All my dogs were adopted from a shelter. It never occurred to me to go anyplace else.

Dogs with pedigrees are always more likely than not able to find a good home, but the thousands of abandoned animals that end up in shelters every year are not so lucky. It haunts me that an animal whose future has become uncertain through no fault of its own may die unloved.

My husband and I adopted four dogs from shelters and one abandoned on the side of the road. Each one of them has enriched our lives in ways we could not have foreseen on the day we brought them home.

We often ask ourselves: how did we get so lucky to find five dogs that have given us far more than we have given them – a warm place to live, two square meals a day and consistent care?

I'd like to tell you there was some method to the selection process that yielded such great results, but that would be untrue.

Our first dog, Ricky, a white shepherd mix with boundless energy, was selected because our friend with many dogs who went with us to the shelter thought there was something special about him.

Our second dog, Maggie Mae, who was picked up on the side of the road by our vet, came home because Ricky fell in love with her while waiting to get his rabies shot.

When Maggie Mae died from cancer, we took Ricky back to the shelter to interview a few prospects. He selected Mack – a brown Australian shepherd mix who willingly shared his toys and his water bowl.

After Ricky died, I was directed by some internal force to go to the Aiken County Animal Shelter, even though we weren't yet ready for another dog. When I walked into the back, the very first dog I saw was a pretty dachshund mix who cocked her head and met my gaze with a “what took you so long?” look. When I found out her name was Maggie, I was undone. She came home with me over my husband's objections, swiftly won him over, and has been by my side ever since.

I went back to the County shelter after Mack died of old age. One of the staff handed me a scruffy little black and white terrier mix.

“Absolutely not,” I objected, “no terriers.”

“He just looks like a terrier,” she assured me. “Really, he doesn't act like one.”

Jack joined the family.

So you see, the selection process for a new dog is not an exact science. It is some quirky combination of luck, opportunity, instinct and reason. Sure, you need to assess the basics: how much time you can spend, the cost of care, the type of pet for your lifestyle and your age and energy level – all of those things are important.

But at the end of the day, consistent love and care transforms almost any dog into a loving companion, especially a shelter dog.

Ricky was a resourceful rogue whose escapades are legendary and hilarious. Maggie Mae was a little angel. Mack was protective and affectionate. Miss Maggie is, well, simply the best dog in the world. And sweet, docile Jack? As it turns out, now that he is healthy, he is indisputably a terrier.

None of our dogs turned out exactly as we expected – they turned out better. When the time comes, adopt a shelter dog – the possibilities for happiness are endless.

FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 411 Wire Road. For more information, email or visit