The decision to adopt an animal from an animal shelter or rescue is not only a brave decision, but an incredibly important one. Every day, thousands of animals die in shelters, due to continuous, unnecessary (over-) breeding. By adopting from a shelter or rescue, people are literally saving lives.
Those who choose this option, to save the life of an animal, are my people, and this column aims to celebrate them and their furry friends by telling their stories.
Mike Loewen, 33, and Meghan Loewen Cook, 32, share their home with their rescue dog, Charlotte, a three-and-a-half-year-old corgi husky mix. They welcomed me into their cozy West Broadway home, so I could ask a few questions about their life with Charlotte, and why they are proud to have a rescue dog.
Where is Charlotte adopted through?
Mike: Funds for Furry Friends out of Brandon, Manitoba.
How did you find this rescue?
Mike: I found her through Kijiji. I was attached to the idea of a corgi, so I would randomly search for corgis and see what was around. I was looking to adopt a dog. I wasn’t super interested in a purebred, because they are prohibitively expensive and there are enough other dogs that need homes that it seemed silly to want to buy a puppy from a breeder.
What was the process like to adopt her?
Mike: Pretty intense, not having done anything like this before. We went out to Brandon to meet for the first time. We were there for around a half hour, walking and playing with her. It was instant love.
Meghan: It was that way for both of us. We drove from Brandon and then out to visit family in Steinbach, so we had lots of time to talk about it. I think we got to Carman and decided to put in an application to adopt her.
Mike: So, we applied, had to provide two references and then we had an hour and a half home visit/interview. These people are very serious about where their animals are going. They wanted to know if we both work, and what is her situation going to be like, as in will she be at home for long periods of time. There was a lot of talk about that. They called both our references and they spent an hour on the phone with them
Did this process at any time make you feel like you weren’t that interested in continuing?
Mike: No, but it was definitely surprising. It felt like we were adopting a child. Like, obviously not the same, but it was pretty serious.
Meghan: The process is designed to make you back out if you’re not willing to go through all of this.
How old was Charlotte when you adopted her?
Mike: She’s about a year and a half.
Meghan: She had a sad puppyhood, so we are not really sure exactly how old she is.
When you say she had a sad story, what do you mean? Where is she from and what is her story?
Mike: We don’t know specifically, but somewhere up north. There was the idea that it was somewhere around Norway House. As far as we can tell, from 0-6 months, she was on her own, just out and around, with no one looking after her.
How did the rescue get ahold of her?
Mike: Apparently the rescue has this person who is known to them as kind of a dog rescue vigilante of some sort, who will remove dogs from the community that they don’t think are being cared for.
Meghan: Basically what we think happened is that she was brought from up north, but we don’t know if this person travels or lives in the community or an adjacent community, but they would go around and take dogs that they found and hand the dog over to the vet or one of the animal hospitals in Brandon. We are not clear on how the dog made it from Norway House to Brandon, but she got there, and then was surrendered to the vet, and then handed over to the rescue.
What are some of the challenges you have with Charlotte?
Mike: Her food thing is a definite survival instinct that was built in from very young, having to be on her own. She didn’t know where her food was coming from, so she would grab it from anywhere. So, now she’ll still just eat anything at any time. A classic example is last winter, there was three feet of snow and under that snow is a pizza crust. No one else can see it but Charlotte found it.
Meghan: She can be aggressive with her food if she is around people she doesn’t know. She was and has been aggressive with us. I think that’s just part of the trauma she experienced. Food wasn’t coming regularly at the same place at the same time every day, so she can be very protective of her food.
What does that look like practically for you?
Meghan: It’s a lot about building trust with her. She knows that we provide food to her. We’ve trained her to take food from us nicely and to do things like that.
Mike: Her process of eating is still very much like we have to water down her food because she will just eat so fast. It’s more protective than anything else.
What do you feel like she adds to your life?
Meghan: It sounds sentimental. It is sentimental, but she changed our lives. She totally changed our lives. Just in terms of how we live, because now all of the sudden we have a being to take care of every day and that totally changes what time you wake up, what you do in the morning and what your routine looks like. Up until we really got her settled at home, Mike was running home every day at lunch to let her out and to make sure everything was going okay. She was really, really anxious when we first got her. She’s super high energy and so that meant that we needed to really ramp up our own activity levels. It really pushed the hiking and snowshoeing things that we do now because she can do it with us and she likes doing it with us. It’s positive for everybody.
Mike: It was definitely the right decision and right choice. She is ridiculous and loud and all of these things, but she is so great. We got her at a time when I wasn’t crazy happy about how certain things in my life were going, and she really helped with that. Getting her was really great for me.
Meghan: There are so many things about her that are not perfect. She’s anxious, she’s noisy, but she’s got so much love to give. She’s by no means perfect and I think that happens when you rescue a dog. They come with baggage in some capacity or another. She came to us generally quite healthy, but she has some issues. She’s really great and sweet and I think that you get so much more out of adopting a dog than you would ever get out buying from a breeder or pet store.
Cindy lives, works, and helps animals in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Follow her on Instagram @cindytitus
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