So, you want to adopt a shelter pet? Or, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking applied

Disclosure: I am writing this to fulfill an assignment for Introduction to Humane Education, a wonderful course in my first semester as a Humane Education PhD student at Saybrook University in conjunction with Valparaiso University and the Institute for Humane Eduction. I am reading The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird (awesome names). The assignment is to bring these elements to others through my teaching. Since I am not a teacher in a clssroom, I am applying the elements to how I might approach pet adoptions during my volunteer shifts at the East Bay SPCA. The views expressed are solely those of the author, not of any organization. I am paraphrasing the 5 elements, not quoting the authors.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
The adoption center at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, California
The adoption center at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, California
Know when your shelter is open before making the trip!
Know when your shelter is open before making the trip!

So, you want to adopt a shelter pet?

Let's think this through.
Let’s think this through.

Element 1: Examine your understanding of the basics.

  • Why do you want a pet? Ask yourself why you want a pet. You might be surprised at the real reason and it might be that a pet is not right for you or it is not the right time. The following are responses I’ve heard and my reaction to them:

“My kids keep asking for a dog/cat.” Not the best reason if it’s the only reason. Knowing as the parent that unless your kids are extraordinary you will be doing a lot of the pet care (and paying the expenses), do you want a pet? And why does your kid want a pet? If it’s because of a cute movie like 101 Dalmatians, chances are the pet will end up back at the shelter. Celebrities with pets are often not good role models either.

Mom, I WANT A CAT!
Mom, I WANT A CAT!
Beautiful but high maintenance.
Beautiful but high maintenance.
Paris-Hilton-007
Just because the celebrity du jour has a “purse pet” that she dresses up doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

“I want a cat to catch mice.” or “I want a guard dog.”  At shelters, we are looking to place companion animals as members of families, not working animals. And we can’t guarantee that a cat will be a mouser.

kat-and-mouse

“I want a present for my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/child/children.” Are you sure the recipient wants a pet? Wouldn’t it be better for them to meet the pet, and make the choice themselves? Giving pets as surprise gifts is not encouraged. At the East Bay SPCA everyone in the household must be on board and present to meet potential adoptive pets.

Yes, completely adorable but needs a lot of care and not a good idea as a surprise.
Yes, completely adorable but needs a lot of care and not a good idea as a surprise.

“I have a cat/dog at home who is lonely and needs a friend.” Maybe. Maybe not. Do you know your pet gets along with other animals? Maybe your cat/dog is happy as an only pet. If you have a dog and want another, be prepared to bring your dog in to meet potential adoptees; it’s required at the East Bay SPCA.

Einstein and Benjamin turned out to be friends.
Einstein and Benjamin turned out to be friends.
Misty and Benjamin, not so much.
Misty and Benjamin, not so much.

“I love animals, grew up with them, can’t imagine life without them and have done my homework on adoption.” First, I will ask for permission to hug you. Then I will start introducing you to the animals. Gold star!

Does every picture of you include a pet?
Does every picture of you include a pet?
Is this how you dress when ou go out? I think you love cats.
Is this how you dress when ou go out? I think you love cats.
Is this postcard on your computer desktop (it is on mine)? Cat person!
Is this postcard on your computer desktop (it is on mine)? Cat person!
Do you own this t-shirt?
Do you own this t-shirt?
Definitely a dog person.
Definitely a dog person.

We will get to more questions in Element 3: Ask questions!

Element 2: Learn from your mistakes.

Meet several potential animals and find the temperament that is right for you. Take your time and find the right fit. If you meet an animal that you don’t connect with, figure out why and look for a pet with the characteristics that would facilitate a connection. Some people want lap cats, some want aloof cats, some want dogs that they can dress up, some want dogs that will go jogging with them. Are you a couch potato? A highly energetic pet won’t be the right one. There are couch potatoes waiting for you at the shelter, too! An older person might do well to consider an older pet. Senior pets are wonderful! Some animals might be shy at first; is that okay with you or do you want instant bonding? Don’t feel shy about having a conversation with the shelter staff or volunteer helping you; they generally know the animals and can make recommendations based on what you are looking for. And remember, it’s not all about looks. Personality is much more important!

Couch potatoes (sorry Bob).
Couch potatoes (sorry Bob).
I might come out eventually...
I might come out eventually…
I know we just met but I love you!
I know we just met but I love you!
Seniors helping seniors.
Seniors helping seniors.
It was probably more fun for me than the dog.
It was probably more fun for me than the dog.
Luna the Fashion Kitty; believe me, not many cats will tolerate this.
Luna the Fashion Kitty; believe me, not many cats will tolerate this.
Maya might be beautiful, but what's her temperament?
Maya might be beautiful, but what’s her temperament?

