Over the years our dogs have come to us in several ways – animal shelter, breeder, PetFinder, and a statewide rescue group.  All of these have been very different experiences for our family.

One of the fur balls in our house right now is from a rescue organization for Labrador Retrievers.  It’s been a journey, and it started from the moment we agreed it was time to find Gracie a friend.


Just after Gracie turned two we decided we were ready for a second dog.  BrightSide always has to remind me of the logistics of owning more than one dog – especially the additional food, vet, and boarding costs – because I’m usually ready to jump right in when I look at their adorable furry faces. (For real, those Sarah McLachlan commercials kill me.)

I knew I wasn’t able to go through the puppy thing again (more on that later), so going back to Gracie’s breeder was out.  That left the animal shelter or a rescue group.  Since we agreed we really wanted a lab, I started searching online for a good organization.

When I found the Lab Rescue we ended up working with, I was in for a real awakening.  The application process rivaled the one we endured for Bear and T-man.  (Okay, not really, but as the one filling things out it sure felt that way.)

They require detailed information about all family members and the kind of home you rent or own; explanations about your future dog’s living environment (daytime and nighttime), why you’re adopting a rescued lab, an approximate number of hours the dog will be left alone and where it will stay during that time; and an exercise plan as well as facts about pets in the home (both past and present).

You also have to provide your vet’s information (and yes, they do contact them to ask about you) as well as three non-family references.  References!

After your application makes it through their screening process, you’re finally contacted by the adoption screener who will handle your family.  Wait, what?  I have to talk to a screener?  On the phone??  I sometimes crack under pressure, so the thought of having to speak with someone from their organization on the fly about adopting a dog kind of freaked me out.

And that’s the procedure.  Irony of ironies, the time it took to move through this part of the process was exactly the amount of time it took another family to meet and decide to adopt the lab we’d fallen in love with from the website.  For heaven’s sake.

So I talked with the screener about our life – our family’s activity level, Gracie’s temperament, our house/neighborhood, and environmental considerations.  She described other dogs that were available for adoption and we decided to move forward with Phoebe, a lab mix approximately Gracie’s age.

The next hurdle was the rescue group’s requirement that everyone in the household (including pets) meet the dog you’re considering for adoption.  For us this meant coordinating a visit with Phoebe’s foster mom, who just so happened to live two hours away.  So one sunny weekend we packed ourselves up in the car, took a road trip, and headed into a potential minefield.

What if the kids fell in love with this dog and then we couldn’t adopt her?  What if the dogs hated each other?  How would I know if she was really a good fit for our family?  Talk about pressure!  But after five or ten awkward minutes things finally settled – the dogs started playing, the kids relaxed, and Phoebe started to be comfortable enough to meet us.




We learned a few things about Phoebe that day that were both heartbreaking and crucial to understanding her.  She’d been removed from her first home and placed in an animal shelter due to animal abuse.  She has a line around her waist where someone tied something around her as a puppy, making a mark when it cut into her skin as she grew.  The rescue group saved her from the animal shelter so she wouldn’t be euthanized.

Phoebe had been placed with a family prior to us but was returned to the rescue group. There were probably several reasons for this: the family had very small children (toddlers, I believe) and Phoebe doesn’t do well with jerky, unpredictable movements.  She doesn’t tolerate being poked or pulled, both of which I’m pretty sure were happening in that house.  And apparently the husband wasn’t very enthusiastic during their time at the foster home, so Phoebe’s foster mom wasn’t sure in the end if he was totally on board with getting a dog.

Not a great start for this poor thing.  Hurt by the first family you know.  Stuck in a shelter.  Taken out of the shelter and moved to a foster home.  Adopted out into what should have been her forever home only to be sent back to the rescue group.

I can’t say I didn’t have all the facts, but adorable furry faces and all…the kids loved her, Gracie loved her, and I fell for her, too.

We were getting ready to go out of town for a bit and didn’t want to take her home only to board her, so Phoebe’s foster mom agreed to keep her for a few more weeks.  This was how the kids and I ended up making that four-hour round trip on my birthday to pick up Phoebe and bring her home.

T-man and Bear are convinced this is why Phoebe bonded to me instantly.  I’m pretty sure it was because I was home all day while they had school and BrightSide was at work. That, and the fact that all this dog wanted to do for the first three days straight was sit on my lap or lay on the couch with me.  And I did it.  No laundry, no vacuuming, the kitchen was a wreck. I simply sat with Phoebe and reassured her that she was home and she was loved.


There was a transition period – quite a long one, actually, while Phoebe slowly learned to have faith in us.  Even I got one or two growls at the beginning when I made the mistake of petting her while she was asleep.  She loved Bear but would still snap if she made a careless mistake like stepping on Phoebe’s tail (an easy mistake to make since that dog is always underfoot).


T-man seemed to have the toughest time learning to interact with Phoebe the way she needed.  He was so used to Gracie’s rough and tumble style, a dog he could literally lay on while he read a book or grab in a great big bear hug.


T-man caught quite a few growls while they worked things out; now all he has to do is look at her and her tail starts wagging.

It also took Phoebe quite a while to completely trust BrightSide, which makes me wonder what kind of experiences she’s had with men.  But now she looks at him with complete adoration and is always ready to melt on his lap in the evenings.


So yeah, we had to jump through some crazy hoops to find Phoebe and bring her home.  But when I look at her now my heart is filled with joy – for the love she offers to us, and for the caring home we’ve given her.