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Are You Ready for a Dog?

Before adopting a dog, take this test to determine if you are ready.

You’ve decided to get a new dog because:

A) The kids’ whining has finally worn you down.
B) You hope to attract cool babes/guys while walking your dog.
C) You feel terrible for all the homeless pets in the shelter.
D) That puppy in the pet store window is just too cute for words.
E) You’ve been thinking about welcoming an animal companion into your home for quite awhile. Then, one day, everything is in place. Your heart opens all the way, and you know that it’s time.

Although people have taken in pets for all of the above reasons, the right answer, of course, must be “E.” It is crucially important to consider the impact a new pet will have on your family, as well as the feelings of the animal, before you adopt.

This Time, It’s for Keeps

A visit to an animal shelter will prove that acting on impulse or appearance is not the way to welcome a pet into your home. The 8 to 12 million homeless cats and dogs that arrive in shelters each year – 25 percent of them purebreds – attest to that. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Isabella Rossellini and Fabio have adopted animals from shelters, but not because it’s trendy. They wanted to save a life, just like you do.

You stroll past kennels filled with hopeful animals, young and old, purebred and mixed breed, and must choose just one pet who’ll depend on you the rest of her life. Cards on each cage door tell their stories: This 2-year-old beagle was brought to a vet to be treated for a broken leg, but his owner never came back to claim him. That poodle‘s owner died.

They’ve already seen bad luck. They are all intensely appealing. Do your homework before deciding.

Will Your Home and Life Accommodate a Dog?

First, you, your kids and all the adults in your household should agree that you want a dog. Look down the road for the life of the animal, which could be 10, even 20 years.

What Kind of Pet Do You Prefer?

In addition to being a vehicle for rescuing animals, shelter adoptions offer potential pet owners the opportunity to choose from a variety of types and ages. Remember that puppies must be taught how to learn, says Stephanie Frommer, Shelter Operations Coordinator at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Adult animals are already housebroken, know how to learn and have developed personalities.

If you think you prefer a certain breed, read up before making the commitment. Ask the shelter about local rescue groups dedicated to that breed. Mutts, or mixed breeds, generally have a better, varied gene pool and a sturdier constitution, but there’s never a guarantee. Shelter personnel may be able to conjecture which breed is dominant in a mix by color, coat or face.

A purebred’s genetic tendencies toward temperament and medical problems are more predictable. For example, greyhounds and Labrador retrievers tend to be gentle; chow chows may be hard to train, and lively; irrepressible West Highland terriers crave attention.

Adult size is sometimes an unknown with a young shelter dog. You know from the beginning that a Chihuahua stays tiny, while a bullmastiff needs plenty of paw room. You’re never quite sure what genes a mixed breed may have. Females are usually smaller than males. Still, that cute puppy could shoot past 50 pounds.

It’s Time to Visit the Shelter

Before you bring the kids, make sure the shelter meets high standards in staff and cleanliness. Also, consider how your child may react if she ends up leaving the shelter without “rescuing” at least one little creature. The sight of animals in need will be tough to bear. That’s why you prepare yourself with the facts.