Reason #21 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: They know they were saved

Do adopted dogs know they were saved? A google search turns up an amusing array of arguments about this very question. Dog lovers on either side of the debate are equally convinced they are right.

I am a firm believer that adopted dogs do indeed know they were saved. I have met too many “saved” dogs to believe otherwise.


Folks of the same conviction point to the saved dog’s elation at walking out of the shelter alive and adopted. Others focus on the saved dog’s relief at a kind touch. For me, my answer is found the hundreds of miles I have driven to bring dogs to safety.

While on their “freedom rides,” these saved dogs seemed to go through a whole host of emotions. From uncertainty and trepidation. To curiosity and eagerness. To downright euphoria. And always, a generous display of gratitude. At some point on the drive, each and every one of these dogs realized they were free, safe or better off.


Although I love my dog more than anything, I tend to be extremely wary of anthropomorphizing animal behavior. When we anthropomorphize we tend to put our dogs in unfair and difficult positions. At least, that has been my experience.

Here is one example of the dangers of anthropomorphizing. Two days after I brought home my dog Hope, she chewed up a brand new pair of expensive sneakers. Was she choosing the most expensive accessory out of spite or to show me who is boss? Or, was she simply unaware that shoes were off limits? If the answer is not obvious (it is a resounding yes to the latter question!), then we have an anthropomorphizing problem.

This is one situation, however, wherein I throw caution to the wind. Volunteer to drive a shelter dog (or two or three!) on their freedom ride, and tell me what you think. Until then, I will be one of those dog lovers affirming that yes, adopted dogs know they were saved.

Norma Jean Freedom Ride
Norma Jean’s Freedom Ride

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