First visit.

As mentioned, LRR requires at least three dog visits before you consider a dog. They want you to bring any other dogs you own with you. Max was too old to load up into the car (he had severe arthritis and jumping in and out of my large SUV was a bit tortuous) so LRR agreed that once I picked a dog they would come over and supervise the introduction with Max at our house. I was so thankful for this.

LRR had picked a female yellow lab for me to meet first. I read about her and agreed she sounded like a good fit. She was in Maryland so I headed out one day during the week to meet her and her foster family. I walked into the home and was quickly greeted by four large labs! Four! The foster mom was the most laid back, loving woman. Her love of animals was very apparent (I mean she had four 80 lb. dogs inside her home and there was not an ounce of chaos about it).

At first I was not sure which dog was the foster and it was at this point I realized how easy it would be to fall in love with all of them. How would I stay strong and stay focused on which dog would be the best fit? Was there really a best fit? Wasn’t it more important to save all dogs? The first thing the foster mom said to me was “Relax, she will find a home. Maybe it will be with you, maybe it won’t but you don’t have to feel bad for her. She’s fine.” Those words were like a deep cleansing breath. I sat on the floor and played with the foster dog and then took her for a walk. She was a sweet dog, very well-behaved, a tad more energetic than I expected but she was also excited to be meeting someone new. On the drive home I felt I had no idea what I was doing. Not about wanting another dog, but in regards to how do decide about which dog. I pretty much expected the dog to look at me and say “I’m the one”.

After the visit, LRR called to see how it went. The words came out: sweet dog, not sure. It was clearer to me at that moment why they want you to meet several dogs.

Check out LRR’s current group of adoptable dogs here!

Hipstamatic

Mollie “pomp-la-moose” Anne and Melvin are quite the muses.

Loss.

Two friends lost dogs recently. Words are hard to find. Losing a dog is the loudest type of quiet. No more barks, no more tags jingling or nails trotting across hardwood floors. No more slurping water gurgles. No more conversations, it’s at this point you realize how many conversations there were. All the things that might have annoyed you before, the hair, the slobber, the poop… you feel lost without it.

Grief is the price we pay for loving deeply. In my opinion, it’s always been worth it. Our little buddies are here for such a short time, that’s probably why they follow us around, want to be as near to us as possible and keep jumping on the bed even when told no. They are born to realize that we have to make the most of our time together. What better way to do that than be at your side whenever possible.

My heartfelt sympathies to the Chatterjee family who lost their Dexter and to the Fulmer family who lost their Buck. Both dogs were blessed to be loved by such wonderful people.

Labrador Retriever Rescue (LRR.org)

I got Melvin from Labrador Retriever Rescue. I’d investigated several lab rescue groups in the area and my entire decision to try LRR was based on my web experience with them. In todays day and age, I think that must be pretty common.

LRR is committed to the forever home concept. It’s apparent in all that they do. Their site is very direct, you are clear on their philosophies, you can read about success stories (written by the now owners of each dog rescued out). The dog write-ups on available dogs are written so well and are very honest. I still read up on the dogs they take in and track their progress to adoption. They’ve got the internet bio thing down to a science.

They serve the MD/VA/PA area and you need to live in that general area to adopt. The main reason for this is the adoption process. Like many rescue groups, you first fill out an application (info about you, about past dog ownership and about your intentions for a dog). Once you submit that they will contact you and do a phone interview. This interview is to be sure you’re sure and to see what your motivation is. After the phone interview they will schedule a home visit. This visit is done by one of their volunteers, often the one who lives closest to you. LRR is entirely volunteer and I can confirm that every person I met in my endeavors with them were committed to the beautiful cause of saving dogs and finding them good homes. The home visit lasts about an hour, they tour the home, ask questions about your life with any current dogs you have discuss your plan for how you will acclimate a new dog to your home. It’s not a test in fact my home visit culminated in the humans sitting on the floor taking turns giving Max belly rubs.

Once you have the home visit and are approved, you can start meeting dogs. LRR requires that you meet at least three dogs before any decisions are made. They don’t subscribe to love at first sight, they want everyone to be certain. The main thing I loved about LRR is they were very honest about their opinion of which dogs to consider. Based on your initial interviews they will suggest dogs for you to start with. Perhaps you have a dog, they’ll want to match you with a dog that does well with other dogs. Same goes if you have a cat, you’re going to want a dog that tolerates them. If you are ‘less active’, they will suggest dogs who match your energy level. If a dog has any challenges (health or behavior) they will opt to place those dogs in homes with someone who is committed to working on the issue. As an example, one dog I met and considered was an escape artist. He needed a home with someone who would work on keeping him from running out the front door. Also, Melvin has severe allergies. He needed someone who would commit to medical care. There is no rush with LRR. You might find your match in a month or so (that is about how long it takes to meet your first three dogs) or you might take several months. It’s not a race.

All of LRR’s dogs are fostered in homes so they can know each dog. They can confirm if a dog is house-broken, good in a crate, able to be in a home where people are gone during the day. They know how the dogs are with small children, strangers, cats, other dogs, with sharing toys and any issues with food aggression or the like. They don’t sugar coat anything, the dog is who he/she is, as it should be. If the dog has any health issues when they come into LRR, they will keep the dog until it’s ready to be adopted. You meet the dogs at their foster home and if you have a dog already, you bring the dog with you. Your current dog plays a role in the decision of which dog you adopt. LRR encourages all family members to play a role in the process. Remember, the goal is a forever home.

Next, I’ll update on the dogs I met and how I eventually ended up with Melvin.

Misconceptions

Labs are the most popular breed of dogs in the US. They are loyal, loving and make great family pets.

My lab happens to be dog aggressive. And cat aggressive. When we go to the vet there is a cage in the waiting room that contains rescue cats. Melvin has knocked the cage over before. He showed no remorse. While he’s always friendly to humans, I would not put it past him to knock down a pregnant woman to get to a bowl of food or to topple a child in hopes of getting to the lollipop in their hand. He is unaware that he is big; he does not harness his power well. While adorable, he is not always a poster child for the breed.

Owning labs has opened my eyes to a huge injustice in the dog world. Breedism. It’s apparently not a word but it still exists. You’ve experienced it before, someone tells another they are getting a Rottie and the person is suddenly a gasp. Tell someone that your friend has a pit bull and they might look at you like what you actually said was ‘my friend kills puppies’. Did you know that some residences have breed ‘standards’? Some do it for size limitations but some are as specific as ‘no pit bulls allowed’. I don’t think there is a more misunderstood breed than the Pit Bull. It saddens me that Melvin is received with such open arms and other equally (certainly more gentle) loving dogs are scoffed at.

I’m a forgiving person. I have forgiven some horrible deeds done towards me by other humans. I have not forgiven Michael Vick. In my opinion he did not turn his life around. He went to prison. He was told to do community service with animal welfare groups. He was told to never own a dog again. He didn’t DO anything except what he was TOLD to do. I recently had a conversation with an eight year old boy who told me his Rottie could kill any dog or person, Michael Vick style. This eight year old had nothing but admiration for Vick. While Vick didn’t single handedly bring about the Pit Bull misconception, he did a fair amount of damage.

Because of my love of blogs, I was fortunate enough to come across the wonderful Love and a Six Foot Leash. The writer of the blog has taken on rescuing Pit Bulls, one-by-one, and in the process of writing her blog is dispelling key Pit Bull myths. Check out their latest rescue, Gonzo as well as their first rescue Lollie, who has been forever-homed. Very inspiring!