In a recent blog post honoring Adopt a Shelter Dog Month I invited readers to share stories of their own shelter dog adoptions. In exchange, their names would be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of one of my books. And the winner is………. Karen Beckwith from Bryson City, North Carolina. Here is Karen’s heartwarming story.
We have a story similar to yours. My first dog was a German Shepherd I got for my 10th birthday, when my neighbors divorced and neither wanted to keep her – so I guess you could say, I started my “rescue” efforts early. It was not easy convincing my previously dog free family that adopting a 75 pound dog was the right thing to do!
Forty years later, when I moved to a 10-acre property here in the mountains of western North Carolina, I knew I could use a property guardian. I too used the Petfinder site. I fell in love with the picture of an adult male German Shepherd dog in my very first session. However, with two children, and their countless friends always coming and going, 2 small Jack Russell Terriers, and a cat – I dismissed the idea of bringing an adult male with an unknown background into our home. I just could not take the chance that a breed with such a high prey drive and unknown socialization would be suitable in this environment. Especially a male – I had only ever had female dogs.
So I continued to search Petfinder, and always found myself drawn back to the photo of this magnificent male, still unadopted. So I told myself, maybe I will just go meet him and assess his temperament and suitability. New to the area and not knowing there was a Greenville, SC, Greenville, NC, and Greenville, TN I searched the wrong state, and thought he was just too far away to go visit on the really remote chance he I could consider taking a chance with him.
Weeks go by, and I still search on Petfinder, and every time I am still drawn only to this boy, despite many other German Shepherds being listed. So I finally make contact via Petfinder to discover he was only three hours away from us, not six, and I knew I had to at least meet this dog. I learned that this was the SECOND time he had been surrendered to rescue, although they had no specific details why, which did not bode well.
So on Super Bowl Sunday 2008, I packed the entire family in the car and we set off to Tennessee to just “meet” this boy. Long story short, I knew within minutes of meeting this amazing dog that he had one of the gentlest souls of any dog I had ever known. He was so good with my children and you could see it instantly. He was cuddled and loved the entire drive home, and came in to watch the Super Bowl on the couch with us.
This was the year that Eli Manning of the New York Giants staged an unbelievable comeback to beat the New England Patriots. On the final drive as Eli Manning made some incredible throws I said, if he can pull of this win, we are going to name this dog Eli, as both hailed from Tennessee. Several years later, a mutual friend attended Eli Manning’s wedding and told him our dog was named in honor of him and that great win, and Eli Manning said he was honored!
Amazingly, Eli has turned out to be one of the best dogs I have ever owned. He instantly fit into our family routine, and had no “issues” at all that needed to be worked through, as I was expecting from a twice-surrendered dog. It must have simply been the case of a great dog in the WRONG situations. Not everyone needs a 100-pound dog. Eli needed a “job” and he takes his very seriously: patrolling the perimeter of our property, protecting the horses and chickens from predators, and waiting for the kids to get off the school bus in the afternoon to walk them up the hill. He rules the pack of dogs with gentle benevolence, and considers our cat part of his flock to be protected.
I try to tell everyone who meets him that yes, beautiful purebred dogs can be found through shelters and rescue organizations, and that not every shelter dog is “damaged”. People often fail to do their research in determining the right breed for their family and make disastrous impulse purchases of furry balls of cuteness, never considering what they will grow up to be as adults.
Isn’t Eli one heck of a handsome boy? Thanks to all of you who told me about your shelter dogs. If you haven’t already shared your story, now’s your chance.
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
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com 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 www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.