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Adopting a second dog

Adopting for the right reason

I have been stalking one particular dog online for about two years now.

I don’t think I’m alone here.

Most dog lovers have their eyes on a certain rescue dog that for whatever reason they really, really want to adopt. Usually the deterrent is another family member, but it could also be a lease agreement or perhaps the dynamics of the current animals in the house.

I’ve always wanted to adopt a German shepherd mix named Sasha. She has been featured on my blog many times – here, here, here and here are just a few 🙂 She is one cool dog still waiting to be adopted since the day I met her in July 2008.

But the fact that I want to adopt Sasha is not the point of this post. I’m writing this because I’ve finally let go of my obsession with adding this particular second dog to our home. It’s actually a bit of a relief for me to admit this.

The reason I can’t adopt Sasha is not because of Josh saying no or my landlord saying no or even my mutt Ace saying no. The reason I can’t adopt her is because I am emotionally attached to her. I want to adopt Sasha for the wrong reasons.

Emotional attachment to animals

Sasha the German shepherd mix up for adoption with 4 Luv of Dog Rescue FargoDog lovers have a few issues with emotional attachments, at least I do. The main reason I love dogs so much is because I have a hard time opening up and getting close to people. Likewise, people have a hard time getting close to me.

But dogs? They are all about invading my personal space. They want to be friends instantly, and most of them are very pushy about it!

The people in my life pretend they don’t need to be taken care of, and I do the same. But dogs? They are very, very needy. I really do need to take care of someone in order to feel special. Dogs give me this opportunity every single day.

And of course, dogs provide us with unconditional love. Sometimes I tell Ace, “Get over here and meet my emotional needs.” Then he places himself in front of me and waits for a big hug. What a good boy 🙂

This dog is meant to be mine!

We humans have the tendency to fall in love with an animal based on its picture. Maybe the dog reminds us of a previous or current dog. Maybe the dog has a certain look on its face.

Once we’re emotionally attached to a dog, it’s easy to forget about the other, slightly more important details such as the dog’s energy, age, personality, tolerance of other animals and level of training. We tend to set ourselves up for extra stress right along with our family members, pets and the new dog.

In his book “A Dog Year,” Jon Katz writes about how he goes to pick up a rescued border collie from the airport. Even though he’d agreed to adopt the dog, he specifically asked not to see its picture first. He didn’t want to make an adoption decision based on looks. That would be a bad reason, he said, to get a dog.

But people adopt dogs based on looks all the time.

Humans also have the ability to attach specific events to a particular animal and draw outlandish conclusions that this dog is meant to be theirs.

Sasha was officially the first dog I took on a running session after I started my dog running business, Run That Mutt. This is what lead to my emotional attachment. On top of that, she was a rescue dog desperately in need of exercise and attention. She was very needy.

Over the next year and a half, I took Sasha on many, many runnings sessions. I took her to obedience classes and adoption events. There was lots of time for car rides and walks. Lots of time for bonding. She even spent an afternoon hanging out with Ace, and they got along great despite Sasha’s supposed dog-aggression issues.

Sasha was adopted and returned at least four times, further reinforcing the idea in my head that she was meant to be my dog. If no one wanted her, if no one could train her, perhaps I could.

What are the wrong reasons to adopt another dog?

Sasha the German shepherd mix up for adoption with 4 Luv of Dog Rescue Fargo

Foster owners are faced with the temptation to adopt their foster dogs simply because it’s been more than a year and no one seems to want the dogs. I’d say that’s a bad reason to get an animal.

Dog lovers, and especially those of us highly involved in rescue, need to ask ourselves why we want a second (or third, or fourth …) dog. If it’s to temporarily fill some kind of emotional need, then we probably shouldn’t be adopting that dog.

It gives us emotional satisfaction to rescue an animal no one else wants. This is why I want to adopt Sasha, and it’s the same reason people want to adopt dogs with some kind of horrible, abusive past.

