After asking the appropriate questions, you have finally decided to take the plunge and adopt a dog from your local animal shelter, pound, or rescue group. You are certain that you want a companion animal and that you can commit the necessary time, energy, money and emotion to caring for a new friend. Most important, you are prepared to commit to this animal for the rest of its natural life.

Because rescue workers deal daily with abandoned animals, they do their best to screen potential owners to assure that there is a serious commitment and that the animal will not return to their care. While at times they may seem overly protective, they are only trying to prevent heartbreak for you and your pet in the event that the adoption is not a good match. Consider the dog that has been uprooted from a family, perhaps on more than one occasion. Through no fault of the animal, the former owner may have had to move to a place where pets are not allowed. Perhaps the animal barked excessively, was more active than the owner could handle, or had destructive chewing habits. Regardless of the reason, separation from usual surroundings can be upsetting and you may need to provide extra patience for the animal before he can completely trust you. Fortunately, dogs are social creatures and, as such, are capable of forming new relationships quite easily. Depending upon the previous situation, this may be easy or difficult. Most shelter dogs have good temperaments and once the quirks of each individual personality have been addressed, you and your new companion can embark on a long and happy association.

October is Adopt A Shelter Dog Month. Puppies are adorable but don't underestimate the potential of an older animal, or even one with special needs. You can save a life, and enhance your own, by giving a shelter dog a second chance. If you cannot commit to a dog, consider a cat. They are in need of homes also!

Pat Jauch is secretary of Caledonia Animal Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 4054, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819; www.caledoniaanimalrescue.com.

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