Adopting the Underdog

By Emily Effren – March 1, 2021

There are many aspects that play into the adoption of a new, furry family member. Age, breed, personality and more typically dictate what kind of pup a family or household is looking to bring in. As Katera Berent, public relations and events manager at Austin Pets Alive! puts it, while puppies “fly off the shelf,” there are a few pups in particular that get regularly passed over, having to wait another day, week or year (or more) until they find their forever home.

Local rescue organization, Austin Pets Alive!, looks at things a bit differently: they do not put a time limit on any animals and euthanasia is absolutely not an option. While most dogs are adopted after a few months, a pup is later considered a “long stay” if they have been at APA! for more than 300 days.

“2020 in particular — it has been a groundbreaking year. We had the most long stay dogs go home than any year prior. Of our dogs who were long stays in December 2019, one year later, December 2020, 65% of those had been adopted,” Berent says.

While over 12,000 pets were adopted from APA! in 2020, there were a few pups that are still on the hunt for their forever home. Some specific factors, such as age and breed, play into why these types of dogs spend more time in shelters than others.


Adopting the Older Dog

While puppies fly off the shelf, Berent says that adopting an older dog has many benefits — especially for a home that is looking to not have to train.

Because they have had more time to train, an older dog isn’t as likely to wake up in the middle of the night crying to go outside, Berent says. And, if they have been in a shelter for a significant period of time, they’ll likely be fully trained. 

If one is looking for a low-energy pup, an older dog may actually be the best option.

“If someone is looking to adopt a senior dog, know that you are very selfless in doing so,” Berent says. “Even though you might not be able to have them for a very long time, they’ll make up for that with all the love they’ll give you in that short amount of time.”


Breaking the Breed Stereotype

Dogs that are bigger, shepherd-looking or pit-bull-type dogs are typically the ones found on apartment restriction lists and are stereotyped as dangerous, aggressive or inherently mean, Berent says. 

“It’s just simply not true. Every dog is an individual,” Berent says. “They all have their own personalities and their own traits — things that make them tick, things that scare them — and it would be doing a disservice to dogs in general to group them all under an umbrella, especially like a negative connotation by their breeds, because what we fully believe is that breed doesn’t dictate behavior.”

According to the National Canine Research Council, a 2019 report on dog shooting by law enforcement of pets in routine police encounters found that “1. Circumstances vary widely and misconceptions can lead to shootings that might otherwise be avoided. 2. Commonly held beliefs about dog behavior are often inaccurate and based on stereotypes.”

In terms of aggression, according to the Canine Journal, the dog listed at the top of the bite statistics list was not a big dog, but a chihuahua.

In addition, one of the U.S.’s other fit cities, Denver, CO, even just lifted their ban on pit bulls after almost 30 years. 

Berent says that APA!, a leading rescue organization in the U.S., works with the mindset not to box in an animal based on their breed or the way the world perceives them.

“We always want to make sure that we’re giving each dog the same chance and the same training and the same love, so that they’re set up for success, and then we can set up our adopters and our fosters for success,” Berent says.


Current Long Stays at APA! Looking for a Home 


Zydeco, a large mixed breed, first came to the organization in January of 2017 and is one of the longest long stay pups at APA!. While he has a variety of behavioral needs, such as being on-leash reactive, Zydeco is on a treatment plan to temper and train through his reactions. Berent says that, since he does get stressed in a shelter environment, Zydeco became the first resident of one of their tiny homes on their campus, fully equipped with his own yard, window, crate, dog bed and even a desk if anyone wanted to work and hangout with him. Ever since the creation of his tiny home, Zydeco’s personality has adjusted in a positive way.

  “That’s why we made this tiny home for him, so that he can have a better chance at finding a forever home, and maybe a bit easier — and it has been. It’s been incredibly beneficial for him. It’s one of those things where behaviors in the shelter don’t dictate behaviors at home,” Berent says.


Big Caesar

At 12 years old and 76 pounds, this dogo Argentino mix is Top Dog trained, which means he has had individualized training and passed all of his tests, such as walking politely on a leash, the sit command, stay command and place command.

Before coming to APA!, Big Caesar was a family dog for four years but had to be given up through no fault of his own, Berent says. 

“He is a really, really good dog. But, you know, because of his age, it tends to deter people a little bit,” Berent says.

As a senior dog, Berent says Big Caesar has a lot of patience and doesn’t require training or long walks — a perfect companion for someone who is looking for a furry friend to hang out with them while working from home.


King Triton (KT)

As a staff and volunteer favorite, King Triton is 90 pounds and handsome — a chocolate lab and great dane mix who has been at APA! for three years.

While it can take him a bit to warm up to people, Berent says he loves to snuggle and always has a big smile on his face. 

“He just needs, you know, a couple meetings before he can fully trust you, which is understandable when you’ve been at the shelter as long as he has,” Berent says.

KT also has separation anxiety, which could be why some are hesitant to adopt.

“During COVID, it is a perfect time,” Berent says. “Everyone is home, and this could be a great time for KT to find that home — who is willing to hang out with him and let him slowly get used to his surroundings so he doesn’t get super nervous if you leave or go to the grocery store.”

KT loves playing, and he loves his toys. Even though his bursts of energy aren’t for too long, he would be a great companion for a Netflixer or movie enthusiast. 



After coming to APA! in January of 2018, Muffin, a shepherd mix, is a fighter — having survived both puppy Parvo and Distemper.

As a special needs dog, it takes him a bit of extra time to learn commands. Muffin knows sit and stay, and has a lot of love to give. 

“He definitely knows playtime,” Berent laughs. 

Sometimes, Muffin will even play fetch with himself, throwing the toy in the air and then running to go get it, Berent adds. 

His foster mom used to bring him to events to get him to meet new people, but since COVID-19 and the cancellation of many in-person events, it’s been difficult to get him in front of people to meet and fall in love with him. 

While his foster mom is a great advocate for him, Berent says he is still looking to find his forever home.

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