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Less-Adoptable-Pets Need Us
Open your heart, home and/or wallet during National Dog Week
Healy, a 10-year-old Malamute in Anchorage, needs a home. She likes walks and stuffed animals. Learn more at Petfinder.com.

Today is the start of National Dog Week (September 19–25), a weeklong celebration of our canine companions that has apparently been around for more than eight decades. It’s on my radar thanks to the efforts of Lisa Begin-Kruysman, an artist and writer in Brick Township, N.J., who has been doing all she can (including a blog, Facebook page, and a book titled "Every Dog has its Week") to revive what had become a flagging tradition.

Ultimately, these day/week/month/year designations kind of irritate me. Here’s my issue: Isn’t every day National Dog Day? I know it is in my house. Why limit yourself? Are you kind to your dad or mom—only one day a year? (If you answered yes to that, you’ve got challenges we can’t get into here.)

So I treat these designations as little alarm bells, a reminder to do something more or different. Happily, a sort of solution has presented itself: National Dog Week overlaps with Petfinder’s Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week (September 17–­25).

This is a cause very dear to my heart since my husband and I specialize in unadoptable pups—most recently, a big (strike one), black (strike two), five-year-old former sled dog. In Fairbanks, where Renzo lived until joining us, old sled dogs are about as desirable as a bikini in February.

Every day we are grateful for Renzo’s presence, never more than during the past few weeks, as we’ve coped with the sudden death of our older dog Lulu. From the waiting room at Washington State University veterinary hospital to the days that have followed, Renzo seems to know precisely when we need a little extra snuggling and when we need a kick in the pants.

Of the people I’ve talked to who adopted “less-adoptable” dogs—those with behavioral challenges, health problems and/or intimidating looks, or simply seniors—they all, to a person, describe something special in the connection, maybe a sense of bad fate narrowly avoided. It may be projection, but it’s a good sort of projection that inspires us to help dogs who need a little extra dose of compassion.

So why not celebrate two weeks in one? Perhaps National Dog Week is your excuse to make the leap for a dog with less than stellar chances. Or, if that’s too big a step right now, maybe you can support a shelter or rescue that is going the extra mile to find homes for these special-needs pups.

Check out the gallery of less-adoptable pets at Petfinder.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

From Petfinder.com.

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Submitted by Heidi | September 19 2011 |

My last five dogs have been what most consider "less adoptable" dogs... seniors with health problems. I am very much drawn to the senior dogs... I only adopt dogs that are over the age of 8. Most often they already have, or develop, various health problems, mostly with bad hearts. Probably my most favorite (shhhh, don't tell the others) was a mutt named Boo... he came to the shelter I was working at at the time. The vet said that this dog had a bad heart and would most likely "die any day now"... how could I allow him to die alone in the shelter? I brought him home to give him a place to die in peace and with love. I must admit those first 5 days or so you could see the life TRYING to drain from him... but then there would be a spark here and there, like he was fighting it. In the end, I believe he and his body decided that "hey, this place ain't so bad after all" and I was BLESSED to have him in my life for another year +!!! Best time of my life... I loved my baby Boo and was devastated when I did eventually lose him. There will never be another mutt just like my Boo. But life goes on, and the seniors keep coming... the ones that no one wants because they are "too old"... I take them in .. maybe in the hopes that if I give them a loving home in their seniors years, that maybe someone will give ME one in MINE? I wonder.... but I do love those seniors!!!

Submitted by Jonni Lynch | September 19 2011 |

Our "Collab" (collie/lab mix), Elie was considered unadoptable at the rural shelter where I worked as volunteer adoption coordinator. Prior to being thrown over the 8 foot perimeter kennel fence overnight (because the loser didn't want to pay the relinquish fee), he was probably kept in a barn or shed for the majority of his 4 month existence. Poor boy broke his leg on the fall, but reaked of motor oil (it was so thick his coat was crusted and his skin red for irritation) and was so unsocialized he trembled when a human walked anywhere near the fenceline, urinated profusely, cowered and growled. Add to that his solid black color and well, I was told not to even "take his photo" or put him up on Petfinder because he wasn't going to make the cut. Hard for me, but I had to do what I was told. My husband was making his first visit to the shelter the day Elie was "processed". He overheard the directive from the ACO and was angry, confused--appalled. "What does he mean he doesn't get a chance??!!" I did my best to explain, even though it broke my heart. See, my husband was put in a boys home as a tween and completely identified with this poor dog. And so, Elie (named after author and Holocaust survivor, Elie Weisel) came home to our household to join the others in the Lynch clan. It didn't take long to see his shining personality--an immense sense of humor, he is the comic relief in our group, canine taste tester for our 2 year old daughter, and all around happy slug of a dog. Life wouldn't be the same without him!

