Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month

My own shelter dog, Quinn. Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

The end of October is rapidly approaching, but there is still time to celebrate and appreciate Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month! Might you or someone you know be looking for a new canine family member? If so, I encourage a visit to your local shelter.

Even if a purebred dog is your heart’s desire, the shelter is a great place to begin your search. Believe it or not, many purebred dogs wind up in shelter situations. My one caveat- I encourage adoption from shelters that provide staffing to perform thorough pre-adoption temperament testing and health screening. These evaluations increase the likelihood of finding permanent homes for shelter dogs.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is celebrating Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month by hosting a live on line stream event on October 30th at 7:00 PM EST. This program will feature ASPCA behavior experts talking about bringing a new dog into the home.

Please share your own story in the public comments about adopting a shelter dog and I will enter your name into a prize drawing. The lucky winner will receive a wonderful gift basket filled with goodies for you and your pooch. Thanks to the ASPCA for donating this terrific prize. I look forward to reading your stories!

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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16 Comments on “Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month

  1. On the 16th of October I met a tiny Rat Terrier offerted by the Long Beach Animal Care Services for adoption. You may recall that a month before I lost my little Chihuahua “Enero” and neither I nor his “sister Navidad were doing well with our loss.
    This little girl was at the shelter for two months (which is unusual) but everyone loved her so much that they were determined to keep her alive. However, time was running out.
    All I knes that she was around two years old, appeared to have had a litter, someone broke a rib on her right side which apparently healed without veterinary care, intact, and found as a stray on a busy street, weighing two pounds under what her normal weight should be. For a Rat Terrier that’s a lot of loss.
    She came home with me, and her attitude was that she belonged, she was safe and she was grateful. She licked my two cats who in turn rubbed against her, Navidad sniffed her from stem to satern and said OK, this will work for me.
    The shelter spayed her, microchipped her, licensed her, all vaccinatins were brought up to date and a long medical history came with her papers.
    Her shelter-name was “Buttons” and it was the first thing that had to go. Having watched her fopr two days play with the stuffing-free toys, stalking and shaking them, I could see how a tiny creature like this could deal with a rat. Therefore, the only logical name for her became ARTEMIS, Goddess of the Hunt (and Apollo’s sister). She heard it twice and loved the sound of it. Responds to her name like magic.
    In the few days I’ve had her, she learned “good sit”, “good down”, “stay”, “good finish” and “don’t touch that, its mine”. That tiny brain is indeed powerful, working all the time and so eager to learn! She can be a little thief if food is left within reach but with a small dog like Artemis, its not a real problem.
    This is the first time that I adopted from a shelter (all my innumerable pets have always been strays). The cost of her adoption including everything listed above was $97.00. What a great deal and what a pleasure that for such a small amount, a delightful little life was saved and will live a healthy, happy, safe and beloved life.
    I am not the “melting” sort of person, but when Artemis and Navidad lie next to each other on one end of my bed and the cats, Casper and Serendipity on the other end, I do go all soft and buttery inside.
    ADOPT, ADOPT, ADOPT! And remember the old Jewish proverb: a man never soard so high as when he stoops to help an animal.

  2. I am the proud caretaker of a Kelpie-looking mix adopted from a shelter in Louisiana. A first time dog owner I honestly knew nothing about raising or training a dog much less a puppy. I’ve been blessed with the best teacher, a patient and loving dog. Lucy has always been a bit worried about new things and new environments which I attribute to my lack of knowledge about socializing. In spite of her concerns we have done all sorts of training and competing. Agility, Rally, Obedience and now Nose Work and tracking. A trainer who didn’t really know me or my sweet girl very well told me one time that Lucy didn’t have a good work ethic. I was appalled so you can imagine my pleasure when Lucy and I were awarded Team of the Year from our local AKC Kennel Club for having attained 6 AKC titles in 2011. She will be 8 in a few days . . . we are graying together and still loving life.

  3. I need to add to my story that Barb, who kept Panda until I could adopt her, fosters for the Lawrence KS Humane Society. So she was a shelter dog who never made it to the shelter, but I did have to complete all the adoption paperwork as if she had.

