Monica Johnson can capture her past year as a new dog mom in one phrase: "Adventures with Bubba."
There was the time the 5-year-old shepherd mix ran down the block to hang out with (or chase) some neighborhood cats. And the time Johnson realized there must be a creek nearby after Bubba returned home looking like a swamp monster who caused a neighbor to leap onto a car in fright.
Bubba's current life of twice-a-day walks, handfuls of treats and loads of love is vastly different than it was before he became part of the Johnson family during Clear the Shelters last year.
Johnson and her 15-year-old son Evan met Bubba for the first time last summer at the Washington Humane Society, where he had been for about a month.
Evan was ready for a dog, but Johnson was hesitant after growing up with a lot of pets. They bonded with Bubba during a visit and decided to return for him the following weekend during Clear the Shelters, when many local shelters reduced their adoption fees to help thousands of animals find forever homes.
They had no idea Bubba had recently basked in 15 minutes of fame when he promoted Clear the Shelters at NBC Washington — they simply fell in love with his friendly, gentle demeanor, Johnson said.
The employee at the shelter who had first introduced them to Bubba had tears in her eyes when she saw they'd returned to take him home, she said.
"We're just so excited," Johnson said last year as she and Evan prepared to bring Bubba to his forever home.
One year later, Bubba's proud mom said she has never regretted adopting from the shelter and encourages other to do the same.
"[Shelters] have an abundance of dogs and they're looking for homes," she said.
Throughout their year of adventures with Bubba, Johnson and Evan have learned a lot about their cuddly new family member's personality. He's "very, very fast," for one thing, "he's a great alarm clock" at 5:30 every morning and he might be "a little spoiled," according to Johnson.
"Some neighbors have met Bubba not because they want to, but because he's gotten loose," she said.
Johnson also had plenty of advice to give about how to prepare for the first few months of owning a rescue pet.
For starters, don't use a retractable leash to bring home a large dog.
"It's just not going to work," she said, laughing as she remembered attempting to reign Bubba in on their first day together.
New pet owners should also start to establish a relationship with a vet as soon as possible, even within the first few weeks of ownership, she said.
"When something goes wrong, you don't want to call a vet, you want to have a vet," she said.
Most importantly, you need to know who you can count on, and how a pet will affect your lifestyle. For example, Johnson and Evan like to go on vacation, so they had to consider who could care for Bubba while they go away.
"Know who your support system is going to be," Johnson said.
Even though he likes to sprint down the block, sit a little too close to the table and greet visitors with a giant paw-to-chest leap, Johnson said she and Evan would not change a thing about adding Bubba to their family.
"It's been an exciting year and a challenging year," she said.
Dozens of local shelters will reduce their adoption fees on Saturday, July 23 for NBC's and Telemundo's second annual Clear the Shelters event. And it's not just about dogs — cats, rabbits, reptiles and more will also be looking for homes, too. Find more about Clear the Shelters right here.