Once you find the pet that you think is the one, it’s time for adoption counseling.

Element 3: Raise questions!

When adopting a pet, there are many issues to think about and at the East Bay SPCA, a volunteer adoption counselor or a staff associate will guide you through some questions and answer any you have. For example:

  • Where will the pet sleep at night? With you? In a crate? (Please don’t say outdoors.)
Sharing the bed.
Sharing the bed.
  • What behaviors can you tolerate and what not? Have you ever dealt with problem behaviors in pet before? There are ways to correct behaviors if you are willing to put in the effort.
Remember the book and movie Marley and Me?
Remember the book and movie Marley and Me?
Are you willing to deal with behavior problems???
Are you willing to deal with behavior problems???
Unhappy cat.
Unhappy cat.
Be prepared to offer your cat approved scratching surfaces. If the furniture is too important to you, a cat might not be a good choice.
Be prepared to offer your cat approved scratching surfaces. If the furniture is too important to you, a cat might not be a good choice.
Cats do like to get into stuff.
Cats do like to get into stuff.
  • Do you have the willingness to deal with litter boxes or picking up after your dog? Potty training a dog?
Cute as can be but they do need potty training!
Cute as can be but they do need potty training!
Litter boxes don't clean themselves.
Litter boxes don’t clean themselves.
  • Have you considered the cost of toys, grooming, veterinary services? At the East Bay SPCA, you will be informed if they are aware of any pre-existing medical issues, but the cost of care will be yours.
Dog toys and grooming can get expensive.
Dog toys and grooming can get expensive.
Veterinary costs add up too.
Veterinary costs add up too.

pup with cone

  • Do you have time for keeping your pet from being bored? Dogs need walking, cats need activities.
I'm bored. Pay attention to me!
I’m bored. Pay attention to me!
Misty needs activities and grooming!
Misty needs activities and grooming!
It's recommended that you take your dog out for 2 to 3 20 minute walks a day.
It’s recommended that you take your dog out for 2 to 3 20 minute walks a day.
  • Do you have your landlord’s permission?
  • Who will look after the pet if you go on vacation or have an emergency?

The list goes on!

Element 4: Add it all up (look at the “flow” of ideas).

After going through all the pluses and minuses, are you still on board? Have you met a pet that you can do everything in Element 3 for? Do you feel like all of your concerns have been addressed in the adoption counseling? You can change your mind and there won’t be any judgment. The shelter wants what is best for you and the animal. Don’t feel obligated!

We love them, but our apartment is small and we're not home all day.
We love them, but our apartment is small and we’re not home all day.
If you don't go ahead with the adoption, be assured this cutie will find a good home!
If you don’t go ahead with the adoption, be assured this cutie will find a good home!
A firm YES; let's go ahead with the adoption please.
A firm YES; let’s go ahead with the adoption please.

Element 5: Embrace change!

If you adopted an animal companion, congratulations! Your life will change, for the better. The human-animal bond has mutual rewards. And if you have children, there will be lots of learning opportunities ahead. If you didn’t adopt, think about why not. Did you decide maybe the best pet for you isn’t a dog or a cat but some other small animal? There are plenty of private rescue groups for rabbits, birds, all kinds of creatures. Oakland Animal Services, not too far from the East Bay SPCA, has other small animals for adoption. Maybe a younger pet takes more time and energy than you have so you want to look into senior pets. Or if you realized it’s not the right time for you but you’d still like to be involved with animals, you could look into volunteering at a shelter. And start planning for the future when the time is right.

Successful adoption!
Successful adoption!
Volunteer (me) with shelter dog Emma.
Volunteer (me) with shelter dog Emma. Volunteering changed my life!
Become an advocate for senior pets in your community.
Become an advocate for senior pets in your community.

This week is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week; consider making a donation, becoming a volunteer, and/or adopting a pet in need!

nasaw shelters rock

2 thoughts on “So, you want to adopt a shelter pet? Or, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking applied

  1. I thought this blog was terrific! SPCA should look at this for potential advertising. It makes me want to adopt a cat. However, a cat just adopted me recently and I have been in cat heaven. Also, I have benefitted from having a cat as she helps me with anxiety from my school work. I believe animals can help with anxiety better than Prozac!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s