  4. It was a cold New Year’s Day, and two friends and I were driving to Kansas City to shop at Cabela’s. We had reached the outskirts of out town and were headed east on a two-lane highway, chatting all at once, as friends do. Suddenly, up ahead, coming towards us on the opposite shoulder of the road, was a limping dog. We were on our way for a fun afternoon; should we stop? Yes? No? We pulled over. A state trooper had stopped, too, and the dog had gone right up to him. She was a German Shepherd mix,black and tan, very thin and terribly dirty. But she greeted us kindly. The trooper was glad when we offered to take her off his hands, but we didn’t really have a plan. Barb, our driver, lived not too far away, but the thought of crating a strange dog and leaving her alone sounded just too dangerous. So we did the next best thing. We got a crate and took her to Cabela’s with us. As we lifted her into the crate, I said, “She says her name is Panda.” I have no idea where that came from; it’s not like I was hearing voices. But the name Panda stuck. We drove on to Cabela’s and shopped as planned, coming out every 10 or 15 minutes to check on her. Panda was amazing. She was hungry and thirsty, but totally calm and accepting of everything. Barb took her home and advertised her, but no one claimed her. So I did. I was grieving over the loss of another dog, my best friend, but Panda helped me through it. She became a therapy dog and remained a wise, centered woman until her death. I still miss her.

  5. I adopted my Hershey from a shelter 11.5 years ago. I did so after a call went out to local residents looking to foster dogs as the county arrested a man with over 100 fighting dogs.

    Two days after I took her home, she was diagnosed with Parvo. Had I not adopted her, she would have been euthanized. Obviously, I treated her.

    She has an UKC obedience title, several NADAC agility titles and has completed over 50 therapy dog visits before enjoying retirement.

    As a dog trainer, she has helped me increase my training knowledge and helped me help my clients.

    Everybody she meets just adores her! And I love her to pieces!

  6. Beautiful stories from everyone, and more good information from Dr. Kay – thank you for raising awareness.

    Most of my pets have come to my family as medical orphans – cases whose owners have not been able to afford treatment and they would have otherwise been euthanized. I have not adopted from a shelter in a long time, but it is a great way to give a deserving dog or cat a loving home.

  7. I adopted my rescue Chihuahua mix from the Sonoma County Animal Shelter. We have been together just over a year now and I couldn’t love her more.
    I first met Amber when a friend who is an Animal Control Officer brought her to a dinner at my sister’s house. Something about her just attracted me. A little
    later, my friend called to see if I would be willing to foster Amber. She asked me because Amber didn’t trust anyone she didn’t know and would bite like the little pirahana she was, at that time. Without much thought, I agreed to foster her. She only tried to bite me for the first three days. After that, we have continued to bond. Of course, I couldn’t just foster, I had to adopt Amber. I got both my kitty boys the same way.
    Back to Amber, she is so smart and cute, too. Amber just loves to train and learn new things. She has already earned her AKC Novice Agility Jumpers title. We continue to train in agility and have started Rally obedience.
    Amber has made the transition from street dog to princess with a lot of love, patience and socialization. I am pleased to say that she now looks to strangers for a treat instead of looking to bite them.

  8. We adopted Bud, an adult black Pit-Bull mix, after meeting him unexpectedly at a shelter outreach event over 13 years ago. We had adopted two adult dogs in the previous two years (an adult cattle dog mix and another adult Pit Bull mix) and were not really “looking” to adopt another dog. We were there to support the shelter. Ha! Until we met Bud <3. It was love at first sight! As I was involved in rescue, I understood that this (delightful to me) dog was a difficult sell to the general public. After all, he was older, a black dog, and a Pit Bull mix to top it off. Remember this was 13 years ago, when even fewer Pit Bull mixes made it out of shelters alive vs. 2012. Three days after meeting Bud, when my husband and I were both able to travel to the shelter with our other two dogs, we adopted Bud, our sweet lapdog. Yes, I said lapdog, a fifty pound lapdog. He has vacationed with us and our other dogs along the East coast from SC to Maine and Canada, consistently a Goodwill Ambassador for his "breed." Bud makes friends and changes perceptions every where he goes. We celebrated the 13th anniversary of his "Gotcha Day" in July. His age (best guess) is 16. Our grey muzzled boy is most certainly our best "Bud"!

  9. A friend shared an email with photos of 3 Border Collies that were in the Gladwin County Animal Shelter, in Gladwin, MI. She said, “You foster BCs for a rescue, don’t you?” The quick progression of pulling these dogs from the shelter – there turned out to be FOUR BCs! – was amazing. I was working my part-time shift selling dog food when “the Gladwin Four” arrived at my house. I wish someone took video, because the stories I heard was of a canine rodeo. Although these dogs were apparently owned (all by the same person), they appeared to be under socialized and fearful in their new situation. In addition, when any were leashed so they could be moved, they pitched and bucked like a bronco, knocking anything in their way to the ground.

