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My Story: Life with a Rescue Dog

Like many people in the world, I have a pet. A dog, to be precise, and a wonderful one at that. She’s a rescue dog, adopted from a local animal shelter. Many people consider whether they should adopt or shop for their pet, and I hope to make that a little clearer by sharing my story with my dog, Miss Piggy.

Her name was originally just Piggy. She had been at the shelter for months, and she watched all eleven of her puppies get adopted. Nobody seemed to want her. My fiancé and I were going to cancel our honeymoon plans as this was during the height of Covid. We decided that instead of going honeymooning on the beach in Florida, we would adopt a dog. We scrolled through Facebook one Friday night and came across the picture of Piggy. She looked so sad but had such a bright smile for the camera. We fell in love with her at first sight. But we had promised that we would adopt whichever dog had been there the longest. We prepared our home for a dog, buying all necessary tools and supplies.

The next Monday morning, we both headed to the animal shelter. Nervous energy was abundant on the car ride. What if the dog we adopted didn’t work out? We couldn’t adopt a cat due to my fiancé’s allergies. We walked in the animal shelter, excited and nervous to meet the dog we would consider taking home. When they brought Piggy out, she took a flying leap at us, and we had to catch her. She started licking our faces, and we both looked at each other. We knew in that moment that it was meant to be, and Piggy would be coming home with us.

The first thing we did after adopting her was take her to Tractor Supply Co. We were there

to pick up food and a collar that would fit, as well as a leash that wasn’t the slip leash she had on. While we walked the aisles, Piggy stopped and began to stare intently at a small stuffed cow dog toy. Without saying a word, I grabbed it to see if she was interested in it. She looked at me, presumably in disbelief or uncertainty. We were told at the shelter that she never got any toys, so she wasn’t sure what to do with it at first. Eventually, she gently took it from my hands. She carried it while we shopped, and allowed the cashier to cut the tags off when we checked out. She held it the entire ride home. That was her first toy, and she still has it three years later. Although it has undergone stuffy surgery a few times, it has lasted to this day. And should the day arrive that we can’t repair it anymore, we have a backup in our dresser just in case.

Piggy has grown into a very confident and sweet dog since then. She adores children and wants to play with them whenever she can. She hasn’t met a stranger she didn’t like, and she’s incredibly intelligent. She learns new commands in a few minutes and enjoys training. It’s one of her favorite words. But sometimes, she can be a little too smart. She will ask permission to stay in the bedroom at night. This is done by opening our door, getting on the bed, and standing on my chest and staring right in my face until I wake up. Other times, she’s taken our groceries out of the bags and put them away in the correct spot. She’ll hand me laundry when I’m folding, and she knows how to ask for different things she needs, like food, water, and a trip outside.

Miss Piggy and my husband have an interesting relationship. They argue all the time about whether she actually needs outside or just wants to play, about when dinnertime is, and about whether she can stay in the bedroom. She will take her rope tug toy and swing it so the end hits him when she’s mad at him. But at the same time, her mornings aren’t complete unless she spends time cuddling with him. She wants him to take her outside instead of me, and he’s the one she wants to play with most. While she has low energy with me, she has a lot with him.

Miss Piggy helps us foster small animals for PAWS. When we first got her, we trained her how to behave around small animals. She has to stay still and calm, so they don’t get scared. She’s gentle and calm with them, so they get used to being around dogs. They’re more likely to get adopted if they can go to a home that also has a dog. Her best friend was Cookie, a white rabbit with black spots, and our first foster. We had Cookie for months, and Piggy loved playing with her. They would groom each other through the cage, something that I didn’t expect when we started fostering. We’re on our fourth foster animal now, and Piggy is as gentle now as she was then.

One thing I adore about Miss Piggy is that she’s a task trained emotional support animal. She knows deep pressure therapy, how to stop self-harming behaviors like nail biting, and how to pick up dropped objects to hand to me. Being disabled, she provides much needed help and support. Deep pressure helps me regulate when I feel dysregulated or anxious. Stopping behaviors like nail biting prevents me from hurting myself on accident. And picking up dropped objects means I don’t have to bend over when I’m hurting. While she’s not a service dog, she still helps enough to be afforded protections by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.

Not everything has been sunshine and rainbows though. Piggy is dog reactive, meaning that she displays bad behavior when she sees another dog. She gets overexcited to see the other dog and displays some dominance aggression. We plan on working with a local dog trainer to correct these behaviors. For the time being, we avoid crowded places, and take her for walks in the early morning or late at night to avoid other people walking their dogs.

There are many good things about adopting a shelter dog, but that doesn't mean adding an animal to your home will always be easy. You might get a dog with aggression issues like we did, or a dog that’s scared and anxious. Or you might get a dog that has no issues, and that loves to be cuddled. Regardless, none of the character traits that exist in shelter animals are unique to shelter animals. Aggression, anxiety, cuddly, playful and other traits can also be found in animals purchased from breeders or pet stores. Every dog is unique and needs to be treated as such. No dog is perfect (adopted or purchased) and understanding that will help you build even deeper connections with the pup you have. A shelter knows the personalities of each of their animals and can help match you with a dog that will fit with your family. If you don’t like to go outside, most shelters have senior dogs that are content to just curl up on the couch and binge-watch your latest favorite show. If you love the outdoors, you can likely find a dog that loves to run and be outside. Wherever you look, there is going to be a dog (or cat!) that’s right for you.


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