I worked at the information table at 4 Luv of Dog Rescue’s silent auction in October. People came up to me asking for more info on the puppies recently pulled from a Western North Dakota puppy mill. The rescue had a binder with pictures of each dog up for adoption, and people kept asking, “Is this one from the puppy mill? How about this one?”

They wanted a puppy mill dog or no dog at all!

What are the right reasons to adopt another dog?

Maybe you can tell me?

I have a hard time distinguishing my own feelings between wanting a dog for the right reasons and wanting a dog for the wrong reasons. I am not one of those people who falls in love with every dog she sees. Sasha is the only dog I’ve seriously considered adopting, and I work with rescue dogs constantly. I am very realistic and realize that no matter what, there will always be more dogs to rescue. There will always be dogs stuck in the pounds.

Perhaps the biggest red flag for me is that I am only interested in adopting Sasha when there are dozens of more suitable dogs for my current lifestyle. I am not much different than the people who come flocking to adopt the latest shelter dog with a media story attached to it (think, the “Vick dogs” or the “Katrina dogs” or more locally, Star the shepherd mix who had her throat slit).

It takes a lot of time, discipline, money and energy to adopt another dog. It also takes a lot of discipline to say no to the wrong dogs and wait for that “perfect” dog to come along.

For me, the right reason to adopt another dog is because all family members are on board to open up our love to another living creature. It’s another chance to grow, challenge ourselves and have fun. It’s a chance to bring ourselves and our other animals more companionship.

A few years down the road, maybe Josh and I will be ready to adopt a second dog similar to Sasha.

Who knows, maybe the right dog will come along sooner than I think.

Tell me about the rescue dog you’re currently “stocking.” Leave a link in the comments if you’d like.

If you are interested in adopting Sasha, fill out an application with 4 Luv of Dog Rescue. Maybe 2011 will be her year.

Edit: Sasha was adopted in 2011!

Sasha the German shepherd mix up for adoption with 4 Luv of Dog Rescue Fargo


Friday 10th of April 2015

I know it's late in the game for this, but I work with two rescue groups in Colorado. As a foster, I always try to be as realistic as possible with a potential adopter and be forthcoming with all the terrible things the foster dog has done in my home so they are under no illusion that this dog is "JUST SO PERFECT!" However, I like to follow that up with the dogs good qualities. Take Buddy, for instance. He has marked in my house a time or two. He has pooped on my carpet. He is pushy, rude, and has ripped apart every dog toy I have (they get to go with him when he leaves me, since he doesn't seem to mind their de-stuffed nature). He refuses to like my parents or grandparents and barks at every stranger who crosses his path. HE is clingy and wants attention 100% of the time. However, he is a sweetheart and a cuddle bug and would make a wonderful companion in a single-animal home for someone who maybe works from home or in a part-time job.

He has been stressful on my dog, since he won't play with my dog at all. He is 100% human oriented. He is the last foster I will have for a while since my husband and I have decided to get a puppy to be raised with our dog as a companion for him and for us. My dog loves playing with other dogs, but he needs a dog around him who will not just vie for the human attention all the time. Plus, we both want another dog, and we want our chance to raise a dog from puppy to good canine citizen.


Friday 19th of October 2012

Thanks! Appreciate your suggestions/advice! I'll continue to browse for sure...and work on some soul searching for figuring out how/when a second pup works for us and how we can eventually find the 'best' one for our home. :)

Thanks again!!!

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 19th of October 2012

Best of luck! :)


Thursday 18th of October 2012

p.s. Ooopps! Please pardon any of my typos....


Thursday 18th of October 2012

Hi Lindsay! :) I have been 'stalking' ;) a pup on for the past several days and am glad I found your article/blog!

My husband and I have a 1 1/2 y/o puggle, whom I adore to pieces, but have subconciously wondered if she was lonely feeling at at being the only pup. Then very recently I found out my Mom was getting a second dog (happens to be a puppy) as a companion for her almost 3 y/o pup and my friend also recently got 2 puppies at the same time. Thus, I began to check out Then low and behold found a sweet looking pup that reminds me of my own puggle, but with coarser fur and about 8-9 months old!