    Finally the two “easiest” dogs were put safely into their crates, and it was decided they would be the dogs I would keep and foster for this rescue. The other 2 went with my friend.


    When the dust settled and I arrived home from my job, I did a brief exam on each of them. Neither dog was in bad shape at all, and each dog was very personable and manageable. Well, there was this one little thing. The female I agreed to foster was pregnant. Very pregnant. The shelter workers, as they helped my friend load the 4 dogs into her mini van, wished her luck that the pregnant one wouldn’t whelp during the 2 hour trip to my house.

    It turned out Lacy (what I named the female; the male I named Shiloh) wouldn’t whelp for another almost 2 weeks, so I had a little time to prepare.

    On a dark and stormy evening (sideways snow while I was again working) Lacy started to whelp her pups. She started around 5pm, and my housemate (an RN who called me in a panic because Lacy-was-whelping-oh-my-gosh-come-home-now!) “helped” her with the 1st pup (Raven). It wasn’t really “helped”, ’cause I sent her to go get some towels, and by the time she got back to the whelping box, there was a pup!

    {side note – my RN housemate is not a weenie and is not a wimp. I’d have her advocate for me and take care of me any day. It must’ve been the “different species” thing, or that the start of the process surprised her and caught her off guard.}

    Lacy continued to whelp 2 more beautiful black tri pups. It seemed she was finished, because she was grooming the babies and seemed relaxed, and about an hour had passed. The good thing is I am a Licensed Veterinary Technician, and I have a neighbor who has bred dogs for years (I have not). She set me up with a vial of Oxytocin – just in case, you know. I am thankful, because I didn’t have to go anywhere or call anyone. I gave her a dose, thinking she would just pass anything that may not have been passed, when, about 20 minutes later, another puppy came! About a half hour later, another came. As I was cleaning the pup off and rubbing her down, my housemate said, “She’s….red!” meaning, uh oh! we’re in trouble now, ’cause I’m a sucker for red Border Collies.

    Lacy finished having her puppies around 11:30pm, and I must say she did a darn good job of the whole process!

    I have whelped a few litters of dogs, but I had never raised a litter of pups from whelping to going to their new lives. I equipped myself with an excellent book, called, “Another Piece of the Puzzle: Puppy Development” by Pat Hastings, because if I was going to have these puppies and raise them, I was going to have FUN doing it, and I was going to LEARN about their behavior and development, and I was going to do as well as I could in raising them to be fabulous companions for someone.

    I’ll leave out all the stuff in the middle – from whelping to day-by-day, then week-by-week, their first time outside, their discovery of toys, their interactions with Mom and then their interactions with other dogs, and my dogs’ interactions with them, and finally my reviewing the stacks of applications for these puppies. Rescue and puppies often don’t happen, especially a *purebred* litter of puppies!

    Several friends – not just one, and not just me! – pointed out that the red tri puppy was always the first to notice when I came into the area (though they all liked me as their “human-mom”), and she was always the first to run to where she could see me first, and she was the one who would maintain the longest contact with me. Although I raised this litter as objectively as I could and not “playing favorites”, it seems I could not deny that “the red tri pup” whose litter name was “Red” would not be leaving to go to a new home.

    I agreed to foster 2 Border Collies rescued from a shelter. I did not agree to whelp and raise a litter of puppies! I had such a fabulous time with the entire experience! I am SO GLAD I did it! The bonus is, I got Rosie out of the whole deal!

    This adventure was so cool, I made a photo book of the experience! I tried to get the URL to share from MyPublisher, but I don’t think it will work.

  10. I adopted a former racing greyhound. He name was Yuk Yuk, which I thought was so rude. But she knew the name, so I kept it. She went EVERYWHERE with me. I was a software consultant and on the road a LOT- but every hotel I stayed in allowed her to stay too. She was the sweetest little blonde girl! It took a lot of work to acclimate her to being in a house, but she was a trooper!

  11. Over the years I have had 4 shelter dogs…all of them lovely and wonderful in their own way. My first dog, Petri (an Aussie mix), used to sleep under my son’s bassinet and would wake me when he heard crying. My second dog, a golden retriever with a lot of medical challenges, was a carbon copy of my husband. They both loved to lounge around and see what happened. My third dog, a GSD Tango, came to us from a local shelter as a puppy. She was the only one in her litter that didn’t knock my daughter down. My current dog, a goofy cattle dog, is so wonderful with children that I use him for kids’ programs. I now work with the local shelter and I can’t imagine a better place to help animals!

