As you may remember from almost two months ago, we lost our beloved dog Sif when she was hit by a dump truck and instantly killed. We mourned and grieved, and then we started thinking about filling that empty place in our lives and house. There was no one to do Sif’s jobs anymore – doorbell, ninja squirrel announcer, spilled milk cleaner. There was no dog to shed all over my freshly swept floors, or walk right in front of me and take up the whole space so I couldn’t pass her. No one to lay on my feet at night and warm them up.
New dog criteria
For a few weeks, I scoured the web to find the right dog to join our family. My first criterion was that it had to be at smallest a medium sized dog. I have only ever had large breed dogs. A doberman (Rusty) and three mutts (Dingo, Pepper, and Rascal) when I was a child, a German Shepherd mix (Freyja) and a husky/golden mix (Sif) as an adult. I don’t want small dogs. I want one that big enough to make his presence known in a crowded room.
I wanted a dog that would most likely have a low prey drive so I needn’t worry about the chickens. Sif was so good with the chickens that one time I closed her in with them for a day when I had to be gone a ridiculously long time and could not take her with me. It only happened once in the entire time we had her, but I was able to trust her. Several times she followed someone in through the chicken gate and forgot to come out with everyone else. Being trustworthy with chickens and children was important to me.
My final criteria was that any new dog we got be visually distinct from Sif and Freyja. I didn’t want identity crises. I didn’t want to look a new dog and habitually think she was Sif. I wanted to give a new dog all the space needed to create his own identity and character. I figured it was only fair.
A whole new world
In my searching for a new dog, I discovered that things have changed in the dog adoption world in the last 5-10 years. When we adopted Sif in January 2010, she was 12 weeks old and the adoption fee at the Humane Society was, I believe, about $125. She was spayed, and was completely up to date on all of her health needs. When I looked at their website this time, I saw that prices were thrice that amount. What happened to cause such a spike in prices?
It seems that New Hampshire has such a successful animal population control program that there is a shortage of dogs available for adoption. From what I saw on Petfinder, the vast majority of dogs in shelters and rescues in New England are from the South. I don’t know why there is such a population discrepancy between the two regions of the US, but apparently dogs are rescued from kill shelters in the South and brought to New England (where I have never seen a kill shelter) to be adopted up here.
As a result of the influx of imported dogs, New Hampshire has set up some laws that seem to be a bit stricter than other states’ laws. Primarily, imported dogs must go through a 48-hour quarantine in a licensed facility and receive a clean health certificate from a New Hampshire veterinarian (Source RSA 437:10). So whereas before the adoption fee covered immediate health care needs and spaying/neutering, now it has to also cover transportation costs from the South and quarantine costs.
Finding a rescue to work with
Due to the strictness, I wanted to make sure I adopted from a rescue/shelter in New Hampshire so that the quarantine and NH health certificate were already done. I came across some shelters in Vermont that refuse to adopt to New Hampshire residents for this very reason. In fact, that is how I learned of this law that went into effect in 2012. I came across another rescue group that avoided the law by having adoptive parents pick up their dogs in a state without quarantine laws. That seemed rather sketchy to me.
I then did a search on Petfinder for organization within New Hampshire. I visited their websites and checked out their adoption policies. Some rescues had very invasive applications, asking questions like (I kid you not), “If you are adopting with a partner, who will get custody if the relationship were to change?” and, “I understand that [rescue group] will provide a lifetime phone and/or e-mail support to help with the integration of my adopted dog into my family and with my adopted dog’s well-being throughout its entire life,” followed immediately by, “ I further understand that such a breach of contract authorizes [rescue group] to immediately reclaim possession and ownership of my adopted dog. I understand that any legal or court fees associated with reacquisition of said dog will be repaid to [rescue group], in full.” This same rescue group charges a $500 adoption fee, and if for any reason you ever have surrender your dog, you may only do so to them, or they will charge you $1000-$1500. Oh, and, “I agree and understand that, if I my adopted puppy, is under four months of age, that I, being of sound mind; regardless of a Veterinary opinion contrary to this stipulation, must sterilize this puppy before the age of six and a half months. I understand that a copy of the sterilization certificate MUST be mailed or emailed to [rescue group]. Failure to provide documentation will result in a $1000 fee. This application is a signed agreement that you will have this procedure completed before the age of six and a half months, regardless of what my Veterinarian, my friends, or even Pope Francis tell me. White River Animal Rescue reserves the right to take the dog to their Rescue Veterinarian, to have the dog sterilized, at your expense.” (Emphasis mine.) So the rescue organization says that they know better than any veterinarian what is best for this particular dog or puppy. That was definitely the most outrageous adoption application I saw. Yes, those were all on the same application.
I did finally find a rescue that had a minimalist application that allowed people to be human and not necessarily be Mother Teresa to adopt a dog. I found several actually. I filled out some online applications to get things moving as fast as possible. I didn’t want to lose out on adopting a dog I wanted due to paperwork mishaps.
A couple of days later I was at my son’s soccer game and chatting with one of his classmate’s mom. She had a puppy with her and I asked her where she got her. Interestingly, it was one of the places I had already applied. She said that the process was nice and easy and they were able to take their puppy home the day they went to find her. Many of the rescues I came across required you to choose a dog to adopt and then go through a background check and a home visit before being allowed to bring the dog home.
The next day, I got online and checked that group’s website. They had so many puppies available. Puppies were hard to come by at the other places I looked. Around 11:30, I called over there to inquire about their procedures and see if they had received my application. They said they were a bit behind on their applications due to personal issues, but that I was welcome to come out and meet their animals. I said I would be over around 5, which would give time for the kids to get home from school and get us all over to Homes for Happy Dogs in Chichester, a 90-minute drive halfway across the state.
This story is turning out to be much longer than I thought it would so I will finish it in the next post.