There are rescue organizations for nearly every breed of dog - if there is not one near you, a group from another state may be happy to help you find the dog of your dreams.

Since every rescue is independent and develops its own policies and procedures, it is important to ask questions and to feel comfortable that the dog's best interest is paramount with the organization you choose (the same criteria apply if you are choosing a breeder). A rescue group (or breeder) with the best interests of the dog at heart will work diligently to place each dog with just the right family, taking into account work schedules, family dynamics, previous history, etc. A responsible rescue group (or breeder) will require an interview and often a home visit to establish that you are prepared for your new family member and to offer advice and suggestions on getting your house ready for a new dog.

Adoption fees vary by rescue and by breed, but generally range from $100-$200 for a purebred dog. This fee generally includes vaccinations and neutering, and often microchipping as well. Most rescues have standard adoption fees which are often much less than the medical and upkeep costs they have absorbed on any particular dog. They are able to do this by working with rescue-friendly veterinarians, doing much of the work (vaccinations, grooming, etc.) themselves, and by fundraising. Rescues also spend a lot of time, money and effort on screening adopters to make certain their charges are placed in excellent homes.

How does a dog wind up in rescue? Often they are dogs from shelters who do not have the luxury of time to find them the perfect home. Sometimes they are dogs given up by a family that is unable or unwilling to keep them any longer. Rescue dogs range in age from six weeks to sixteen years. Does this mean they are failed or flawed pets? Not at all! The beauty of rescue is the time spent by the dog in a foster home - with a family experienced in that particular breed, who can guide and direct the dog into a great family pet.

The foster period (which may be weeks or months) also allows the rescue to evaluate the dog to see if it will be best in a 'beginner' or 'intermediate' or 'expert' home. Fosters work on house training, basic obedience, and 'house manners' - so important to making a dog part of the family. They also give the dog the loving reassurance it may so desperately need. Contrary to popular belief, rescuers generally find that adult dogs have no problems 'bonding' to a new family - many, in fact, feel that the bond between an adult rescue dog and his human family is stronger than that of a pampered pup who has never known anything but tender care. Dogs are not great intellectuals, but they have strong emotional intelligence, and they do know when they are loved, and do their best to return that love.

Who should adopt a rescue dog? Those who are interested in a breed because their reading and research have suggested that it would be a good dog for their family, but who have little experience with that breed (or dogs) are perfect rescue adopters. The beauty of rescue is that a dog can be found for almost any loving home - if you do not feel that you can housetrain a dog, a housetrained one can be found. The rescue people will be able to advise about the right age and temperament to adopt, and will be able to introduce you to several foster dogs. They will be there after the adoption, too, to answer questions, offer advice, and (importantly) to stand behind the dog for the rest of its life if the adoption doesn't work out.

Adopting a rescue dog can take time - anywhere from three days to three months or longer for a particularly rare breed or for a pup. But these times are still shorter than getting a dog from a reputable breeder since careful breeders often produce only a few litters of pups a year.

Adopting a rescue dog is not for everyone. It is not for people who must have a dog NOW, even if that means buying it from a disreputable source. It is not for people who find questions about care and commitment to a dog 'intrusive'. It is not for those who want to breed their dog. It is not for those who wish to show their dog in conformation events (although purebred rescues CAN be shown in obedience and sports events). It is not for those who need a pedigree to prove to themselves that a dog actually is purebred (although some rescue dogs do come with a pedigree). And adopting from a rescue may not be the best choice for those with deep experience with their breed of choice - they may want to wait for a dog from a shelter for the challenge and satisfaction of helping to turn a dog's life around.

Breed rescue IS for people who want a dog of a specific breed, who have limited-to-moderate experience with that breed, and who are interested primarily in a family companion who will reward their choice with a lifetime of love. Breed rescue is for those who value dogs as individuals full of personality and spirit. Breed rescue is for those who want to become part of the solution.

Susan Hogarth

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