Have patience in picking the perfect pet

Published 8:58 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

Question: My family, including my wife and 3-year-old daughter, are ready to adopt a new dog.

It has been almost a year since we lost our family pet of 11 years. It has taken us a while, but we are ready to bring in another member to our family and have decided to adopt from our local shelter.

What is the best way to pick a shelter dog especially considering the age of my daughter?

Ready for a pet

Answer: I am so sorry about your loss. Animals give us unconditional, nonjudgmental love and hold very special places in our hearts.

You will never be able to replace your family pet, or the times you had together, however congratulations on your strength to step out and add new exciting memories to the ones left behind.

When selecting your next lucky family member, you must equally consider energy level and temperament. Should energy levels between dog and owner conflict, frustrations on both parts likely will arise with severe repercussions, such as aggression.

What’s your energy like when you wake up in the morning? Do you immediately go for a run? Do you do five loads of laundry and cook a three-course breakfast? Or, do you enjoy easing into the day with a long shower and sipping a cup of coffee?

Each breed of dog has its own inherent level of energy, some of which will be better matched to yours. The breed of a dog doesn’t necessarily dictate energy; it does give a good indication, so do your research.

Begin searching the shelters alone to make for less distractions to both dog and handler. It will be difficult enough to determine the true energy level of a frustrated, edgy, caged animal without extra distractions.

At the shelter, take each viable candidate for a walk one at the time to peel away pent-up energy so only true lasting energy remains. While on the walk, look for red flags such as pulling on the leash, or lack of willingness to follow your lead and correction. His energy must allow you to lead your family’s pack, not him!

Dog temperament is another important factor especially in a home with a young child.

Assess each candidate’s temperament after the walk in a quiet room. Do not talk, touch or make eye contact with the dog, but instead observe his posture and actions. If in five minutes the dog shows little or no interest in you, or anyone else in the room, he is not a good candidate.

My favorite test is to slide your shoe toward the dog when he is not looking. If he jumps or barks rather than just look at the shoe and then ignores it, or sniffs it, the dog likely has fear issues that could result in harmful behavior.

Next, pet him slowly and gently down his back. He should stand still and enjoy this, or lean into you to seek more contact. If he moves or lunges away from your touch, he’s telling you he doesn’t like being petted, or being around you. This dog is at risk for aggression.

Now, test for resource guarding by putting a pile of treats on the floor. Talk to him, be careful, then pet him gently on the back, but do not try to take the food away.

You want him to wag his tail, or even stop and look at you lovingly. If he stiffens, glares at you, lowers his head into the dish, growls, or tries to move the food away from you, he has high potential for biting and is a bad choice for adoption.

Take a toy with you, and end with a play session. Does he pull hard on the toy? Attack it? Become very obsessive with it? All are strong warnings of bad temperament.

At this point your list will be pretty narrow, and it will be time for your wife and daughter to come to the shelter with you for a visit.

Keep an open mind, do your research and have patience! In the end, you will return home with wagging tails!


Question: I am a Christian and believe that the way to heaven is to become saved by accepting Jesus as my savior.

My sister, who I love dearly, is not saved. I have tried and tried to show her how much she needs Jesus so we can be in heaven together but, she just doesn’t believe in Him.

I am worried to death about where she will spend eternity.

Do you have any advice for me, for me to pass to her, or for her directly?

Heaven bound

Answer: God loves your sister so much he gave her the freedom to either accept His son as her savior or not. If God made everyone love Him without granting the ability to choose for ourselves, He would not be a very loving Father, but rather a dictator who rules with an iron fist.

To help you find peace through this situation, remember it is not you that can save a single soul; that is God’s job.

Your part in His equation is to deliver His word, live by example, pray for the lost and exercise your faith by believing He heard your prayer and is on the job. If you are going to worry, there is no need to pray. Worry is an acknowledgement that you don’t believe God either can or will do what you have asked.

Just as a sponge has to become unhardened to absorb water, so does a hardened human heart have to soften before it is ready to absorb outside influence. If your sister’s heart has become hardened to Christianity or to God, she is not ready to hear what anyone has to say.

Ask God to soften her heart so his Word and His love will not be reflected but rather soak throughout.

Remember, only God can see your sister’s heart so don’t be disappointed if you never “see” her accept Him as her Savior. Accepting Christ is a matter of the heart and the facts remain; you have prayed for her, God has heard your prayer and He is already on the job. God always works on His timing, not ours, because He is perfection exemplified and so is His timing. Never try to rush God because with true perfection comes lasting peace.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to askabbie@tidewaternews.com.