  12. The shelter volunteer led us over to “Spud’s” kennel–he was slumped against the gate, brown, pudgy, scruffy, and totally silent in the midst of the din of the shelter. She said, “oh, this is the one you want–he’s a wonderful boy!” I couldn’t believe my ears when my husband said, “Lets take him out!” We had the gorgeous yellow lab Princess at home and he wanted to see this … Toad?! When. “spud’s” leash came off in the run, he grabbed a squeaky, played “get me!” and floated in the kiddie pool. My husband looked over and said, “He doesn’t belong here, honey” And so the 0Princess came to the shelter for a meet ‘n greet, they hit it off, and we drove away with a homely, overweight, beagle mix who stunk to high heaven. And he has been the Princess’ best friend ( and now caretaker and nurse as she ages), he is my sweet little Buddy Boy (because Spud was just an insult!) and he never ceases to make us smile. By the time we adopted him at age two, he was on shelter #2 and had spent at least 6 months in shelter–and all those people passed up a beautiful treasure.

  13. The last day of August in 1998 my husband and I went to the animal shelter to adopt a cat. As we sat finishing the paper work for the kitty, a worker came through with a 9 month old lab/pointer mix puppy. The staff had tied her in front of the building during the day because she was extremely stressed in the kennel situation. As she walked by us we spoke to her. She pulled over and wrapped one leg and her head around my husband’s leg and would not let go. We went home that afternoon with two new members of our family. Lia is now just a few weeks away from her 15th birthday. She has been a wonderful, loyal and loving pet all these years. Lia had a stroke last March, but has made much progress in her recovery. Every day she excitedly goes for her walks. Through the years we have had 3 other shelter dogs and never regretted adopting any of them. They were all special.

  14. I adopted Archie from the BCSPCA several years ago. It’s been a long road, but he’s now achieved two agility Q’s, and three Rally-O titles. We work hard at it, and seem to have found our ‘groove’ now :) I wouldn’t trade him for anything!
    My other dog is also a rescue, but not from a shelter. He was adopted from a foster-based rescue.

  15. In August of 1996 I awoke one morning with a little voice in my head telling me that I needed to go to the local shelter that day. I’d never been to the shelter, but I looked up the address and headed over. I had been toying with the idea of getting a dog but hadn’t seen any puppies that called my name. I walked into the dog side of the shelter and thought “oh, I guess I’m getting a dog” when I saw a little blue merle Australian shepherd pup, about 8 months old. I’d been looking for the right Aussie, and here she was. I left her there overnight so I could puppy-proof the house and get some dog supplies.

    A friend of mine helped me bring her home and then left. Later that evening my friend came back with some bad news she had received. While we sat on the floor and talked about her news, my new pup came over to me, put her chin on my leg as she lay down, and sighed a deep sigh of contentment. I was completely gone after that sigh.

    Eventually I named her Kyah. She was my Best Girl for over 15 years. We trained and competed in obedience, agility, and canine musical freestyle, earning titles in all 3 areas. She loved working with me although she wasn’t so thrilled with how nervous I got at shows. She changed my life by creating reasons for me to look into alternative health care and training methods. Eventually I changed careers to work in animal-related fields. Kyah had two “sisters” in her life with me. One was a retired showdog who was rehomed to us after she and Kyah clearly got along well. The other is another Aussie, this time purchased from a breeder who breeds dogs with the personality characteristics I knew I wanted after living with Kyah for so long.

    Kyah had funny things she did, like checking to make sure I was still there in hotel showers. She loved her car and car rides nearly as much as she loved me. She had the best smile. I still miss looking up from a book or computer and catching her eyes on me. I could write for hours about what a neat and quirky little dog she was, but I will just say I’m very, very glad I listened to that little voice in my heart that told me to go to the shelter that day.

  16. This weekend is my girl Abby’s and mine 6th year anniversary. I adopted her from the local animal shelter when I was living in Indiana. Abby is wonderful, though not a cuddler, she is my best friend. She loves to travel in the car, and I can take her anywhere dogs are welcome and she enjoys meeting humans and canines. When I adopted her at 1.5 yrs of age (and I was her 3rd home), I thought she was “aloof”. In order to better bond with her, we took a basic good manners class (even though she already had good manners) and that led us into the Canine Good Citizen class, Rally Obedience and Companion Dog Sports obedience competitions and several ribbons and titles for my girl. She isn’t a perfect score dog, but she is a perfect best friend.