Pet Adoption Story: Chief

We fell in love with Chief once we saw his smile on social media, and knew we had to contact his owners Cait and Joe to learn more about him and his adoption story. We just love how devoted they are to their lovable fur baby, and how they want to use their story to break stereotypes of pet adoption and encourage people to adopt, not shop. Here is their adoption story, in their own words:
We adopted Chief one year ago today from North Shore Animal League, in Port Washington, NY – we knew we were looking for a dog to complete our family, and while we knew we wanted to adopt a pup, we didn’t know exactly who we were looking for. I actually had been fairly downtrodden in our search – we purchased a home last year, and moved in in late July of 2016, and so began our search. I looked online for shepherd mixes, reached out to many groups, and unfortunately, was often met with the news that the dog or pup we had seen online had already been adopted.
When we went in to North Shore Animal League, we had no idea who we would meet – North Shore is one of the biggest shelters in the country (it might actually be THE biggest – they rescue like a million pets a year or something), and so of course they can’t really guarantee any specific breeds/ages/etc when you go into the shelter. We actually didn’t have our hearts set on a puppy – we were considering an older dog, and actually maybe a larger dog, but then we met Chief, and he was just perfect.
For a little background on Chief – we had picked the name out many years before we even bought our house, or met Chief himself – he was so small, and so new to the shelter, he was only identified as “Tricolored Male” on all of his paperwork. My husband is an NYPD officer, and has a certain affection for shepherds and working dogs, so we had that in our minds, and I knew I wanted a well-temperamented dog that could be my best friend when Joe wasn’t home, and his best friend when I wasn’t home (we worked opposite shifts at the time).
Chief was actually the first dog we took out to play with at the shelter, but I knew he was the one for us. We connected, and I knew he was the right pup. My husband wanted to be fair to the other puppies and dogs, so we actually saw other dogs, but I’ll be honest – I kept an eye on Chief the entire time, and I could see him keeping an eye on us. We don’t know too much about Chief’s extended history, other than he was found in North Carolina, didn’t have any siblings at North Shore despite being a VERY small puppy – he was listed as about 8 weeks old, and a bit of a runt, despite being very tall (he was only 13 lbs when we got him – he’s not filled out a lot, and is a healthy 55 lbs of love!). We suspect he may have come from a home or situation with numerous dogs, because when we first got him, he would only eat with his back to the wall, and while he was never food-aggressive, he was definitely food-anxious to the point where he’d eat so fast he’d give himself a belly ache – but luckily, with time, he has relaxed significantly, and will even leave kibble in the bowl for later, as opposed to eating an entire bowl in 30 seconds.
Adoption Process
We were super nervous – I actually made my husband wear a button down shirt and everything when we went to the shelter – we know that they’re serious about vetting pet parents, and while we had dogs growing up, both work full time, own a home with a yard for the dog (that’s actually why we picked a house instead of a condo), we were nervous, as I am sure many new pet parents are when they meet “the one”. North Shore is very thorough – we were there for a few hours while they called our references, and verified our information, and since we went to the shelter after work, we actually ended up at Petco at about 8:55 PM to grab the essentials, and bring Chief home. Everyone at the Shelter was lovely, and I cannot recommend them enough. We were so excited when we found Chief, and thrilled when they approved us for the adoption, because we knew he’d be the perfect pup for us. Even though he was a bit more timid when we got him, he has always had a lot of character
Adopt vs. Shop
We always knew we wanted to adopt a dog, as opposed to buying a pet – I am a firm believer that your best friend is already waiting for you down at the shelter – you just need to go meet him or her, and buying a dog was never even a consideration.
How Chief’s Changed Our Life
I think Chief has impacted many people’s lives in positive ways – he provides unconditional love and support to not only myself and my husband, but my extended family. My sister (his godmother), has been particularly inspired by Chief when times have been rough, and his tenacious attitude, and his unwavering love of her, us, and life in general. As I mentioned earlier, at the time we adopted Chief, my husband worked nights, while I worked days (I still do – his shift has since changed), and Chief has been a tremendous companion to both of us, which I think is especially important as a Law Enforcement Family, I think it’s really important to have that extra support and companionship – for both myself and my husband, and Chief has truly completed our family. He’s encouraged us to get out there more, and we have had a lot of fun finding dog-friendly places to bring our pup together.
