Adopting a shelter dog

Adopting a shelter dog (Chester’s story)

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Are you thinking of adopting a shelter dog?

Here is my personal experience with adopting a shelter dog from Portugal. Hopefully it will help you in your decision.

My little fur-man turns 11 years old this year – 11 years! It sounds and feels surreal. I feel like it was only yesterday that I picked him up in the airport. At that time he was only 6 months old.

This little skinny light brown dog, that literally came dancing out of his little crate so full of excitement, greeting everyone and everything. My first dog, my first pet owner experience and my first step into the dog world.

I want to tell you Chester’s story this week to highlight the importance of adopting a shelter dog, and show you how much joy a shelter dog can give you.

Adotping a shelter dog

Adopting a shelter dog – How we met!

I adopted Chester, by that time named Rufus, through an organization called Danish Friends of Animals (DFA,

Danish Friends of Animals is an organization run by volunteers. They go to Spain and Portugal to help the local shelters by adopting dogs out to Danish families. Furthermore, they do several trips to help spay and neuter the many strays you can find in Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Chester popped up on my computer one night I was scrolling through different web-pages, searching for my new dog. From the moment I saw his picture I knew he had to be my dog. I immediately contacted DFA, and a few phone calls and emails later I was picking him up at the airport. My very first rescue, let alone dog.

Chester’s story still breaks my heart.

He was found by some volunteers, tied up to a pole in a school yard while the children were teasing him and throwing rocks at him. Absolutely horrible! Luckily the volunteers spotted him and brought him to the shelter. By that time he was estimated to only being a few months old. He spend a couple of months at the shelter before I adopted him.

Adopting a shelter dog – What to think about

Adopting a shelter dog

Adopting a dog from a foreign shelter is a risk as you do not know what you are getting. Your decision is based on some pictures and other people’s assessment.

If you are a first time dog owner I would suggest to do your proper research both about the shelter but also about dogs, their needs, problems etc. Prepare yourself fully so you are ready for whatever you might get from a shelter dog.

In my case I was lucky as I got a few bits of Chester’s past, but still I didn’t know everything. Sometimes shelters have dogs that have just been dumped by their owners in the middle of the night without any information (which was the case with Belga, my second rescue), so it is impossible to know their story.

I was lucky with Chester, and I bet you many other shelter adopters will say the same. Quite possibly they’ve gone through other challenges then someone adopting a puppy from a breeder, but the end result has been amazing.

So why should you adopt a dog from a shelter and why should it be from a foreign country?

Shelter dogs, just as any dog, gives you so much love.

In my experience both my dogs has bonded very quickly with me, easy to train and both has their quirks and funny personality traits that makes me laugh daily. I got Chester when he was very young, but even if you get an older dog, they will still bond with you fast.

There is a strong debate about whether or not to adopt a shelter dog from abroad. Many people think it is bad to bring more dogs in when their country already has filled shelters. I see the point in that.

The benefits with a local shelter is that you get to meet the staff and your potential new dog before you sign any adoption papers.  Whereas when adopting from a foreign country that is normally not the case.

However, at least here in Scandinavia, shelter life for a dog is much nicer than it is in Portugal. The shelters in Portugal are filled along with their many roaming street dogs. There, they have very little resources, even in the shelters, to help the many homeless dogs.

In my humble opinion I think it should be a personal decision where you want to adopt from. None are more right or wrong than the other.

The most important is that you find a dog that you think you can connect with. Of course having made sure that you can provide whatever that dog should need both in terms of physical and mental health. Learn how to prepare for a dog here.


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