I desperately have been wanting to be impulsive and submit an adoption application, but deep down fully know I'd be a complete fool if I did right now in my life, namely for financial reasons (which I know if a #1 reason why not to decide on a second pup).

So, despite heart as it breaks knowing this pup is still available (and it has only been a short time that she's been 'ready for adoption') I still have to come to terms and just try to 'be okay' with knowing she'll likely find her forever home elsewhere.

Anyway, thanks for letting me 'vent'. Thank you!

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 18th of October 2012

One thing you could do is pick a reasonable date in the future and give yourself permission to adopt a second dog at that point - a year down the road or 6 months or whatever it might be. Do your research and browse around some until that point, but no matter what, don't get another dog until on or after that date. And, suddenly when you admit you are looking for a second dog, suddenly you will see "the perfect dog" everywhere you look!

I'm sure the dog you are referring to will get adopted. Or if you truly think she's right for you, I wont judge if you decide to go for it! :)

May Affre

Sunday 19th of February 2012

I agree with you. I am currently fostering a lab mix, who I saved from euthanasia. I am an animal lover and very involved with various dogs and cats rescues. At Christmas, I received pictures of dogs awaiting to be pulled before being euthanized at a pound. I immediately fell in love with Tommy, however, I was wrongly informed that he had been rescued. While, I'd love another dog, at this point I cannot, my complex's rules won't allow another dog. About 2 weeks after new years, I received other pictures and found out Tommy was out of time, he was scheduled for PTS in a couple days. I could not imagine this happening to him (he had you tube video- he seemed so friendly and scared), I contacted various rescues, no one was interested as not pure breed. I finally contacted another rescue and asked if I was to foster him and pay for his vetting, would they pull him and post him for adoption. It was agreed, so a month ago, I went to pick him up from transport. As soon as he got out of crate and got in my car, I was already attached emotionally, I wanted to care for him, make him feel loved. Like you are saying, I believe I fell for him because I feel obligated to care for any creature that suffered. I didn't have a very good childhood, so I empathize and perhaps feel that I cannot turn my back on an abused dog, otherwise it likes me turning my back on myself. So, within first week, I was already convinced, I must adopt Tommy. Truth is he is not a fit, while I want to love him and he gets along great with my dog, Curley he isn't the right dog for my family. After going to an adoption event with him 2 weeks in, I fell once more compelled to adopt him, as I saw how everyone wanted to adopt a puppy but not him, because he was bigger and not a puppy. Though he is just a little over 1 year old. So, as you described, in pained me to watch him been rejected over and over. This month of fostering, it's been 4 weeks yesterday that I still have him, has been challenging. There are moments where I know he is not a fit and I am doing the right thing, training and caring for him, while we await to find him his permanent loving home. And there are other moments, where I cannot imagine him leaving us, as I wonder if he'll ever find another home where he'll be loved and cared for as he is with us. Like you described it, some of us feel the need to care for others, while it may be for various reasons, it seems that we get emotionally attached to many of these dogs, for a little something. I rescued two kitten last winter, in a snow storm, they were 3 weeks old at most, I was told they wouldn't make it, but I fought with them. While I am more of a dog person, I felt compelled to keep them. It was hard to give them up (they got adopted together as they were siblings), but I knew that it was better this way. Same here with Tommy, while it seems that he is one of these special dogs, for whom I instantly felt something for, I need to realize I am too emotionally connected, and not really wanting him. The struggle is I feel that if I don't adopt him, I am rejecting him. But I am not, like other rescue friends keep reminding me, I saved his life. Thank you for writing about how difficult it can be for some of us to distinguish or rather discern between what we want and what feels right. Again, the question to ask ourselves is why? BTW, I love your blog.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 19th of February 2012

It's so hard. I want to adopt many, many dogs. Usually I get attached for the wrong reasons: No one else will foster them, they look just like my dog, they are a certain color or a certain breed, etc. None of these are reasons to adopt a dog. However, when and if I do come across the dog that is a good match for my lifestyle and a good match for my other pets, I hope I will recognize it.