Finding a Good Dog for My Mother


This page is written for people in dog-rescue organizations, whose love for dogs motivates them to invest their valuable time so they can make life better for their dogs, and for the people who will adopt them.


Here is our situation:  Mom and I -- Mary Rusbult and Craig Rusbult (educator with PhD, dedicated to improving our Education for Problem Solving during life on a road less traveled) -- want to find a good dog for her.  Mom & Dad (and since late 2013, her & me) loved Kobe — a wonderful Cairn Terrier who looked like Toto in The Wizard of Oz — for 12 1/2 years;  but in his final 2 years he had diabetes, and he danced with "no more pain joy" twice each day.  But then he became very ill due to kidney failure, and died in Mom's arms.  She (now almost 94) wants to get another dog, so she can love and be loved, so she and her dog can share affection-and-joy with each other.  I'm dedicated to doing a thorough search, trying to find a dog who will be really good for Mom, to avoid getting her a dog like Charlie who — unlike Daisy before him, and Kobe after him — was not affectionate and joyful.   (evidently Charlie had been abused as a young dog, was emotionally damaged and he never recovered despite years of loving care from Mom & Dad)  (they got Charlie and Kobe from shelters, Daisy from an individual)

btw,  We live in Anaheim, near Disneyland, will drive anywhere in SoCal to get a good dog.


[this section was written in August 2018 – when I was trying to persuade people in dog-rescue groups to let us provide “long-term foster care” for one of their dogs – before Mom and I found a dog for her]   At the end of this page you'll find information about “a dog's life” with Mom and me, including my plans for moving to the Midwest or (less likely) Northwest.  Probably you'll think that, in most ways, “they would provide a good home for our dog, they would love her and take good care of her.”  But we are not able to promise that “the way it is now for us (Mom, dog, me), it will remain,” and you want a long-term stable situation for your dog.  I'm writing this page to show you how achieving your goal is possible if you view our situation as being...

Long-Term Foster Care:  After we adopted a dog, she would be in our loving home for awhile.  We would try to help our dog enjoy life and improve, so when she left us she would be feeling & behaving better than when we got her.  So even if we won't keep your dog for the rest of her life, in a Forever Home, Mom and I can give her a loving time of Long-Term Foster Caring, and then (hopefully) find a good Forever Home for her.  But... how?


Probably I eventually will surrender our dog to new owners, who hopefully will love her as much (or more) than we have.  How?     update in January 2020 - Now I want to do Plan B.

Plan A:  IF Mom moves into an Assisted Living Facility, I would try to move our dog into Mom's ALF, either with an ALF-resident or as the ALF's own live-in Therapy Dog who is there every day, not just during visits for a few hours each month.  I think either of these could be a win-win situation for the dog — a great “adventure with people” for her — and also for the Facility and its people, as explained below.   [update: Mom moved into a great facility, Sunrise of Huntington Beach, and then passed away on November 29, 2019, at 95 after living a good long life and helping many others, especially her children, have a good life]

Plan B:  IF Plan A doesn't work [it won't work, as explained at end of paragraph above], or IF Mom doesn't move into an ALF, I would try to find our dog a loving home in other ways, by using email to ask people in our church, or being her “foster parent” (until she is adopted) after surrendering her to a high-quality rescue group who can find a good home for her.

Plan C:  Maybe I will keep our dog, possibly driving her to the midwest when I move there.   {update:  I'm fairly sure I won't take a dog with me, so Plan C is no longer an option I'm seriously considering.}


note:  All ideas in purple font are about us trying to provide "a long-term stable situation for your dog" if she becomes our dog.



In mid-November 2018, at a shelter we “won” a dog in a 5-ticket raffle.  Zoe is wonderful, and she is "a good dog for Mom" in most ways — she is consistently joyful & affectionate & fun, and she is relaxed & mellow while in the house with Mom and me — but not in all ways.  The main exception makes it more likely that eventually I will do Plan B, not Plan A.  Why?  Because one of my main goals was to get a dog who is "affectionate and joyful," but these emotions/actions should be well controlled.  Instead, when Zoe meets people she is over-exuberantly excited — she is "affectionate and joyful" but not "well controlled" — and this makes it less likely that we could "move our dog into Mom's ALF" and do Plan A,* although I think Zoe will be a great dog for Plan B. [which is my only current plan, because I've abandoned Plans A & C]  But...

