Used Dog, Free to Good Home

She was a dreamboat
(What were her previous owners thinking?)

Gypsy Rose shelter dog

We often hesitate to adopt a dog from the dog pound because we figure we don’t know what we’re getting into adopting somebody else’s used dog. We assume that if the dog is at the dog pound there must be a reason. He chews up your smelly shoes, he pees on Aunt Molly, he rummages through the trash… there must be something really wrong for the dog to be at the dog pound.

That’s the big myth. In fact, when adopting a dog from a dog pound they often have some kind of record about the dog: any training he’s had, whether he’s been an outdoor or indoor dog, plus they’ve spent a few days around him and know if he’s an aggressive dog, friendly, fearful, etc. Dogs don’t just appear on their doorstep. People turn their dogs in and they must fill out a fact sheet about the dog.

Gypsy Rose was a dog pound special, also known as a “shelter dog” or “rescue dog.” She was a year and a half old and it was a tough decision whether to adopt an adult dog or a puppy. I didn’t want to train a dog from scratch so I didn’t want a puppy. I wanted the dog to at least be housebroken and maybe sit or lay down on command.

According to their records Gypsy Rose was housebroken, knew the command sit and preferred the outdoors. I liked what I saw in her eyes: they were calm. She wasn’t jumping around and barking like the other dogs. There was no sign of aggression or fear. She sat calmly, looking at me with a question mark in her eyes.

Today her eyes are full of joy and laughter and love and the question mark is in my eyes because I don’t understand how she came to be abandoned by two different families. Somebody, somewhere, spent a lot of time with this dog and it shows. Gypsy Rose knew a lot more when I adopted her than just sit.

She was about the closest thing to the perfect dog that I could ever imagine and it baffled me utterly that anyone would have gotten rid of her. To think how close she was to the gas chamber. She’d been there for a week already and I don’t know how long they keep a dog before the axe falls but I don’t think it’s much more than a week.

Obviously not all shelter dogs are going to be as perfect as Gypsy Rose. She’s got her quirks as do all of us but the moral of the story is never to assume that just because somebody dumped the dog, that there’s something wrong with the dog. Maybe it’s the owner that was the problem.


This article was written in 1999 in honor of our perfect dog. Gypsy Rose passed away at the age of 15 years old in 2009. We adopted another shelter dog in 2007 who didn’t come to us as well trained as Gypsy Rose. Her name was Dakota and she took us on a wild ride. She filled our life with “Don’t Kill the Dog” sticky notes and she was quite a handful. We wrote several articles during her first two years with us about the retraining of this awful dog and later turned them into a book which is now available on and other book sellers.

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