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5 Tips for Adopting Rescue Pets

Author Susan Morse and greyhound rescuer Claudia Presto get to the nitty-gritty of giving an animal a forever home.


For years, I worshipped greyhounds from a distance. Somehow, it never occurred to me that I could actually have a personal relationship with any of these long-limbed, elegant speed machines, and when I finally got up the nerve to inquire with a local greyhound rescue organization, I’d have done just about anything to get one in my house. So enamored was I that I actually welcomed the chaos when Lilly arrived fresh off the racetrack and proceeded to turn our house upside down. My children were heading for college, I wanted distraction, and I definitely got what I wanted.

Along the way I made friends with some greyhound experts, including my current go-to rescue source, Claudia Presto, founder of Greyhound Gang.

Claudia says it might have been better for all concerned if I’d spent a little more time exploring options when Lilly was made available. To me that’s like suggesting I could have given birth to different children—Unthinkable! Lilly was my joy, and no matter how crazy things got, I’m forever grateful, even though I know Claudia’s right. Adopting a dog is a lot like entering a relationship with another human. (Did I mention I decided to marry my husband about five minutes into our second conversation?)

But for those who take a more careful approach to adopting rescue pets, here are Claudia’s tips.


1. Don’t base your decision on appearance. If there’s a certain look you prefer, fine. But as when choosing a mate, it’s crucial to be sure your personalities and lifestyles are compatible. Consider what’s important to you. Do you prefer quiet or noisy? Goofy or bright? Athletic or lazy? Easygoing or serious? Do you care if your dog likes other dogs? What about cats, kids, and the car?

2. Think of this as a commitment. You are embarking on a lifetime relationship—their lifetime. You must be able to afford the care, be determined to stick it out through changing circumstances (kids, jobs, significant others) and be truly present. Love is not always enough.

3. Ask questions. Talk to people at the rescue place of your choice—they have lots of information and are delighted to share.

4. Seniors are the best-kept secret. They move into your home, offer unconditional love, and adore you without all the trials and tribulations of younger dogs.

5. Get in the spirit by reading good books about the human/animal connection. Here are some of our favorites:

Sentimental: Old Yeller by Fred Gipson (my husband starts crying just thinking about that ending) and The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, which almost gave me a pre-teen breakdown.

Funny, not only because of the illustrations: A Leg at Each Corner by Norman Thelwell and Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight.

Uplifting, contemplative, and (dare I say) mystical: Animal Miracles by Brad Steiger and Sherry Nansen Steiger (cows that shield their favorite farmer from an angry bull; a shipwrecked teenager escorted to shore by a stingray) and Kinship With All Life by J. Allen Boone (mostly about a German shepherd, but there’s this fly towards the end. His name is Freddie. Just read it.)

I can’t think of a category for this one: Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley. That book is like Black Beauty on steroids.

Memoirs: Pack of Two by Caroline Knapp, and anything at all by James Herriot. Start at the beginning with All Creatures Great and Small.


susan morseSusan Morse is the author of The Dog Stays in the Picture: How My Rescued Greyhound Helped Me Cope with My Empty Nest and The Habit. She was educated at Williams College and has worked as an actress in L.A. and New York. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband, actor David Morse.

Download The Dog Stays in the Picture on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble.

Download The Habit on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble.

Published on 19 May 2015

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