Lessons from a failed pet adoption

What was supposed to be a glorious start to 2016 has quickly spiraled into an bitter gumbo of painful emotions ranging from guilt to fear to compassion to regret to sorrow and round and round the coil of pain turns. All over a dog.

IMG_0040Yes a dog. Not just any dog, but a sweet, equal parts energetic and happy-to-chill at your feet rescue dog. Her Facebook photos, a short video clip, and one or two phone conversations with her handlers convinced me she would fit beautifully into our home.

She didn’t. And through no fault of her own.

My heart got ahead of my head.”

In most cases – and I truly believe this – it’s better to put your heart ahead of your head. But in this case the consequences proved disastrous. By not considering all the potential (ok, probable) variables of bringing a dog into our home I broke a few hearts. Starting with mine:

  • Will she peacefully cohabitate with my cat?
  • Will I have the time and resources to train her?
  • Do I know enough about her background?
  • Is our urban environment the best fit for this dog?

If I’d listened to my head, the answer would have been a resounding NO on all counts. Alas, my heart got ahead of me, and we drove three hours to retrieve her. The immersion process did not go well, and it is largely because I did not consider the above. After tearful discussion over what was best for this dog, my husband and I chose to surrender her back to the rescue.

Now Shannon. What have we learned?”

About this time last year, I lost my stepfather, who raised me and helped instill a core value of taking accountability for all my mistakes. “Don’t let yourself off the hook until you’ve learned and grown from this, Shannon,” he used to say.  Since his passing, he frequently appears in my consciousness as a loving compass directing me back toward the right path forward through life. His spirit was there at the ready as my tears refused to dry and the path forward filled with a dense fog of sadness. To be honest, I don’t know what the lessons here are yet, other than I f***ed up on this decision, and there’s pain to go around that extends beyond me…to the dog, her rescuers, to those I shared this happy story with, to my husband who despite all efforts can’t console me right now.

Much as I did not want to share this story of woe, perhaps it can serve as a lesson for others.

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5 thoughts on “Lessons from a failed pet adoption

  1. Oh, my! I love your heart, open, optimistic and joyful. Thank you for sharing your sadness, too. Difficult as it is, these experiences tenderize our hearts. Sending you warm and soothing hugs!
    Carole H

  2. Heartbroken to read this. Sadly I
    Can not find the Words but empathize. Your heart guided you because you have so much love to give and sometimes emotions win over logical thought. Please keep that in mind. What you tried to do is a gift. As you are to all who know you. It is beyond sad ithat it was not to be. I pray it hasn’t hardened your heart.

  3. I agree with Karmagirl, in that YOU do have so much love to give, more than most. She is right too that what you tried to do was give a gift, and you are a gift to all that know you.
    I CAN empathize though. My husband and I adopted a stray Pit-bull; named him “Buddy.” We found him with a collar, but no dog tags, wondering in the back yard. (Later it was discovered that he had been deliberately driven to this area, and abandoned.) Though a veterinarian examined him the next day she never said anything about the scars on this male runt. Buddy was the most affectionate, sweet dog, and got along very well with our two other Golden Retrievers (one, a male, 3 year old, pure bred, show dog; the other, a 10 year old Rescue)– until 3 days later. We were eating dinner and we heard the most horrifying noise. It was Buddy brutally attacking the 3 year old. We rushed our 3 year old to hospital. Buddy was fine. But our 3 year old came very close to losing his eye and his ear, and was ripped up, and on the mend for months. We did not let Buddy down though, we spent the next 10 hours driving around to safely place him where a suitable home could be found for him. Happy ending–I was told Buddy did find a new home. I hope it is working out well for him. All is well that ends well. The main thing is that your dog WILL find a home that is the right fit for him or her. So, following your step-dad’s advice: What I learned from this is to pause–as we all know from our yoga training: It is all about not reacting–with heart or mind–and pausing to inquire. Second, I learned to pause with eyes open WIDER. If I had acknowledged and questioned the scars I would have come to the conclusion (as did subsequent veterinarians) that poor Buddy had likely been a bait dog for dog fights, and clearly would not have worked out. (Apparently, when these poor, very abused dogs get quite comfortable, they start to attack–I have no idea if that is true, but perhaps if it is, they just want to make sure that there is no threat from another dog or anyone to interfere in the relationship.) So, my big mistake. You may think our set of facts are different, but actually they are not. We both did what we thought would be best, and happiest for all, for example, Buddy is only 3 so I thought he could be a companion for our young dog after our older one passes), and we both did not pay attention to the “details,” as you so aptly stated. I, however, was the worst, as I almost lost the love of my love, my 3 year old boy. You did your best, did not put any being in jeopardy, and then had to make a hard decision. Our stories diverge a little bit in that it was apparent that Buddy had to go after the attack, but I imagine certain things happened that were difficult and not made apparent. Frankly, the Rescue Dog people should have vetted all the circumstances of your adoption a bit better. My heavens, when we were trying to adopt a Golden Rescue, we commented that it would be FAR easier to adopt a human child! Dry your eyes my friend!!! Everything is for a reason. You are not bad or a failure; to the contrary you are smart and aware that the dog will be happier elsewhere (they have a knack of communicating quite well without the need for words). I have gone on endlessly, but I could not sit back and allow you to feel bad for one more second. Your friend, Jane.

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