Every year National Mutt Day is observed on July 31st and December 2nd. The purpose of this holiday is to celebrate the awesome characteristics of mutts and to promote pet adoption worldwide.

In our family, we happen to be celebrating the one year adoption anniversary of our very own mutt, Sailor. She’s part lab, part who knows what, but 100% love and sweetness. We only have guesses as to what breeds Sailor is made up of and what her past must have looked like, but we are absolutely sure that she changed our family for the better. While designer dog breeds and purebred puppies are wildly popular these days, I’m here to tell you that a shelter mutt just may be the best dog you’ll ever have.

muttI totally understand why a family would think a purebred puppy would be a better option than a shelter mutt. The argument is that you know what you are getting as far as history, health, and temperament. You will get to train it from day one, and certain breeds are more family-friendly than others. All that can be true, but it is also true that just like deciding to have a baby, you never completely know what you will get. Just because your friend’s newborn sleeps through the night and breastfeeds like a champ, does not mean you will have the same luck.

I have owned two full-bred dogs that we raised from a puppy and they each had their own set of health issues, personality quirks, and bad habits we could never break. While I respect that each family needs to choose a pet that works best for them, I hope that you will consider the next few points before discounting a shelter mutt.

You can find any breed of dog in a shelter.

I often hear people say that the reason they don’t want to adopt a shelter dog is that they want a specific breed of dog. I can assure you that you will come across every type of dog in shelters in your area. They will most likely be of the mutt variety, but if you want a Chihuahua, you will find some type of a Chihuahua. If you want a Golden Retriever, you will find some kind of a Golden mix.

We went to the shelter looking for a family-friendly breed such as a Lab and there were several options. Our girl Sailor has brown paws which make us think she has some Rottweiler or German Shepard mixed in, but her Labrador personality shines through. And because she’s mixed with some other breeds, her size is smaller than a typical Lab which made her even more perfect for our kids to play with safely.

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You can find any age dog in a shelter. 

Often times, people are firm on the fact that they want a puppy versus an adult dog. They are usually shocked to find out that puppies come through shelters all the time! Again, they are usually of the mutt variety, but they still have all that puppy cuteness that families love. If you are sure that you only want a puppy, my advice is to follow several shelters in your area on Facebook. When a litter of puppies is born or comes to them they will usually post photos and details. If you are patient and check shelter Facebook pages often, you will definitely be able to find yourself a sweet little mutt puppy! Some of my favorites are Friends of St. Johns County Pet Center, St. Augustine Humane Society, Wags and Whiskers Pet Rescue, and  SAFE Pet Rescue (where we found Sailor).

Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

I’m going to be honest, not every shelter mutt is a beauty. They are often underweight and have matted fur. Some are recovering from an injury, or are just in need of a little T.L.C. It’s easy to get put off by the smells, loud barks, and less-than-perfect appearance of a room full of mutts. However, if your goal is to find a pet that will be loyal, playful, and loving, I implore you to look past your initial impression of a shelter mutt.

Our sweet Sailor was a hot mess when we first met her. She had dandruff, was severely underweight, and smelled terrible. But, when we were given a chance to spend time with her in a small area with our kids, her gentle spirit shone through. She gave kisses, went up to each of our boys happily and was so affectionate. A few weeks after we brought her home she began to gain weight and her fur came in soft and thick. Her outside appearance started to match her beautiful personality. Mutts are not perfect looking, but that is part of their charm in my opinion.

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This was the day we adopted Sailor. We like to call this her “before” picture.

Be ready for unconditional mutt love.

If you do decide that a shelter mutt is a pet for your family, prepare to have the most loyal and grateful companion ever. You can just tell that they were waiting to be a part of someone’s family. You will have a hard time imagining that anyone could have ever abandoned them or not wanted them. Even though mutts may not look perfect (who does?!) and they can sometimes come with a little baggage (who doesn’t?!) they will steal your heart forever.

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Karen Smith
Karen was born in Ohio but spent most of her childhood in Florida. She attended the University of Florida, where she met her husband, and she got her Master’s in Elementary Education at the University of South Florida. She taught first grade in Tampa until her oldest son was born. Her plans to return to the classroom changed when her husband’s job brought them to Pennsylvania where they welcomed another son. The following years brought them to Raleigh and then St. Augustine. After spending two years substitute teaching in St. Johns County, Karen is now teaching VPK at a local preschool. She enjoys days on the water with her family, reading “chick lit” with a glass of wine, pretending to be Ina Garten in the kitchen, and cheering on her Gators. She embraces all things #boymom and has never met a doughnut/taco/pasta that she didn’t like.