Submitted by Jonni Lynch | September 19 2011 |

Our "Collab" (collie/lab mix), Elie was considered unadoptable at the rural shelter where I worked as volunteer adoption coordinator. Prior to being thrown over the 8 foot perimeter kennel fence overnight (because the loser didn't want to pay the relinquish fee), he was probably kept in a barn or shed for the majority of his 4 month existence. Poor boy broke his leg on the fall, but reaked of motor oil (it was so thick his coat was crusted and his skin red for irritation) and was so unsocialized he trembled when a human walked anywhere near the fenceline, urinated profusely, cowered and growled. Add to that his solid black color and well, I was told not to even "take his photo" or put him up on Petfinder because he wasn't going to make the cut. Hard for me, but I had to do what I was told. My husband was making his first visit to the shelter the day Elie was "processed". He overheard the directive from the ACO and was angry, confused--appalled. "What does he mean he doesn't get a chance??!!" I did my best to explain, even though it broke my heart. See, my husband was put in a boys home as a tween and completely identified with this poor dog. And so, Elie (named after author and Holocaust survivor, Elie Weisel) came home to our household to join the others in the Lynch clan. It didn't take long to see his shining personality--an immense sense of humor, he is the comic relief in our group, canine taste tester for our 2 year old daughter, and all around happy slug of a dog. Life wouldn't be the same without him!

Submitted by iqaluit humane ... | September 19 2011 |

Thank you for adopting a BIG BLACK SLED DOG!!! There doesn't seem to be many people who are willing to take on the task! Our org. used to operate a little shelter out of a 1 bedroom apt loaned to us to help save animals like healy however organization recently had to close due to lack of resources. There roam our streets here in Canada's Arctic, many of which are shot to death. We in desperate need for homes for many unwanted, abused and neglected animals much like Renzo and Healy but also puppies just starting out in the world with No there to go. We need to built a shelter!!! we have a territory of 50,000 people and not one animal shelter or vet to place these unwanted animals.

So ebing national dog week If there is anything you can do to help we would love to hear from you info@iqaluithumnesociety.com

Submitted by Katy | September 19 2011 |

Luke: We first brought Luke home at 3 months old as foster parents. He and his entire litter of English Pointers had been dumped at 8 weeks of age on the side of a highway in Oklahoma. Of the 6 puppies, 5 lived through this. Then they all developed Parvo and were hospitalized by the rescue which had taken them in. 4 puppies lived through this but Luke was the smallest and weakest and was just not getting better so we took him home to hand feed him and try to fatten him up for adoption. Well - after 2 months of this - he wasn't going anywhere and with us he stayed - now age 2. As it turns out - the puppies were likely dumped b/c a "breeder" realized they all had congenital hips and felt they were "unadoptable" or I guess not profitable. In reality - all 4 pointers went to homes where they are beloved. Luke had hip surgery and nothing has stopped him since then, he is happy 24/7, very spoiled (my fault) makes me laugh every day and loves all his dog siblings. He was truly meant to be in our family and his crooked little gait just makes him more adorable. Give me an "unadoptable dog" anytime!

