Nuts About Mutts
Pups get a new leash on life.
By Rebecca Hankins
Development Director of the Animal Protection Society of Durham

All featured dogs from the Durham animal shelter

A shaggy pooch sticks her wet nose through the cage; a furry Heinz-57 holds up his paw with poise; a newborn Lab gazes with puppy-dog eyes. It's easy to fall in love in the Triangle...over and over and over again. Just walk through an animal shelter.


Each year in October, animal shelters across the country celebrate Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. The month is dedicated to educating people about the importance of adopting their new best friend rather than buying from breeders or pet stores.

If you're wild about dogs, you don't have to stray far. There are hundreds of doggies in Triangle shelters available for adoption, including the one who's just right for you.

Inviting a hound into your life will bring you a howling good time -- companionship, unconditional love and lots of laughs. Adding a critter to your crew may also bring you good health. Research indicates that people who own dogs have lower blood pressure and are more likely to exercise frequently.

Still, adopting a dog is a serious responsibility. Before bringing home a T-schnoodle or a St. Bernard-Shih-Tzu, ask yourself a few questions. Why do you want a dog? Can you afford one? Do you have the time and patience to train Rover? Are you prepared to take care of him every day?

This little guy will be with you and your family for his entire life, so be sure you're barking up the right tree. Choose wisely. Sit and seriously reflect on your lifestyle and personality, and do the research necessary to find a pet compatible with your family and you.

Familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of different breeds and their specific health, grooming, personality and behavioral traits is important. More than 500 breeds are recognized by kennel clubs worldwide, and there are also new "designer" breeds and "hybrids" (or, as shelters affectionately call them, "mutts").

Once you're looking at the residents of the shelter, it will be handy to know about purebred dogs. Still, it's most important to realize that, like humans, every canine is unique.

The Triangle's animal shelters can be your best resource when trying to find a fur-fabulous one who fits your lifestyle. A stray's background is often unknown when he enters a shelter, and it's for this reason that responsible shelters perform a behavioral assessment before making Scruffy available for adoption.

Looking at tell-tail signs, this evaluation identifies a dog's comfort level with restraint and touch, reaction to new experiences, behavior around food and toys, and arousal level toward other dogs. From these judgments, shelter workers are able to identify the specific living conditions that will allow Fido to flourish. It's not how the dog looks; it's how she behaves.

Once you find the tail-wagger you want to adopt, it's crucial to devote one-on-one moments to her. The shelter will give you and your family a small room or other space so you can spend quality time with your four-legged friend. This will provide more insights into her behavior and adorable quirks, allowing you to make the most informed decision possible.

Purebred or hybrid, wonder woofs are all waiting for a chance to be your BFF. When you adopt from a shelter, you'll have a loyal companion for life, and you'll feel g-r-r-r-reat knowing you may have saved a life.