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Editorials

Editor’s note: Today’s editorial was written by Lindsay Pollard-Post of Tribune News Service. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

Crisp, cool air. Leaves turning a kaleidoscope of colors. Pumpkin spice everything. And happy endings for homeless dogs.

October isn’t just a month of fall splendor, it’s also “Adopt a Shelter Dog” Month. While the leaves are falling outside, people are falling in love with potential new family members by visiting animal shelters and browsing the profiles of adoptable dogs online.

With so many animals in need of good homes, adopting (rather than patronizing breeders or pet stores) is the compassionate choice. But adding a new member to the family isn’t as simple as picking out a pumpkin for your doorstep.

After all, your adopted dog will be an important part of your family — and could be with you for the next 15 or more Octobers to come. So it’s vital to consider the decision to adopt carefully — before falling head over heels in puppy love.

Ask yourself the hard questions — and be honest. Will someone be home most of the time to care for and spend time with the dog? As highly social animals, dogs need companionship as much as the air they breathe. Locking them in a crate all day (or a bathroom, an enclosed porch, a kennel or some other small space) is cruel and deprives them of exercise, mental stimulation and opportunities to socialize.

Can you afford to care for a dog? Even though adoption fees at shelters are typically hundreds of dollars less than what breeders and pet stores charge, properly caring for any animal is expensive. Routine and emergency veterinary care, grooming, nutritious food, leashes, harnesses, collars, beds, toys, treats and myriad other expenses quickly add up. If you don’t have a plan to cover these necessities, your dog will pay the price.

Will you take your dog on at least four walks a day for bathroom breaks — and not just on sunny autumn afternoons but also on cold, rainy Saturday mornings when you’d rather stay in bed and on days when your schedule is hectic?

Are you ready to commit for better or for worse? Dogs embody unconditional love, but every relationship has its challenges. Will you be patient, even if your new family member shreds your favorite shoes or has an accident on your heirloom rug? Will your dog still be treated as a cherished family member if your family dynamic changes — for example, if a baby is born or a divorce occurs?

Are you willing and able to administer medications and provide other care if illnesses or chronic health conditions arise? Will you patiently help when your dog grows old and moves around slowly, needs to be carried up and down the stairs or can no longer see or hear?

These are just a few of the many factors to weigh before deciding to adopt. If you’re sure that you’re ready for the responsibilities and joys of caring for a canine companion, consider your lifestyle. An athletic, outdoorsy family might be a good match for a large, active dog, while an apartment dweller may find that a smaller, older dog is a better fit (but remember that every dog, even tiny or elderly ones, needs exercise, including regular walks).

Some other important things to consider are a dog’s energy level, adult size, temperament, coat length and grooming needs. The diversity of animals available for adoption in many shelters is as dazzling as a fall forest, with dogs ranging from gentle, gray-muzzled seniors to rambunctious pups, in every shape and size imaginable.

But try to keep an open mind: Personality and the connection you make count the most, and the perfect companion for you may not look exactly as you had originally pictured. And the decision may not be entirely up to you, anyway — many people report that their canine companions chose them!

No matter which dog joins your family, adopting means that you’ve saved a life — and both of you have found a friend for all seasons.

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