Diamonds in the rough are defined as someone or something that has hidden exceptional characteristics and/or future potential but currently lacks the final touches that would make him or it truly stand out from a crowd.

Local shelters, animal welfare and breed rescue groups offer a wide variety of “diamonds in the ruff” dogs that ended up temporarily homeless simply because someone didn’t see their potential to shine.

If you search online right now on websites like or, you will find nearly 2,400 homeless dogs listed within 100 miles of Aiken.

You will also see a large selection of these dogs at PetSmart stores, local shelters and in a variety of other locations, being cared for by dedicated staff and volunteers eager to show off the qualities of each of these dogs.

Dogs in shelters sometimes get overlooked by potential owners for different reasons. Sometimes it’s because people want exactly a certain type of dog, a certain age or a certain color, like they are ordering a new car.

“Shopping” for a shelter dog is more like shopping at a used car lot. You never know what will be available, and you might just end up with a great dog without having to pay that “new dog” price.

Right now at the SPCA Albrecht Center, we have dogs ranging in size from small terrier mixes to a giant Great Dane. We have purebreds, puppies, adults and senior dogs for the pet owner looking for a quiet companion. 

Other shelters and rescue groups have similar varieties of dogs, all of which are fully vaccinated, altered and typically microchipped, too. You won’t pay $500 or $1,000 for these dogs either when you choose to adopt.

Another thing we hear from potential adopters is “there must be something wrong with this dog or it wouldn’t be in a shelter.” Truth is the “something wrong” with the dogs is that their previous owners didn’t live up to their lifetime commitment to them. Some even did things to these dogs that will test their trust of new people for a while.

The reality is that all too often dogs come into local shelters for reasons that are often easy to overcome (allergies, moving, no time for them, didn’t get dog spayed and we now have 10 puppies, etc.)

You will find that if you adopt a puppy from a shelter, it will need to be trained to not chew things and be housebroken. However, if you buy a puppy, it doesn’t matter how big the check you wrote was, you will still need to work on housebreaking and teaching it not to chew on things.

There is also something people in the animal welfare field see in adult dogs. Dogs are caring and loyal creatures. Despite how previous owners may have treated them, when you adopt a dog from a rescue group, you will get a sense of appreciation from the dog that you won’t believe.

They know what it is to be homeless, living on the street and then in a cage, often stuffed in with other dogs in a noisy place.

Scared and confused at first, soon they will trust people again when they are fed and cared for each day, taken for walks by volunteers and ultimately learn again that most people are good and caring.

The moral of the story is that adopting your next pet is great for a variety of reasons.

First, you will get a great deal for yourself financially.

If you think a “free to a good home” ad is the way to go, just call a veterinarian and ask how much it would cost to get that cat or dog up to date on shots, altered, microchipped, dewormed and examined. Then, look at adoption fees in the CSRA, often they are well below $100.

Second, you might get the pet you have always wanted. The variety of pets available from local groups is impressive.

Third, your rescued pet knows it was rescued and will be a loyal and appreciative pet and, with a little patience and training, will likely exceed your expectations.

Finally, and most importantly, when you adopt, you save that pet’s life and also free up space to save another pet in its place.

Gary Willoughby is the president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.