The Ones You Know About and Any that May Pop Up -- Adopting a pet is a big responsibility, especially for first time pet owners. If you have decided to adopt a rescue or shelter pet, that is great, because there are a lot of them out there that need homes. Just be sure you are able to deal with the responsibilities that come with the adoption. Some people tour shelters and get excited about a cute little dog or cat and adopt quickly without thinking about the possible rehabilitation needs. Get as Much Information as Possible Not all shelters or rescues have full information on the animal, but they try to provide potential adopters with as much as they can. Some dogs and cats are strays so no one knows what they have been through or how they were treated before the shelter got them. Too many pets are returned to a shelter because they are somehow "defective." People do it as easily as returning an unwanted item to the store. Pets should not have an "easy return policy." Being a responsible pet owner means tending to all of the pets needs, not just the basic feeding and occasional petting. Raising a pet is much like raising a child. There will be issues with the pet that have to be dealt with. Pets get sick and pets show signs of bad behavior at times. It is up to a responsible pet parent to make sure that the pet is happy and healthy. A pet depends on you just as much as a child does. Consider Medical Expenses Just because the pet has had a recent medical check up does not mean you will not have any medical expense, or illnesses. In an article I wrote, Rescue Dogs: A German Shepherd Finds a Forever Home, the first vet bill for Sarge was $130.00. The couple that adopted him also found out that he needed treatment for heart worms and an ear infection. Danny and Paula brought Sarge home in October of 2015. In a recent email, Danny told me that Sarge was still on monthly medication for heart worm treatment and probably would be for another year. He said, "Sarge is doing great. He weighs nearly 95 pounds now, and while I think he may be a little deaf from his ear problems, other than that he is happy." Sarge's outcome could have been much worse if they had decided he was too much trouble or expense. It is important to realize there may be medical issues other than regular vet visits. You need to be financially and emotionally prepared to handle any illnesses that surface. Behavioral Issues Taking a pet into a new environment can cause behavior issues. The pet may not have ever lived in a home before and will not know how to act. It will take a lot of time, patience and love to teach the pet how you expect them to behave. The pet may need to be potty trained or socialized to be around people. Make sure you have the skills and the time to adapt the pet to his new home. She may be scared and apprehensive. If the pet has been abused, he may jump or shy away from your touch. You will need to show plenty of love and affection. Do it slowly and calmly. Never use an angry tone when you speak to the pet. Speak calmly, but with authority. Adopting a rescue pet takes a big heart and an even bigger commitment. The rewards of the love and affection they will give you far outweigh any rehabilitation they need. Please be sure you can handle the rehabilitation before you adopt the pet. The shelters are full of pets whose owners couldn't commit. Many of these unwanted pets will be euthanized. Please don't add to the statistics. Be sure you can commit before you adopt.