Submitted by corpsGreenAngel | September 24 2011 |

I adopted Dark Knight on Dec 26th 2008. He was dropped at the shelter that day with six of his brothers and sisters. At the time I did not know about the problems black dogs faced in shelters. As I puppy tested two of his sisters to see what kind of drive they had another woman was also looking at the little. I was shocked when as puppies were picked she told me not to even look at him. All the other puppies in the litter (BC/Neuf mixes) were black and white but Knight was all black with just the hint of white on his chest. This women stated "oh good your not looking at the black one" when I asked if she was looking at him she then stated "GOD no! Don't you know, black dog are bad luck and stand for death!" I in turn looked at this little almost all black dog as he ran and got the toy I had just thrown to his litter mates. Thirty mins later I was walking out of the small shelter with a 5.5pound ball of fur who's chance of adoption I was told by another person at the shelter was closes to zero due to the color of his fur and old wise tales that said black dogs are bad luck, meaner, evil, or are a symbol of death. He saved my life this so called devil dog last year when the man I was with thought it was ok to strike a woman to make a point. This devil dog then moved 3000 miles over four days with me to come home to las vegas. Although none of my family know what was done to me or that Knight saved me this "devil dog" is my hero and NEVER have I looked back to say any of what was told to me was right.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 29 2011 |

This posting caught my eye because our last two dogs were Huskies adopted as adults. One had a severe aggression problem which we worked on all her life with us. Despite our best efforts we were never able to completely resolve the problem though she improved greatly. The second dog is a charmer and has no behavioral issues at all including with cats. This is unusual among Huskies.

We also foster adult cats for the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society. Our latest foster was a cat adopted out as a kitten and returned to the shelter as a 16 year old with FIV and other health issues some of which were resolved by the shelter vet. Other issues included a badly healed broken bone which couldn't be fixed.

It took over 4 months to find this cat a new home. While he stayed with us, we wondered how we could make him and other older pets more desirable for adoption. There was no adoption fee charged in his case.

One thing that I realized that could be done was to reduce the potential future cost of veterinary care for the adopter. All of us who have had elderly pets know that sometimes the cost of vet care in the last stages of life can be very high. When our first adopted husky died, we spent $4K in 4 days to stabilize and get a definitive diagnosis. It is the potential of this scale of cost which might soon arise with an elderly pet that might cause a potential adopter to have second thoughts no matter how much they might want to give them a home.

One way a shelter or rescue could make an elderly pet more adoptable would be to subsidize comprehensive veterinary health insurance for the adopter. In the case of the 16 year old FIV positive cat, this type of insurance costs $400 to $500 per annum.

I understand that shelters and rescues operate on tight budgets and that fundraising is difficult. But one thing to keep in mind is that housing an animal whether it be in a shelter or with a foster home costs money and other resources. The longer that a pet is unadopted, the higher the cost. Even if the animal is with a foster family, that's a resource that is limited and can't be used by another pet. Older animals tend to take a very long time to get adopted.

Special subsidies of this sort might be cost effective for the shelter or rescue and for the adopter.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 30 2011 |

I don't understand why people don't adopt black dogs. All of my dogs have been rescues of some sort & black. I currently have 2 BBD's. Molly is a black lab/houndish mix & Payton appears to be black lab/great dane. I challenge anyone to find sweeter, more lovable dogs. Molly believes everyone was put on this earth to be her best friend. Even when she goes to the vet she greets everyone as tho she's at a cocktail party. Payton was described by his foster mom as a very sweet boy. He is. Hence his name in honor of Sweetness, Walter Payton. So come on people - give the black dogs a forever home. They're the best.

Submitted by Rachelle | September 30 2011 |

My current foster, a happy-go-lucky big ol' lab/hound mix, came to me as an unclaimed stray. It quickly became evident that he had already (at 6 months old) developed some serious food bowl-related aggression (he was probably put in a situation as a very young puppy where food was either very scarce, or he had to compete for it), and that I was in for a long, patient, desensitization process. He's coming along beautifully, but it does have to be disclosed to potential adopters...along with his recent diagnosis of epilepsy. So far, one issue or the other has either disqualified (homes with young children, who may not remember to leave him alone and/or watch his body language while he's eating) or scared away the folks who have applied for him. The thing is, they're both actually relatively small issues, and he's a fantastic, easy-going boy who is focused, quick to learn, and eager to please. Less desirable dog? Less adoptable? No way - he'll make a great addition to the right, compassionate family/person - and I'm willing to keep him as long as it takes him to find that home!

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