Maybe she can change.  She has worthy goals — she wants to be affectionate with people she meets, and feel “accepted” by them — but her wild behavior is making it difficult for people (especially if they have children) to feel comfortable and be affectionate, making it difficult for Zoe to achieve her goals.  I have hope, and I am trying to help her improve, so she can be more effective in pursuing her goals and having a better life.   [an important update: When she is not meeting new people, Zoe is very calm, is relaxed and calmly loving, and this gives me hope that with better training (I'm not an expert experienced dog trainer) she could become much better at being "enthusiastic and joyful, yet well behaved" when she meets new people.]

* I had hoped our new dog could be a Therapy Dog for an ALF, but this dream was abandoned (at least for awhile, maybe forever) when I read a web-page about the licensing test for a Therapy Dog;  a satisfactory dog must be “calm with individuals and in a crowd, well behaved in all situations” but currently Zoe cannot do this.



Here is the kind of dog we want:

affectionate and joyful (as explained above),

medium small (8-15 pounds, maybe a little less or more), but not a chihuahua,

female (Mom says that she wants “a girl dog”, a “she” not a “he”),

medium old (2-7 years? but a little younger or older is ok), old enough to be past her puppy stage (so isn't chewing things,...) but young enough to reduce old-dog health problems,

no special needs – I was happy to give Kobe insulin shots (twice each day) for 2 years, and would do it again if necessary, but would like to avoid this (a known special-needs situation) in a new dog,

not a frequent barker (or high-pitched shrill barker), she should do watchdog barking only when appropriate, otherwise mainly silent,*  (and being friendly with other dogs also would be nice)  (I've been web-reading about understanding why dogs bark, and training a pet dog to bark less)

sociable with all people – especially if Mom moves into an Assisted Living Facility – not fearing strangers, and not a threatening person-guarder,

good looking – a cute dog would be useful for helping Mom socialize in an AL Facility, and later to find a good home for the dog (I would be very dedicated to doing this well) if Mom dies first;  or if she moves into an AL Facility, we would hope that someone there will say “I like your dog – can I love her, take care of her, and keep her?” and the dog will have “shared pet” experiences, thus getting lots of loving from many people in the ALF, including Mom.  In fact, eventually I would like to find our dog a Forever Home in an ALF, as explained below.


light colored (preferred by Mom) although if the face area is mainly-light, I think a mainly-dark body would be fine with her.   (most of our previous dogs, including Kobe, have been mainly dark colored);

energetic but controlled – this also is non-bold because an acceptable range is very wide, just avoiding extremes of passive lethargy or wild hyperactivity;  it would be nice to have a dog who usually is mellow, but is energetic when it's appropriate, as when walking or playing, or just being joyful.



information about “a dog's life” with Mom and me:

This section continues explaining why-and-how "even if we won't keep your dog for the rest of her life in a Forever Home, we can give her a loving time of Long-Term Foster Caring.  Eventually I want to find a Forever Home for our dog in an Assisted Living Facility, because I think this would be a win-win situation for the dog and for the ALF and its people."     { But this probably won't happen, as explained in an update. }

we love dogs:  For all of her life, Mom had a dog.  She has loved them, and treated them well, and kept each dog until they died due to a natural cause.  I've been with their dogs when I lived at home, so (due to experiences throughout my life) I feel comfortable with dogs and love them.  Basically, Mom and I are “dog people”.

my plans:  I never had my own dog when I was living in Seattle & Madison (homes of my two UW's, in WA & WI) for most of the time between 1970 and 2013,* when I was free to choose.     { Although I agree with the many people who think Orange County is a wonderful place to live in many ways, in some important ways (especially because it isn't a city with a major university) it isn't where I want to continue building my life.  When I'm no longer required to be a caregiver for my mother, I want to move away — probably back to Madison or to Columbus (or less likely to Minneapolis, Seattle, or Portland) — and I don't want to take a dog with me. }     {* But I do love dogs, so I went to UW-Madison's annual Dog Jog for 15 years (half of its lifetime) to be with dogs, and talk with their people.}

