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How to Welcome Home a New Dog

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If you read my how to know when it’s time for a new pet post, then you know I lost my dog Sadie to cancer almost a year ago and that I was having difficulty trying to figure out when I’d be ready for a new pet. Well that time finally came, sort of, and we’ve got ourselves a new family member.

First, let me explain the ‘sort of’ comment. Sadie’s absence is still very prominent in my life. What many friends have told me is definitely ringing true — I will grieve her departure for a long, long time. I still think of her every day and I miss her as much today as I did that first day without her. But a couple months ago, I found myself looking at her photos and smiling rather than immediately tearing up.

Noticing this change, my husband started looking at animal rescue Web sites and some of the local shelter pages, too. A friend of ours volunteers at a local APS (animal protection society) and said she’d be glad to meet us there one weekend whenever we were ready(thanks again, Tania!) . Rather than over thinking it, I checked our calendar and set up a Saturday meeting. The moment we walked in the door – even before meeting any of the dogs, I knew we wouldn’t go home without filling out an adoption application. No matter any previous hesitation or worry running through my mind.

In last year’s post, I mentioned that we found Sadie at just the right time. And it seems to have happened again. We saw Mugsie’s photo on the APS Web site and knew we wanted to meet him. There was something about his face. (As you can see, what a face it is.)

Photo courtesy K. Neer

After meeting him, along with five other awesome dogs, we wished we could take all of them home. But that wasn’t possible. So we settled on just him (for now…). The APS takes a few days to review adoption applications and get pets ready for adoption, which gave us a few days to get ready, too.

To get ready, I started the way I do with most any new thing — I stayed up late that night and did some reading. I found several helpful articles around the Web — including some right here at HowStuffWorks and Discovery. Granted, I knew a lot already — having previously been a puppy parent. But I did find new info and it all made for interesting reading. Here are just a few of those articles:

A common theme repeated throughout the articles I read is how important patience is — especially for people who have had other dogs and might not remember the early days. Your new dog — be it a puppy or an older dog — will need time to adjust to his/her new family and surroundings. It could take a few days to a few months for your new pooch to feel completely at home. And what you do in the early days can help set the tone on how that goes.

After I finished reading, I started the actual preparation — meaning even more fun stuff like heading out to the local pet supply store. Before bringing your new bundle of joy home, make sure you have these essentials: a collar (with an ID tag), leash, food (and food/water bowls), treats (essential for training), toys and — if you plan to crate train — an appropriately sized crate/kennel. Next, sit down and think of some house rules. Will it be OK for the pup to be on furniture? Are certain rooms off limits? Are you going to crate train? Where will your new pal sleep? Who is responsible for walking the dog and when? (This is key when bringing home a puppy or dog who is not housetrained.) Same goes for feeding and keeping track of medications (heartworm medicine and flea/tick treatments, etc.).

Once you have the house rules sorted, it’s time to think about your dog’s care beyond your home. Do you have a vet? If so, schedule an appointment for your new dog. If not, ask for recommendations from friends, the folks at the rescue group or the shelter where you adopted the dog and make an appointment. And, finally, find out about puppy/dog training classes for you and your new buddy. Classes are great for helping you and your pet learn how to communicate with each other and for socializing (for you and your pet!).

Preparing in this way has served us well so far; Mugsie seems to be adjusting quickly and happily to his new home. And now the only thing left to do is love Mugsie and ensure he has a happy, healthy life with us — and that’s what we plan on doing. I only wish Sadie and Mugsie could have met each other; they’d have gotten along fabulously I’m sure.

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