Quality Time With Chief
Chief really, just truly loves life. Like most dogs, a game of fetch is pretty much his favorite thing, but we’re hoping to get him into agility soon, because he’s a very clever pup who is also extremely fast. He really enjoys coming out with us as well – visiting parks, restaurants, shops, and other places where he can meet other dogs and people. After he started feeling safe, and less timid, he became incredibly outgoing – Chief literally smiles at people, and we’re constantly being approached when we bring him out by children, adults, and other dogs looking to play with him or interact. He really loves being the life of the party, and the more people he gets to spend time with, the happier he is. He also enjoys quiet time of course – in the Winter he likes to marathon Golden Girls reruns with me nestled up in some nice blankets (yes, really he does).
Breaking Adoption Stigmas
I think a lot of people worry about shelter dogs, as if they’re somehow damaged goods – they’re not. They’re animals that are often in a scary place, that are frightened and in need of loving companionship. It is my biggest wish that people will see Chief, and see how wonderful an adopted dog can be, and chose to adopt instead of shop. Remember those people I mentioned earlier who like to come over and pet him in the park? Well, they often ask where we BOUGHT Chief, because he’s a fairly unique looking dog – he looks like a tiny German Shepherd with unique markings (like the white tip of his tail, & the white spot on his snoot), and is often mistaken for a young puppy, but when people find out “wow, he’s full grown at 55 lbs, and has the keen, clever, loyal, and loving demeanor of a shepherd?”, we’re often asked where they can get a Chief of their own, and we of course refer everyone to head on down to the shelter to find their own perfect pup. We’re currently very up in the air about getting a dog DNA test done, because no matter what Chief is, he’s perfect, but we get A LOT of questions about his lineage.
I just think there are so many benefits to adopting a dog – mixed breed mutts have less health issues than many purebred dogs, who have been inbred to the point where it’s detrimental to the dog’s health (which frankly is criminal and cruel), and while you might not find the right pup on the first try (I spent weeks reaching out to Adoption Groups about different dogs before we went down to North Shore), I guarantee you that there is the perfect dog, cat, or critter down at the shelter for EVERYONE. From lowkey mellow mutts, to puppies just waiting to share their excitement with you – jumbo dogs to pocket pups, and everything in between, there is always a new best friend waiting down at the shelter for you, and you’re helping support those who haven’t yet found their Forever Home by adopting your new best friend.
I also think that there are a lot of people concerned about temperament when it comes to adoption – while I understand the concern, I also think it’s unfair. What has Chief done that makes him any more less loving than than puppy in the window? Nothing. He did not chose to be born, he did not choose to end up in the shelter, and he is a Good Boy. While not every dog will mesh with every family, that’s to be expected – the same could really be said for ANY dog (certain breeds are more kid-friendly, etc) – I would be more concerned about the temperament of someone who thinks that the dog is a risk simply because it ended up in a shelter due to circumstances outside of its control.
Advice for Prospective Adoptive Pet Parents
Take your time finding your best friend, and make sure you are ready. We desperately wanted to adopt a dog for a long while before we found Chief, but we waited until we were in a housing situation where it was fair to him – he might be a pint sized shepherd, but he’s still a dog that needs to roam, and it’s only fair to him that he has a backyard (and since we’re being honest here, he has his own room!). I would also recommend looking into breeds to get an idea of what you think might suit you – shelters often know at least SOME of a dog’s lineage, or can make an educated guess, and so if you’re a small dog person, you’ll want to look at terriers, chihuahua mixes, etc. and if you love big dogs, there’s plenty of hounds, shepherd mixes, pitties, and other great big pups too. As you can tell, I am a dog-person, not a cat-person myself, but I do want to mention that there are also countless lovely kitty cats at most shelters as well in need of their forever home.
Making A Difference
Adopting a pet makes a difference in so many ways – for one, selfishly, you need to ask – “who saved who?” – bringing a rescue into your life will bring YOU joy, but you are also providing that pet with a good life, and the love it deserves. It also helps shelters like Chief’s home shelter, North Shore Animal League, continue to do what they do, and you’re freeing up a spot for the next Chief that comes to their door in need of shelter.
Follow Chief on Instagram: @heyitschief


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