My son and daughter-in-law (DIL) adopted a puppy on Saturday.
They invited me to come along to the adoption event, which was an honor for me. Of course, they benefited from having their own personal veterinarian to “vet” the puppy. I was happy to be of service as a mom, a mother-in-law and the family vet!
This is the first time I have ever attended a large-scale adoption event held at a corporate pet store. Good thing, since I almost left with another puppy and 2 cats for myself. Since my husband and I now spend most of our time in a 1-bedroom apartment — already happily inhabited by a cat and a dog — adding more pets is not a good lifestyle decision currently.
Anyway, my son and DIL are young marrieds, living in a tiny apartment in New York City, with demanding jobs. After a thorough and well-researched internet search, they put their money down on a 4-month-old Whippet-rat terrier cutie-pie who had just arrived in Connecticut from Arkansas.
Anxious Waiting and Mayhem
We arrived at the adoption center early, and Artie Arkansas’s van had not pulled up yet.
Other adoptable pups and dogs were on display as we awaited the little love from Little Rock. Puppies were playing with each other like crazy, kids were running around as excited as the puppies. It was an energetic morning!
The volunteers encouraged us to play with all the pups, so of course my DIL and I fell in love with Pongo from Puerto Rico. Sensing some frustration from my son, I could tell he didn’t want to get attached to any pup but Artie.
The white panel van drove up to the store, and volunteers paraded in with many lovely, happy, healthy-looking pups and dogs. Artie was one of the last little mutts to gleefully escape his van transport. He looked much more like a Whippet in real life than his picture, so his name was temporarily changed to Devo.
A Well-Run Adoption Event
Many years of my veterinary life have been dedicated to working with shelters, rescue groups and new parents of rescues. Occasionally, I have disagreed with some decisions shelters and organizations make. This adoption event, however, was beautifully run, and I was very impressed because:
- All the dogs looked healthy.
- All the dogs seemed to be temperament tested! There did not seem to be an obvious behavior or aggression problem in the bunch.
- All the volunteers were helpful, cheerful and knowledgeable. This work is so stressful that some animal rescuers can get a bit sanctimonious, but not this group.
- All the dogs had cage cards with their information easily displayed.
Before Artie had even arrived, his cage read, “I’m already adopted.” The volunteers saw us playing with Artie and Pongo, encouraging us to adopt them both. My son was loyal to Artie, so we had to convince ourselves that Pongo was so adorable that he would get a home soon.
The First Day
This adoption process was exhilarating, overwhelming and emotional. My son had been brought up with dogs, and my DIL had done her research.
As we left the pet store with reams of paperwork and a free bag of food for our Whippet-wannabee, it reminded me of leaving Pennsylvania Hospital with my 2 human bundles of joy 35 years ago. I was in awe and terror of my little beasts, and the look on my DIL’s face as she cuddled her bundle of puppy had that similar mix of love, anticipation and fear.
Despite the mostly correct information given by the rescue group (I offered a correction or 2 that did not go over well with the volunteer), my son and DIL still had lots of questions. The 2-hour car ride home was like a crash puppy course.
My DIL said she had wanted to find a checklist for her first month of puppy-keeping. So here goes.
- A safe training leash or harness to use immediately.
- A crate already set up at home.
- A plan about house training in place. Perhaps someone can work at home for the first week, just to how challenging house training will be. There’s always puppy day care and responsible dog walkers, but pups often have to be taken out every 30 minutes. Day cares and dog walkers can’t do that.
- A supply of the food the puppy is used to. You can always gradually change over to a food of your choice.
- A few comforting toys and safe puppy treats, but don’t go overboard. The puppy is overwhelmed too — they don’t need you dropping $500 at the pet store on day 1. The most important thing to that puppy right now is you and getting used to their new home.
- This is extremely important: Make a vet appointment in the next few days. If the puppy appears healthy, you can gather your thoughts and questions together and go to the vet within the week. Most reputable rescue groups have a vet check the pups in their state of origin as well as the adoption state, but this can be a cursory vet exam, and things can happen in transport.
- A reservation in a puppy class.
House training is usually the biggest obstacle in the very beginning. Do research on your own. Your resources for initial additional help should come from your vet’s office, your trainer or your rescue group.
Many of the seasoned rescue workers foster puppies and have knowledge. In the case of Artie, however, he was probably always in a shelter until his trip north, so nobody had experience with him in a home environment.
Your Puppy’s First Vet Appointment
Bring your paperwork to the vet. So many people come into the vet’s office without the pup’s veterinary and adoption records. I found a few discrepancies in Artie’s paperwork, and I would not have found these issues without the original records.
Artie, for example, went home with no heartworm or flea and tick preventative. The little boy got adopted so quickly that he only had 1 round of deworming and no stool samples done. His vaccines were adequate for Arkansas — but not the Northeast.
Arrive at the vet’s office early or, better yet, fax or drop off the paperwork before your first appointment. The office can start a file for your pup and carefully go through the vaccine and medical history. Their file can be ready when you walk in the door. This is a great idea, but lots of vet practices don’t insist on it — or the pet’s new humans forget to do it.
D’awww — this adoption event looked like a great success:
Strongly consider pet insurance. Your vet staff can help you with this, but do some research on your own and have your questions ready. Good rescue groups usually give you some info on insurance. Your new pet is often covered minimally and for a short time period, but consider buying your own policy soon.
People have a tendency to adopt a pet with some medical records and think they’re covered for a year or so. This is almost never the case.
You will probably have a lot more questions in the first month. Keep channels of communication open with your vet and your rescue group, if applicable.
The technicians at your vet’s office are great resources about puppy stuff. They like to be of service, so call them! And good luck.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Nov. 7, 2018.