Paw-ventures: Adopting a dog

June marks nearly 8 months since we adopted our adorable shepherd mix, Shasta. In honor of that, and Berkeley Humane Society’s Pints for Paws event this weekend, I thought I would reflect on the experience.

It was a fateful evening in mid-October. We had set our sights on adopting Shasta, then known as Carolina. We couldn’t seem to find a good date and time to visit her at her foster home on the other side of the Bay. Eventually, we had to move quickly as we found out she would be available at an adoption event that weekend (sponsored by Copper's Dream - an amazing rescue organization!), in which case someone else might adopt her. We had a decision to make - and we made it! We cancelled our evening plans, stopped at Pet Food Express for the essentials, and drove to Daly City to meet her. She was very unengaged when we got there - just hanging out on a bean bag, not showing interest in anyone or anything. She was also limping around on three legs as at the time she was still recovering from FHO surgery on her right back leg.

Despite the challenges, bringing her into our family was one of the best decisions we could have made. She brings us great joy and it is hard to imagine what life was like before we had her trotting by our side! She loves adventuring with us on weekends, but when we are home she just wants to cuddle. Work hard, play hard, the true dog adventurer. We lucked out, and she has truly come into her own with a new engaging personality.

Adventurer Highlights of Owning a Dog

  1. Dogs are allowed to travel with you to a surprising amount of places. However, you might need to be flexible in exactly where you end up going. This can be a good thing, as it allows you to explore new parks and places that you might otherwise overlook!

  2. In terms of accommodation, there are many hotels and airBnBs that allow you to bring pets. It helps to be courteous, ask for permission in advance, and be clear about what the needs of your animal will be.

  3. In the world of micro adventure, having a dog really helps you get to know your neighborhood and community. Since you will be spending more time walking around outside where you live, this lends to more organic interactions with your neighbors - something I have found to be a huge win!
  4. Walking a dog multiple times a day gives you more time to absorb sunshine and get your body moving - making you happier and healthier.

  5. Hiking and climbing outdoors is fun, but having your furry companion with you adds to the joy of the adventure as you can experience the world together!


Since the adoption timeline, though perhaps a twinkle in your eye for a long time, might come at you faster than you expect, here are some shopping tips to think about:

Things to buy immediately:

  1. Every dog needs a place to sleep, but the kind of bed depends on the training. We bought Shasta a dog bed, as we knew from her fosters that she wasn’t crate trained. Find out in advance what the sleeping arrangements are so you can plan accordingly.

  2. Dog food - try to find out what the shelter or foster is already using, and buy some of that. If you are particular to feeding the dog something else, buy that too and slowly mix the two together over time to get the dog used to the new food. 

  3. Food and water dishes - it doesn’t matter what you get, but we like the one below as it controls for spills.

  4. A collar -any will do, as long as it can fit the dog's neck! It helps to know in advance if they are a small, medium, or large.

  5. A leash - start with a plain six foot leash until you figure out what kind of walking style you prefer. 


Things to buy later:

  1. A hairbrush - I have used a few but the below is my favorite.

  2. Comforts - We bought a blanket and a toy for the bed.

  3. Treats - this is pretty trial and error, since some dogs can be picky about treats. We definitely bought a few at first that Shasta won’t eat. See our favorites below.

  4. Toys - we bought a few toys before we learned she doesn’t play with any of them. Oh well! Don’t buy too many at once, or if you have a puppy, be prepared for the weaker toys to get destroyed quickly.



Extra frills that we love:

  1. A rain jacket - I was hesitant at first, but it is really effective if it isn’t pouring too hard. It helps keep the wet dog smell at bay.

  2. A car hammock - We go on lots of adventures, and with this hammock we keep the leather car seats clean. It also helps keep Shasta in place so she doesn’t go flying if we stop short.

  3. A running leash - You can tie it around your waste and go hands free on trails or just around the neighborhood!

  4. A retractable leash - This is our primary leash now, as it just makes walking easier because Shasta loves to smell everything and doesn’t walk in a straight line. We use the more traditional six foot leash when we need to tie her up outside a restaurant or shop.

  5. Mushers - Good for taking your dog into snow.



Extra Extra (for the fancy pet owners):

1. A Neato - I was pretty skeptical of robot vacuums, especially since I already owned an upright one. However, it has been a true godsend. Most dogs shed quite a bit, and running our robotic vacuum every other day helps keep the apartment clean without too much added extra effort.


All in all, adopting Shasta so far has been one of the most rewarding adventures of the past year. Dog ownership is a lot of responsibility, but worth it!


Want to follow her paw-ventures? Follow @theadventurebarkons on Instagram.