Post-adoption Decompression

Too often the news headlines involve children getting mauled by newly adopted/purchased/acquired dogs.  Just today, Detroit news outlet WDIV-TV showed video of a Gordon Setter being led out of a home after it had “attacked” a 14 month old boy 10 days after its adoption.  The boy was reaching to pull a toy out of the dogs mouth at the time of the attack.

This is a horrific accident for everyone involved.  Adopting a new dog can and should be a very exciting time.  From the time you first made the decision to adopt, to the time you walk your new dog through your door weeks or months have probably gone by.  Time, money, energy and a lot of planning went into this moment, but too often, a critical step in the adoption phase is forgotten:  Decompression.

You don’t know this dog and the dog doesn’t know you.  The background of your new dog could be unknown, or perhaps it came with a detailed history from the original owner, but in either case, everything that is happening to the dog at this point is stressful, unknown and inconsistent.

Imagine you have been up-heaved from your life, to find yourself in a temporary housing situation without your prior knowledge or consent, and without knowing how long you’ll be there.  At some point, possibly soon or possibly after a long time, you meet someone new for a few minutes and find yourself going home with them.  This is stressful!  The thought is terrifying and yet this happens to dogs all the time!  Dogs end up in rescue groups and shelters and this exact scenario plays out every single day all across the world for the “lucky” ones.  The unlucky ones don’t ever make it out of the shelter they came to.

When a new dog comes into your home it is not only important, but necessary to introduce your pet to you, your home and your life carefully.  Your dog needs time with minimal exposure to stimulus, to unwind from the stress that they’ve just lived through and to give you and your home/family a fair shake.  To skip the decompression stage of adoption is to rob your dog of the second chance it so desperately needs.

All dogs respond to stress differently, just as people do.  Some dogs can decompress in a week or two, and other dogs could take a month or more to really start to settle and adjust.  There are no magical timeline that will tell you how long you should allow your new dog time to decompress but experts state anywhere from 2-4 weeks is the minimum.

Decompression or lack thereof can’t be the blame for every incident involving a new dog, but doing it properly helps eliminate that risk.  Children should never be trying to take things from a dog, or be in the dog’s space.  Babies and kids shouldn’t be allowed to lay on the dog, pull on it, climb it, pull tails or any of those other things that kids just love to do to dogs.  Many parents believe these are cute interactions, but the dog may not be as enthusiastic and the child and the dog will be the ones to pay the price.

The take-away is this:  new dogs must be introduced carefully, slowly, and with supervision.  Children should never be left alone with a dog (new or otherwise!), and a dog needs time to destress after it comes home to a new household before any of the exciting “getting to know you” activities are planned.

Below are three examples of new adoptions that turned to tragedy.  I intentionally left out any Pit Bull examples because it’s easy to forgot that ANY DOG can bite and attack.

Links to some non-Pit Bull examples:

Links about decompressing new dogs:


Stray Story: “Gunther”

Update:  Within a few hours of this post, several local rescue groups stepped up and Gunther is being transported to the SPCA of Southwest Michigan on 3/31/16.

Like so many dogs that find themselves in the care of Kalamazoo County Animal Services & Enforcement (KCASE) and other stray animal shelters all over the world, how they came to be there is often a mystery.  Was it dumped?  Did it run away?  Did it escape an abusive home or is it lost from a loving family?  Most potential adopters will speculate based on the way the dog acts or behaves.  Dogs that cower at men must have been beaten by a man.  Dogs that dislike children were abused by a child or children.  Dogs that hesitate or refuse to walk on stairs must have been thrown down stairs at some point in its life.  None of these statements are based on any facts, but they help potential adopters connect with the animal they’ve chosen.  These assumptions help intensify the “rescuer-rescued” bond they form with their new pet and are ultimately the beginning of what will hopefully be a long and happy relationship.

guntherGunther, a stray Mastiff mix at KCASE is just such a stray.  She turned up about a year ago in the City of Kalamazoo. Scared and skittish, she refused to come to anyone.  Finally she found a family with a large open barn that they kept open just for her, worried that something bad could happen to her.  They provided her food and a safe place to sleep if she needed, but month after month were no closer to securing her than they were the first day they noticed her.

The family called local rescue groups and were told that they couldn’t help.  She was a stray, and local rescues cannot take in stray dogs.  She was unable to be contained and had an unknown temperament.  She didn’t seem to trust people and she wasn’t ready to be caught.

