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Thinking About Adopting a Family Pet?

Two weeks ago, the girls and I drove to Beverly Hills to pick up Betty, a 2-year-old rescue, from her foster family. Betty had been rescued earlier this year from a high-kill shelter in Downey, Calif., by local rescue organization Ace of Hearts.

I had sent an inquiry about another dog Fable and I had seen on their website (via Petfinder) and received a response immediately. After filling out the necessary paperwork, I chatted with one of the incredible Ace of Hearts volunteers and she told me that, while she didn't think the dog I inquired about was a fit for us (I explained we were looking for a dog that was AMAZING with kids—didn't growl or nip or destroy; ahem, my house is destroyed as it is), she had several dogs in mind that would be. One of the dogs on that list was a black boxer mix with golden eyes.

"She's the sweetest dog. Great with kids, extremely gentle, very affectionate."

A week later, I took the kids to meet her at a local park and Betty immediately felt like home. After an interview, some paperwork and a home check, we started our "trial" the following Wednesday.

(NOTE: Before you can adopt an animal through a rescue organization, they need to check out your house to make sure it's dog-safe and they allow a trial period to make sure the dog or cat is the right fit for your family.)

The kids wanted to rename her, so we sat down as a family and came up with dozens of names. The name Magnolia won unanimously (Fable's original idea), but we decided to include everyone's ideas in her FULL name, which is Princess Magnolia Sequin Dance Party Hillary Clinton Girl Power Woolf. Although she still goes by "Betty," as well. "Come, Betty slash Magnolia!" has become our current go-to.

I hadn't anticipated this to have gone as smoothly as it did. When I got Cooper and Zadie (in 2001 and 2002), I was 20 years old and clearly in a very different place in my life. I purchased both dogs through ads in the newspaper. (Cooper was from Kansas, and Zadie was from Georgia.) I raised them both as puppies and, while my kids always had close relationships with my dogs, they were always MY DOGS and therefore, although affectionate with the kids, far more loyal to me.

Magnolia—although clearly my baby (she has her chin on my knee as I type this post from my living room couch)—wants to be next to my kids at all times, too. For the last two weeks, she has cuddled with both Bo and Revi before bedtime. And, at the end of the night, when Hal and I turn in to go to bed, Mags settles in on Revi's bed and sleeps with her all night. (Magnolia and Revi have bonded in a unique way, perhaps because they are kindred spirits of gentleness.)

I always knew I wanted to rescue an animal once Cooper and Zadie, passed but I didn't realize how seamless the transition would be. I always thought that adopting an older dog would be a challenge because, as they say, you don't really know what you're getting. And the truth is, I was a little bit apprehensive at first, bringing a 2-year-old dog who had spent a lot of time in a shelter into our house—because who knows, you know? We had a rescue growing up, and he hated pretty much everyone. We loved him, obviously, but he was wounded from years of abuse and never quite let any of us in, which was hard for a kid who REALLY WANTED her dog to like her.

Magnolia is THE OPPOSITE. She wants to be next to everyone. She hugs with her paws. She cuddles under the covers with the kids. She licks everyone's faces until they can't take it anymore. She follows us around and curls up at our feet. She climbs into my lap, even though she's huge, and she rests her chin on my chest and looks at me, like, "Hi. I love you. Let's be together always—want to?"

And to that I say YES.

Which is why, this week I've put together a list of things you might want consider when looking into adopting a family pet. Because now that I'm a mama of a rescue, I want to sing DOG RESCUE AS A SALVE FOR THE SOUL from the rooftops. Because, oh man, this dog, you guys. SHE TRULY IS REMARKABLE MAGIC AMAZINGNESS. She has made all of us profoundly happy. Although she has only been with us for two weeks, I cannot imagine life without her.

(None of us can.)

Considering Adopting a Family Dog? Here are Some Things to Consider:

1. Rescue, if possible

According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters every year. Of those 3.9 million, 1.2 million will be euthanized. Local rescue organizations make it really easy to adopt loving animals. Rescue orgs make it their mission to solve behavior problems, properly train and care for all animals rescued from shelters in order to prepare them to live happy, healthy lives in their forever homes.

2. Include your kids in the "looking" process

Petfinder is a great place to search for your future pooch. You can set your search criteria by breed, age, gender and then go from there, with additional search criteria that includes size, good-with-children, good-with-cats/other dogs, etc. I spent months stalking Petfinder and fell in love with approximately 787,189,789 dogs before finally making a call to Ace of Hearts. It's an awesome resource and really fun to browse through with kids.

3. Be specific with rescue organizations about your family's needs

For me, it was important we find a dog that was housebroken, gentle and AMAZING with kids. No nipping, no growling, no digging or destroying. I was also looking for a dog that didn't have separation anxiety/issues with excessive barking, and was in the 1 to 3 age range. Old dogs are AWESOME but having to say goodbye to two dogs in the last three years, I really wanted a dog we could spend as many years as possible with.

4. Don't overlook black dogs! Or "bully" breeds!

I had no idea about "black dog syndrome" until I was looking into rescues and asked how Magnolia had been overlooked all year, when she is LITERALLY THE BEST DOG OF ALL TIME. I was told that black dogs are, more often than not, overlooked by adopters/euthanized at a much higher rate than lighter-colored dogs and that, while she had spent the bulk of the year in and out of loving foster homes, she didn't "stick out" in searches like some of the other dogs did. (Which is INSANE, you guys. She is BEEAAAAUUUUUUTTTTIIIFFFFFULLLLLLL.)

For more information on Black Dog Syndrome, here are several resources. There's also this link which goes on to discredit Black Dog Syndrome, so clearly, this a controversial item.

That said, bully breeds are the most commonly euthanized animals. Around 40% of euthanized dogs are pit bulls/bully mixes. You can read more about that here.

5. Consider a full-grown dog

People often say, "I don't want to adopt an older dog because I won't know what I'm getting." But you don't know what you're getting with a puppy either and there are SO MANY wonderful dogs of all ages who DESPERATELY want a pal to cuddle with AND ARE ALSO ALREADY HOUSEBROKEN/OBEDIENCE TRAINED.

Magnolia came to us knowing standard commands and (mostly!) knowing not to jump up when she gets excited. She also came fully housebroken, which is AN AMAZING THING.

6. Trust your instincts

Magnolia wasn't the first dog we went to meet. The first dog we met was AMAZING and LOVELY and ADORABLE but something didn't feel right about him and I knew better than to question what that something was. A dog is a SERIOUS commitment and you want to be sure that your family finds its perfect pet match. Sometimes that takes time.

7. Be ready to fall hopelessly in love with a creature who will fall hopelessly in love with you and OMG, you guys, dogs really are the best.

They really, truly are.

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