Mom's plans:  Mom generally has good health, but is 94.  Sometime she may move into an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) that allows dogs.  She might move due to necessity (if she has a serious fall and injures herself, or for another medical reason) or by her own choice.  If she does this, I want to get a dog who would be a good visitor (loving & loved, and welcomed) in her ALF, so Mom could continue loving her dog.  While I'm still living in Anaheim with the dog, I would visit Mom daily (and sometimes stay overnight if it's allowed), and when someone says “I think your dog is adorable” I would say “do you want her to live with you, so you can love her and care for her?”  If they say “yes” and we think it would work in practical ways, we'll give our dog to this person, so the dog will be close to Mom who also can love the dog.  Of course, there is no guarantee that this dog-in-facility plan will happen, but it's something I would hope for if she enters an ALF.  Therefore – as explained in the first part of this page – I have two plans,

    Plan A for a new Dog-Home:  IF Mom moves into an Assisted Living Facility, I would try to move our dog into Mom's ALF, either with an ALF-resident or as the ALF's own live-in Therapy Dog who is there every day, not just during visits for a few hours each month.  I think either of these could be a win-win situation for the dog and also for the Facility and its people, as explained below.
    Plan B for a new Dog-Home:  IF Plan A doesn't work, or IF Mom doesn't move into an ALF, I would try to find our dog a loving home in other ways, by using email to ask people in our church, and being her “foster parent” (until she is adopted) after surrendering her to a high-quality rescue group.

our house:  Since 1989 the dogs of Mom (and Dad before he died 4 years ago) have lived indoors — moving around wherever they want in the one-story house — with a doggy door so they can go into the fenced-in back yard whenever they want.  One of Kobe's favorite spots was on a pillow at the front door, or (when it's too hot or cold to keep this door open) on a bed looking out a front window.  A new dog could choose her own favorite places.  At night Kobe slept in Mom's bedroom, either in his doggy bed or her bed, whatever he chose.

our time at home:  Mom is here almost 24x7 except for trips with me – to church weekly, and occasionally visiting people, shopping, medical appointments, etc, and our dog could join us for some of these trips.  (the past few years she has been away, without her dog, an average of 3-5 hours per week)     I'm gone more (maybe 7 hours/week above Mom's time away) but am here most of the time.

exercise and adventure:  I would take our new dog outside for regular leash-walks (usually twice/day in our neighborhood, plus “field trips” after car rides), for exercise and exploring.  In the past, Kobe and I walked in our neighborhood twice a day, morning & evening.  And whenever we went on a car trip (for exciting adventures he enjoyed) we would go for a walk when we arrived.   /   Sometimes Mom joined us for a neighborhood walk, although she was slower than us, so Kobe did less exercising and more exploring.


Dogs in Assisted Living Facilities

Here are is some web-information about Pet Therapy:

Country Home Assisted Living has their own live-in therapy dog, a second Bichon Frise, to love and be loved. begins by describing the many benefits – emotional & physical – observed in “many [scientific] studies that show incredible health benefits that come with owning a pet.”

A Place for Mom says "It doesn’t take a scientist to know that pets make humans feel good; ... Science can, however, tell us how and why pets can be therapeutic," and this is why "many senior living communities are on board with this service and even have a Pet Care Coordinator at their communities to help make sure all the pets are well cared for and are up-to-date on vaccines and veterinary care.  This ensures the pets are groomed, fed, walked and happy when they otherwise wouldn’t be if the senior is not able to perform these responsibilities."  This page has more information about the pet-friendly policies of some ALFs. says "Pets are welcome in many independent living communities.  Sometimes animal care services such as grooming and dog walking are available for an extra charge.  Some communities have their own “mascot” dogs and cats. [to be live-in Therapy Animals?]  When animal companions are allowed, generally there are restrictions about the size or breed. [so I want to get Mom an ALF-compatible dog]"  (this page doesn't have much additional info)


regarding our situation:  I think that if an ALF wants their own live-in therapy dog, they will want to supervise its training, beginning with a puppy they have selected.  In fact, this is what Country Home did, twice.  That's why, to be more realistic about the possibility of success, my Plan A is specific ("to move our dog into Mom's ALF") instead of general (to move our dog into an ALF where Mom is not living).



Craig Rusbult,  PhD (in Education)  –  bio-page (about my life on a road less traveled)

    and I enjoy reading & thinking/writing & networking about Education for Problem Solving.

craigru178-att-yahoooo-daut-caum  –  zzzzz (it's a landline, so is only for talking, not texting);

a memorial page for my father begins with thoughts from my mother, his wife, the love of his life;

a memorial page for my sister shows why her early departure was such a big loss for her mother.