News & Politics

How I Found My Purebred Bulldog—and Adopted Him

I wanted to do the right thing—but I also wanted a purebred. After six months, here's how I found Moe.

Illustration by Britt Spencer.

Brad and I had been dating awhile. We had fun and enjoyed each other’s company. But something was missing—a dog.

We had debates about what kind to get. I wanted a Lab, what I’d grown up with. Brad wanted an English bulldog. He joked they were just like him—relaxed and laid-back. Plus they were supposed to be great for apartment living. After some research, I agreed.

We considered a breeder but realized a puppy would cost in the thousands, and we wondered if there might be an adult bulldog in need of a home. After looking at rescue websites, we became committed to adopting. Rescuing a mutt might be the more politically correct thing to do, but we were now full-blown bulldog devotees. Finding a purebred to adopt seemed like a fair compromise—more responsible than going to a breeder, but we’d still end up with the dog we wanted.

The reality was more challenging. The few contenders we did come across were mixed with other breeds, including “restricted breeds” like pit bulls, banned from our Bethesda apartment building because they’re (often wrongly) perceived as aggressive. We even fell in love with an adorable bulldog mix at a Petco adoption fair, but he wound up being part boxer—also banned.

We were discouraged but kept at it. And so should other potential adopters seeking specific dog types, says Lauren Lipsey, director of rehoming for the Washington Humane Society. Though mutts are easier to come by, finding a particular breed to rescue is possible. Often purebreds are surrendered to the Humane Society for medical reasons. “Some have broken bones, or something inherent to the breed,” Lipsey explains. “Sometimes it’s behavior, like barking or marking in the house, or the owners aren’t there all day and they bought this cute puppy and didn’t realize the responsibility involved.”

Those are also reasons adopters should do their homework. Brad and I endured months of warnings from rescue groups, all some version of “You don’t have bulldog experience.” Annoying? Sure. But they had a point. English bulldogs are prone to a number of medical conditions, such as respiratory and skin problems. We discussed these concerns and decided we could handle them if we had to.

Dr. Daphne Tanouye of Rock Creek Home Veterinary Care offers this advice: “Make sure you meet dogs of the breed, and spend time with them. If someone wants to adopt a breed known for health issues, they should plan for that financially.” As for locating an adoptable member of your chosen breed, Lipsey recommends, which lets you set parameters for a dog’s type and location when mining the site’s database of shelter animals.

Barbara Hutcherson, adoption coordinator for Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation in Arlington, says adopters who are “flexible, especially with being willing to take an older dog, will have success much sooner.”

The American Kennel Club Rescue Network is another resource. It boasts the nation’s largest catalog of breed-specific rescue groups, with 160 AKC-recognized dog types represented. “Breeders and breed enthusiasts are at the helm of rehabilitating, fostering, and ultimately rehoming the dogs,” says AKC spokeswoman Jessica Rice D’Amato.

After six months of looking, we got a promising lead. A five-year-old English bulldog was about to go up for adoption through Lost Dog & Cat Rescue. The poor guy had been surrendered by his owner after her landlord stopped allowing pets. He needed surgery to amputate his tail but, once recovered, would be available. Hutcherson, the adoption coordinator, was fostering the dog. We arranged to meet her at a PetSmart for an interview.

Moe lumbered over with a friendly snort. There was no doubt he was 100 percent bulldog. He had plenty of wrinkles, was just the right size, and as we soon discovered, snored like none other. We had finally met our match—and he was a dog that needed us as badly as we’d wanted to find him.

This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.