For the past year Zack and I have been looking to rescue a dog. Last spring we started following several breed specific rescue groups, but as our summer filled up with lots of plans we decided pretty quickly it be better to wait until the fall before adding the responsibility of a second dog to our lives. Then fall came around, and we actually submitted applications for a few specific dogs, but every time we found one we thought would be a good fit we found out they already had an adoption pending. It’s so disappointing to get excited about a dog only to find out someone else has claimed him, but of course at the same time it also makes you feel grateful that they are finding homes for these poor babies in shelters. And then… we booked our trip to Europe, and decided once again to hold off until we returned. Finally, this spring, after we got all of our traveling out of the way, our search for our rescue pup resumed.
I think if you walk into your local animal shelter wanting to adopt the process is fairly simple, but since we were pretty specific in what we were looking for, the search was consuming, exhausting, and even emotionally draining at times. We’ve had our blue heeler Jamo since he was a pup, and a large part of getting a second dog was as a companion and playmate for him. Heelers are known for being both extremely high energy and highly intelligent, so we wanted another dog that would match these traits in him. We looked mostly at herding dog rescue groups, as well as some other rescue groups that primarily pull dogs from high kill shelters. Initially we thought another heeler or heeler mix would be good, but I continually found myself being drawn to the border collies/BC mixes. I started researching the breed and found out two main things. One, they are largely regarded as the most intelligent dog breed. Two, they are extremely high energy/high maintenance. This is typical of a herding dog, and I decided pretty quickly I’d be up for the challenge with another one. After all, Jamo was not the easiest dog by ANY means, but I truly believe the most challenging of dogs can also be the most rewarding if you are willing to put the time and effort in with them. I put a lot of work into Jamo, and he’s turned out to be such a wonderful dog. I actually call him my “once in a lifetime dog”, not that I can’t love another just as much, but Jamo and I just have such a special bond, it’s hard for me to imagine finding another one quite like him again.
Kato’s freedom ride!
So finally being in a place where we were prepared to take on a likely challenging dog, I found Kato. He was at a rescue just under two hours away from where we live, and as soon as I saw his picture, I knew he was our dog. I rely so much on my intuition in life, and I just knew it with him. I immediately sent in an application, and within 24 hours found out he had been approved for adoption for another family. This is what is emotionally draining about trying to adopt a specific dog, and with Kato especially I felt so dismayed and anxious at the situation. I emailed the rescue back asking if they’d pre-approve my application anyhow in case another dog we were interested in came along, then resumed my search. I didn’t say it out loud to anyone, but in my head I still knew Kato was our dog. That’s my freaky, kind of embarrassing intuition I was talking about which I tend to keep to myself until it plays out. Sure enough, a week later I emailed her again asking about my application being pre-approved, to which she apologized for not responding quicker, and then told me the other family withdrew their application, and asked if we were still interested in adopting him. Over the next two days they had approved our application, checked our references, and with the rain putting Zack out of the field (talk about perfect timing..) we were headed to rescue our doggy.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to adopt a child, because just adopting a second dog I went through such a crazy range of emotions. Of course we were so excited, but then also nervous. With a young puppy you pretty much know what you’re getting: a blank canvas. Kato is around one year old they think, and who knows what he has experienced or not experienced in life up until now. More than anything, I crazily started to worry I wouldn’t love him as much as I love Jamo. Like worried about it to the point where I had to call my mom and have her reassure me that I would. It was so weird, but I guess normal too? Walking into a rescue and seeing all these poor babies locked in cages just breaks your heart, and as soon as they brought Kato out to us, we both instantly fell in love with the sweet boy. To say he is high energy is an understatement, he is a WILD boy, but also such a lover. So much like how Jamo was when he was Kato’s age. He came barreling at us, and then was too distracted at wanting belly rubs to even pose for a proper adoption picture. The name they gave him at the rescue was Bonzo, which we changed to Kato and he learned within the first day. He looks mostly like a Border Collie, but our vet thinks he has Heeler mixed in too. Of course I did a little research on this mix as well, and one person described them as being “evil geniuses.” Evil because if they aren’t stimulated enough, they will find trouble for themselves! Am I crazy for being drawn to these kinds of dogs? Probably!
Sadly, dogs like Kato so often end up in shelters, the breeds (BCs, Heelers, working dogs, etc) definitely are not for everyone, and it’s unfortunate people don’t educate themselves more before adopting a puppy. That cute face will grow into a dog with a lot of instinctual needs and desires that must either be met or consistently worked through. Since adopting Kato, my days have been completely consumed by him. He’s a smart boy who knew how to sit, give paw, and was -praise the lord- potty trained! But responding to commands is so different than being obedient, and we’re diligently working on important things like “stay” and “come”. I wonder what his life was like before us, and it makes me both sad and drives me a bit crazy. He was obviously someones pet. Did they give him up? Did he run away? Did they neglect him? The rescue had pulled him and several other dogs on death row from a high kill shelter in Kentucky. I learned from them, which was later repeated to me by a friend involved in rescue elsewhere, that Kentucky is the worst state in the country for animal welfare. The specific part of the state where Kato came from, people generally don’t take very good care of their animals and just let them run loose. The shelters can’t handle the number of dogs they have to take in, and far too many end up euthanized. He wasn’t even neutered until after he arrived at the rescue we got him from, and while I’m not sure how long he was in the kill shelter for, he was at the rescue for around a month before we saved him. They have a large network of foster homes that they try to place most of their dogs into, but the really wild ones like Kato are too much for most foster families and often end up stuck in cages at the rescue, which is just heartbreaking. To imagine such a high energy animal spending his days mostly caged up makes me sick, and I’m so grateful we were able to give him a home where he can run and play.
We have a lot of missed training, and more importantly missed love to make up for. While Kato may currently be all-consuming of my life, he is so worth it. Please consider adopting for your next pet. Everyone says Kato is such a lucky boy we rescued him, but I think we’re just as lucky to have him come into our lives.
From the Humane Society: “Ten reasons to adopt a pet, in case “Because it’s the right thing to do” isn’t enough.“