Finally, after the plight of Gunther was brought to the attention of KCASE.  Officer Shellie Simpson, a 12-year veteran at KCASE, brought out a live-animal trap to hopefully lure the dog.  For several weeks the dog eluded Simpson and the trap, finding a way to retrieve the food inside the trap without setting off the mechanism that would have closed the trap door behind the dog.

Frustrated, but unwilling to give up on the dog, Simpson found a way to dangle the food inside the trap leaving the dog no other choice but to fully enter the cage if she wanted the free meal.  The plan worked, and finally the dog, who survived the winter without a home, was brought indoors for the first time since her ordeal began.2016-03-29 16.16.24

Named “Gunther”, the dog is a female large-breed brindle and white mix.  She had clearly been hit by a car recently and limps, with an injury to one of her back legs.  She was seen by a veterinarian who was able to clean up the wound, however Gunther may need continued vet care.  Her ears had been cropped and she’s thin, but she is very sweet and the staff at KCASE love her.  She visits the front office regularly and the shelter is currently looking for a rescue group that can spend more time preparing her for a new forever home after she is recovered from her time as a homeless dog and is ready for placement.

Gunther is just one of countless stray stories coming out of KCASE every day.  We’ll never know what happened that led her to where she is today, but KCASE is doing everything they can to find her a rescue group willing to take her in.  KCASE is committed to finding every adoptable pet a home and KCASE Director Steve Lawrence tells us that she is highly adoptable, but needs a rescue to help her overcome her medical hurdles before she should be placed in a forever home.

If you can help, please contact KCASE at 269-383-8775.  You can also view other dogs available for adoption at KCASE by visiting them at PetFinder at





Shelter Pet Feature: Annie the Beagle

Annie 57/88167

Annie 57/88167

Annie is a special girl that needs to be adopted or rescued from Kalamazoo County Animal Services & Enforcement.  She’s a stray that was brought in March 24th and she’s been waiting at the KCASE shelter since then for her owners to come find her.  With her owners no where to be found, she’s looking for a new home that will fall in love with her sweet personality, just like the staff at KCASE have.  If you’re in the market for a new dog or have room on the couch for just one more, consider going down and meeting Annie.

She’s passed her safety exam and her food eval, and has shown no signs of aggression.  She’s quite and not barky in the shelter environment our while the volunteers had her outside, and she knows how to sit on command (if you have treats in your hand!).  She’s calm, mature, and she’s ready to go for a walk, or curl up and snuggle whenever you are.

The Details:
Annie is a 6 year old female that has not been spayed yet.  Her adoption fee of $155.00 includes her spay surgery, Rabies vaccine, microchip with registration, Distemper booster vaccine, bordetella vaccine, heart worm test and dog license.

Annie can be found at 2500 Lake Street, Kalamazoo MI  49008, Phone:  269-383-8775
She cannot be adopted over the phone, and anyone interested will need to go to the shelter to meet her and fill out the appropriate paperwork.

Attached find her Behavior Assessment and her Cage Card from KCASE:
❱ Annie Behavior Assessment
❱ Annie Cage Card (PDF)

Save Our Strays Adoption Event April 11 at Lowe’s on West Main

KCASE Animals at an off-site adoption event courtesy of the Save Our Strays Volunteers

KCASE Animals at an off-site adoption event courtesy of the Save Our Strays Volunteers

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM at Lowe’s, 5125 W Main St, Kalamazoo, MI 49009

SOS will have adoptable animals from Kalamazoo County Animal Service & Enforcement (KCASE) at Lowe’s on West Main from 10am to 4pm. Volunteers will be there to introduce you to pets that have been waiting patiently for a new home.

The KCASE shelter is not open on weekends, making these off-site weekend adoption events convenient. It’s also a good way to interact with the pets outside of the shelter environment which is sometimes a less-than-ideal environment to meet with a potential new pet for the first time.

Adoption Applications can be completed, however approvals will not be available until Monday when KCASE reopens. Animals will not be able to be paid for or go home with any potential owners at the event. All adoptions will be finalized at KCASE the following week.

Donations of pet supplies, food or funding are always appreciated.

Save Our Strays Facebook Page
KCASE PetFinder Page – View Adoptable Animals

KCASE Animals at an off-site adoption event courtesy of the Save Our Strays Volunteers

KCASE Animals at an off-site adoption event courtesy of the Save Our Strays Volunteers


KCASE Animals at an off-site adoption event courtesy of the Save Our Strays Volunteers

KCASE Animals at an off-site adoption event courtesy of the Save Our Strays Volunteers

KCASE Animals at an off-site adoption event courtesy of the Save Our Strays Volunteers

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