By Jen Fuhrman, GPG Volunteer/Blogger

My husband and I had reservations about adopting a shelter dog – really more so him, than me. In my opinion, shelter dogs often have a stigma against them. They’re overly aggressive, wild, difficult to train – you know, they’ve lived on the streets or have been surrendered by owners and that means that something has to be wrong with them. Even though I hate to admit it, I was guilty of these thoughts.

We have a vivacious boxer named Stella who is a little over a year old. A few months ago, the time came when we wanted a sister for Stella. I’d learned about Gateway from a former coworker who is a foster, and I became enamored with adopting. But again, those reservations about what a “broken” pup would be like in our home made me nervous. But we didn’t want a puppy again (whew!), so that meant adoption! I was nervous, but we started to look.

We’re biased to boxers because we love our Stella so much. So the search was difficult. One day, when I came across a picture-less listing for a young brindle boxer through a rescue group in southern Illinois. By chance, her foster was bringing her to the shelter the following day for an adoption event. I was going to meet her; you know, “just to see” – yeah right!

When I first saw her, I started to cry. I approached her slowly, let her smell me and then squatted down to greet her. Even with her little ribs protruding and her belly still sagging a bit from carrying a litter, she was just perfect. I chatted with her foster mom and we realized that she really would be the best addition to our family. I hung out with her for a couple hours that day. While meek, she was playful with other pups and extremely gentle with anyone who walked up to her. I signed the papers that day and scheduled to pick her up the next day. (I wanted to be complete prepared with bowls, bed, extra food, etc.)

I was still nervous, even the next day. Wondering if we made a good decision, nervous that Stella would feel replaced, concerned that her rough past would make it difficult for her to love and trust us, silently panicking that Stella’s colorful puppy personality would be too much for a pup that’s already been through the ringer. She sat and looked out the window on our way home. I talked to her the entire way, hoping to build some trust.

As I suspected, she was different than our Stella. She was scared to leave the deck to play in the yard. We had to convince her to go to the bathroom because she was so fearful it was wrong. She needed you to sit with her while she ate. She needed affirmation that what she was doing was ok. And it was! She just didn’t know it.

We’ve had Sonny (formerly Sadie) since May and picturing life without her is impossible. Despite being almost exactly Stella’s age, we’ve had to work with her to be a puppy. We have many assumptions as to how she was treated and what she was used for before she came to us. And while it makes me madder than hell, each little victory means so very much and the changes we’ve seen in her are incredible!

These days, she and Stella play their hearts out in the yard. They snuggle all day on their fleece blankets. The sleep draped on top of each other. They are absolutely inseparable.

For a pup that never had peanut butter in a Kong, slept on a bed, laid on the couch or maybe taken a stroll through the neighborhood, Sonny impresses us everyday. And have I mentioned how happy Stella is to have a companion? I can’t tell you how many times Sonny has strolled my way, put her head in my lap and looked me in the eyes to say thanks. And not to mention the grateful looks from Stella when she’s snuggled under a blanket with Sonny, head propped up on her rump.

What’s the point of all of this, you ask? The point is that, when you adopt a shelter dog, you will experience a different kind of love that you didn’t even know existed. Put aside your preconceived assumptions about what it means to adopt a shelter pup, young or old. I assure you that it’s a decision that is more fulfilling than you could imagine.

Sonny and Stella have asked that I share October is ‘Adopt a Shelter Dog’ month. So now is the perfect time to check out our adoptable pups online, follow our Facebook page or visit the emergency shelter. Because if you keep an eye out (and your heart open), I promise that you’ll find your very own Sonny.


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