Two weeks ago, we got a dog.
Tonka is not just any dog (and no, before you ask, we didn’t name him that!). He is one of the most affectionate, loyal, loving, and energetic dogs that I could ever have dreamed of having.
Where did I get such a wonderful dog, you may ask?
The answer may surprise you. It’s not through any breeder, no trainer, no dog whisperer…we found Tonka through an animal welfare website called Pet Rescue. Pet Rescue is a not for profit search engine, where animal rescue groups from all over Australia advertise their animals for adoption and fostering.
We thought long and hard before deciding to get a dog. We knew straight away that we didn’t want to go to a breeder. Not that we have anything against breeders and their animals (in fact I grew up best friends with a girl whose mother bred fox terriers – hi Sybil!), however we knew that there were so many animals that were in need of loving homes, some of whom were destined to be put down if they didn’t find someone to adopt them. During my childhood my family owned a pit bull x staffy called Tanic (who had been handed down to us from another family). He was the most docile, dopey, friendly dog, and he taught me to understand that just because some breeds of dogs have a bad reputation, it doesn’t mean that they should all be tarred with the same brush. I also knew the pain of having to give a dog away when we moved to a new council area where pit bulls weren’t welcome. I couldn’t control Tanic’s future back then, but I could do my best now to help another unfortunate dog.
And so the search began. The internet is full of animals that don’t have a home, many of them breeds found ‘undesirable’ such as staffies, bull arabs, collies, kelpies, terriers and mix-breeds (no doubt an accident caused by an unsecured fence between two properties) – undesirable either because of their breeds, which are stereotyped, or their disposition, which people more often than not don’t investigate before buying ‘that cute fluffy puppy’. Unfortunately, many animals are also surrendered or seized because their owners are either unwilling or incapable of caring for them (such as with Tonka).
For weeks I trawled the Pet Rescue site. I set up a search alert, for small-medium adult dogs within 50km of Brisbane (you can also search for cats, birds, mice, reptiles, alpacas…yes alpacas! and a number of other species). We knew a basic outline of what we wanted – a medium-maintenance, low-shedding smaller sized dog, which could accompany me on runs, but would also be perfectly happy lazing about the house during the day, keeping Ryan company in his office.
After a few hit and misses, I one day found Tonka in my inbox. He was being advertised by a group in Caboolture called A Second Chance Animal Rescue. His description read:
“Small Male Corgi, Cardigan x American Staffordshire Bull Terrier Mix
Located in Queensland
My name is Tonka and I have a permanent smile on my face. I love everyone, adults, cats, kids, other dogs. I have no problem with anything, I just need love and to go for walks and runs. I would love an active family to keep me amused to play ball or walk along the beach or take me to the park. I am a happy little chappy and nothing phases me.”
I knew that this was a dog that I wanted to know more about. I rang the lady fostering him and chatted to her for a good half an hour about Tonka, what we were looking for in a dog, what his disposition was, and whether we were suitable for each other. A lot of rescue organisations have a pound where you can go an visit the dogs and get to know them before submitting an application. Some charities, however, are comprised only of a group of fosterers and organisers who take in dogs direct to a foster home and if you wish to meet an animal you must either have it brought to your home or visit it at it’s fosterer’s house.
Once an application has been submitted, you can get the animal on a trial (between a week and a month) during which time you have the dog living with you, and if, at the end of the time, you decide you don’t get along as well as you’d like, you can return the animal and get a refund.
Lyndal and ASCAR offered to come to our house and, if we clicked with Tonka, we could start a trial immediately (this is one of the stresses that direct-to-foster-home charities have – they can’t take any more animals until a previous animal has moved on). We wouldn’t even have to pay for him until we decided to adopt him or not.
Most dogs up for rescue can cost anywhere between $50 (during sales which happen frequently) and $600 or $700, depending on the breed. This fee covers the vaccinations, heart worming, desexing, and microchipping of most of the dogs, most of which happens to all animals before they’re made available for adoption.
To cut a long story short, we have had Tonka for just over two weeks and I now can’t imagine life without him. He has fit into our home as if he’d always been there. I really love him. And it’s not just because, no matter for how short a time, he’s always happy to see me. It’s not because no matter what room I’m in, he wants to sit or sleep near me (sometimes right under me), but he also doesn’t bark or cry if he’s left alone. It’s not even because he is scared of the bath, but still trusts me to wash him, and then gets so excited when he’s out that he runs around and this happens to the rug (see below!). I could go on and on about all the cute things he does on a daily basis, but I really don’t want to turn into one of those annoying people so I’ll try to hold it in.
I’m not going to pretend that he’s perfect (for example – we’ve had to train him that he’s not allowed on the bed or the couch in this house!), but as far as lotteries are concerned, we have definitely hit the jackpot. I’m not sure exactly what he’s rescued us from, but I definitely know that our life is better with him in it.
If you are thinking of getting a pet, I can’t recommend enough going through this avenue. It really is the most rewarding experience to find a dog in desperate need of someone to love, and to provide it with companionship. I not only have helped out Tonka and ASCAR, but I have now got a companion of my own – someone to run with and spend my evenings with while Ryan is at football, and he has honestly brought a joy to our lives that we didn’t know we were missing.
The problem now? Restraining ourselves from rescuing them all!