A Letter from our Director on Adopting Puppies versus Older Dogs

By Holly Crotty, TAPS Executive Director

As the Director of TAPS, people often assume I have a house full of animals.  The first question most people ask me is, “how do you keep from taking them all home?”.  I am an animal lover, and some days it’s hard, but I am realistic about what I can responsibly manage. 

When I came to TAPS, I had four dogs and two cats.  In 2012, one of my cats unexpectedly passed away so I adopted a senior TAPS cat.  Amber transitioned into our home like she had always been there.  I knew based on the age of my existing cat and dogs in the home that a kitten was not an option. 

The timeframe between December, 2016 and January, 2019 were hard.  I lost two cats and two dogs to old age and illness.  In my mind, it would be me, Huey (age 13) and Wrigley (age 14) until I had to say good bye to them too. 

Then, one morning in April, 2019, I walked around the shelter to meet our new intakes.  Tiffany was pregnant, shut down and staring at the wall.  No one could get her to turn around, let alone get her to go outside, and that is where our relationship began.  Multiple times a day, I would go back and pick Tiffany up and carry her outside to go to the bathroom.  One night, after our trip outside, she sighed and began to have her pups.  I sat with her while she gave birth…and from that point forward, Tiffany claimed me as hers.  I think everyone already knew she was mine. 

Tiffany is estimated to be 4-5 years old and despite being shut down at the shelter, she was such an easy transition into the home.  She was withdrawn and under-socialized, and I had to carry her out to go to the bathroom but other than that, she was quiet, well-behaved and kept to herself.  She slept in her crate all night without a peep, and she was respectful of my senior dogs.  As she came out of her shell, she politely engaged with her new fur brothers.  She did begin to counter surf as she became more comfortable, which was something I’d never had to deal with before since I’ve always had small dogs.  I realized she was used to stealing food to survive and stopped leaving things within her reach.  It wasn’t her fault that was her past.  I had to build Tiffany’s confidence to walk on a leash but she wasn’t unmanageable to walk.  Other than one of my blankets that she claimed as her own, she has never destroyed anything.  There are always transitions when welcoming a new dog but she pretty effortlessly fit into our home with love and patience.

Fast forward to September, 2020, when we received an 8 month old Scottish terrier at TAPS.  I’m a terrier girl at heart and had been looking for a Scottie in rescue for years. I waivered on adopting him when he arrived, because I just wasn’t sure I wanted a young dog, but when I held him and he melted into my arms, I knew it was meant to be. 

I adore Shortbread but he is a big adjustment.   I haven’t had a puppy since 2005.  It was hard back then,  but I’m 15 years older now so it’s even harder.   He has no concept of personal space for me or my dogs; I find myself frequently serving as a referee so he doesn’t torment them too much.  He doesn’t sleep through the night, so in turn, I don’t sleep through the night.  I have to take him out 3-4 times a night to go to the bathroom.  In the morning before I’ve had time to even wake up myself, he’s in full-on play mode.  I have to run home at lunch every day to let him out, and even still, I’m cleaning up accidents.  I can’t just leave for 6+ hours anymore and assume everything will be safe when I get home. 

Because he’s kenneled overnight, I don’t want to kennel him all day too.  I gate him in my hallway/bathroom area which has all hard floors for easy clean up.  Despite leaving him with a variety of chew toys and bones, he destroyed my rug and is pulling the wood paneling off of the door.  He also reminded me to put my shoes up because of few of those have been chewed too.  All manageable and understandable, he is a pup after all, but it also reminds me how easy it was to bring Tiffany home with only the loss of a single blanket. 

Tiffany’s post-adoption follow-up at the vet was nothing more than a check up.  As an adult, she was fully vaccinated and the exam was more of a formality.  I opted to do a pro-heart injection and a fecal for peace of mind but it was still under $100.  As a puppy, Shortbread required booster vaccines too, which is an additional expense.  I have to take him back in 3 more weeks for more boosters which will be another vet bill.  These are all things to consider as you adopt. 

Most people want a puppy or kitten because they believe that it will be easier to adjust them to their family, which isn’t always the case.  No matter how much training you put into puppies and kittens, they are still puppies and kittens, and with that comes energy, destruction, and the need for a lot of attention.  I took my eyes off of Shortbread for about 2 minutes this morning and he entertained himself by chewing on the edge of my 3 month old couch.  It was a hard lesson learned that he still needs to go with me from room to room to keep him out of trouble. 

Tiffany did take some time to come out of her shell, which isn’t always optimal for families with toddlers who don’t understand to give the new addition their space, but for families without small children, there wouldn’t have been any concerns.  I got to spend time getting to know here rather than cleaning up after her.  Shortbread definitely brings a new energy to the house, but it’s an energy that takes work.  No matter who you choose to adopt, it’s work and a lifetime commitment but it’s worth it to see it through and have a lifelong friend. 

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