's m

I have two dogs who are both rescues. I got my Cairn, who was four at the time, from rescue. He was an owner return to the pound. Too much detail here but the people had had him for only a year and said they could not get him housebroken in their condo. Ok, I still can't get him totally housebroken but he is definitely "home" now! He never growled and I don't know if I would have thought about this differently if he had. By the way, I don't have kids -- but I also run into plenty that want to pet the dogs along our route. I do watch for kids getting close to them.

Pep got along with my 3-year-old Westie fine when they were introduced. I am very glad I have Pepper and have never regretted my decision for a moment. Good luck! Rescues (at least my little guys) can be just great.


posting as "Pepandfriend's mom"

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I am glad you are ready for another Cairn in your life! She will help you to heal and deal with Zoe's loss.

I know all dogs are different, but we had a similar situation when we adopted Eric, our Wheaton Cairn, from a shelter 12 years ago. He was a fear biter, hadn't been neutered and had a little attitude. The shelter did not want to adopt him to a home with children because of his fear biting. The short version of a very long story is we took him home on the day he was supposed to be destroyed. He blended into our family right away. We had another Cairn at that time and a lab, plus a few cats. Our neighbors had young children and Eric loved to play with them. The little girl used to push him around the yard in her doll carriage! The fear biting was obviously a reaction to being in a cage at the shelter. We never had a problem with him and he never snapped at a child. The only time he snaps is at the vet when they try to get a needle in him. He has been a joy and has given us many laughs. He just turned 13.

I believe with proper love, care and discipline you can correct any issue. The food aggression may be caused by the shelter environment. You can certainly separate them at home for feeding time and be careful with treats. She will probably act differently in your home than she does in the shelter. I say it's worth a try.

Best of luck and let us know your decision.


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