Ever since I was a kid, I wanted my own dog. We had family dogs, but I wanted one that would be mine and that I could train (and I was saving my allowance so that I could even pay for dog food and vet bills – Mom was kind enough to subsidize most of that though.) When I was 12, I begged my parents to let me get a dog. We had Sally (a shepherd mix) and Rocky (a pitt mix,) but they were both a little older. Sally was really old. My parents didn’t want three dogs at the time, so I was told, “you can get a dog when Sally kicks the bucket.” However, when I turned 13 and Sally proved that she was going absolutely no where, my parents made an exception.
old shepherd mix sally lying in the grass
Sally as a senior
Now I want to tell you about where I grew up. My parents own a five acre farm in the country. I wouldn’t call us rural, but you can’t get high speed internet there and the road they live on is about 3 miles long and almost all of one side of it is farmland that belongs entirely to one guy. We had corn fields across the street, an elderly neighbor on the right, and then the next neighbors were two cow pastures over. (Yes, I just used cow pastures as a unit of measurement.) At the time, we had one acre fenced-in with four foot high sheep fencing. If you’ve never seen sheep fencing, this is what I’m talking about.
grid of sheep fence
Sheep Fencing – Image by
The acre was half-woods and half-grass and we mowed the grass portion. This was our “dog yard.”
dog yard displaying fence
Grass portion of the dog yard
It also contained dog houses and igloos because sometimes when the weather was nice, especially during the summer, we’d let the dogs sleep outside at night. We also had an underground electric fence that ran around the acre surrounding the house and the barns to prevent the dogs from running into the road. The other three acres were pasture.
snowy acre of yard with barns in the background
The other acre bordered by the electric fence (road on the right)
This was my home and my mother homeschooled us for nearly our whole education, so in general at least three people were home the majority of the day.
I tell you all this because when I went to adopt my first dog, we got rejected by two animal rescues and the local humane society.
Here are some of the reasons we were rejected: 1) our fence was only 4 feet high and the rescue would not adopt to anyone who did not have a 6 foot fence, 2) we had an underground electric fence for the main yard and that was deemed inhumane, 3) we occasionally left our dogs outside in the dog yard while we were not home, and 4) if we were unable to bring all our present pets to meet the new dog, we were unable to adopt. (Sally couldn’t travel. She was too arthritic.)
My perspective about rescues changed after that. We were a good home. But because we were not perfect by the book, we were rejected by all of them without even being able to see any of their dogs. I was very disappointed as a teenager.
I have since volunteered with other rescues. I decided they could have my time, but not my money. However, I’ve still heard some pretty stupid reasons people get rejected, “Oh the family has a rabbit, so we couldn’t let them have [terrier mix.]” I understand what the concern was there, but you have to give people a little credit to be intelligent. We had a rabbit. Our rabbit was in a cage, and you know what? He died of old age. You know why? Because we knew a rabbit and two 60+ pound dogs should not co-mingle. No one had to decide that for us.
After being rejected by the rescues, we ultimately wound up at Baltimore Animal Control. The Baltimore Animal Control shelter has since been replaced by BARCs (a non-profit), but at the time I visited, they were still regularly euthanizing dogs that did not get adopted due to space limitations. So that being said, they were not nearly as picky in their selection process as the rescues we had approached. They asked, “Will you spay this dog?” We said we would, they asked for $50, and that’s how I got Sophie.

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