Since last summer, I’ve been debating whether to get a dog … more specifically, adopt a rescue dog. (I’ve learned not to confuse that with a search-and-rescue dog.) Most of my dogs have been purebreds bought as pups from breeders, so a rescue dog would be a change.
Until about ten years ago, I’d always had a dog. Always. But in 1999 I married a no-dogs guy (that should have been a clue). Divorced less than three years later, I returned to Oklahoma, to an apartment. Two years later, I moved to Denver and into another apartment. After two years there, I bought this little house, complete with fenced backyard that just sits there, empty, soaking up water every summer, growing grass that must be mowed, and occasionally sprouting weeds.
Gradually I’ve come to accept that although this isn’t the home of my dreams tucked on a hillside amongst the pines with a sweeping mountain view, it’s about all I can afford in the Denver metro, and the overall economy is such that I probably couldn’t sell it any time soon even if I wanted to.
All of that brings me back to the idea of getting a dog. I’ve got the yard, I’ve got the time, it’s unlikely I’ll ever move again, and I’d really enjoy the companionship. Besides that, any activity with a dog would be more activity than I get now and hopefully would encourage me to get out and about more. A companion to walk with, to take to the park, to take to obedience class, etc. Maybe eventually even go hiking with.
On the other hand, I might just be so sedentary that I’d end up resenting a dog’s demand for attention, his need to be let out or taken out several times a day, his possible transgressions indoors. And there’s always the necessary cleaning up of the yard to keep it usable for human beings. That’s only the beginning around Denver. You are expected or required to pick up after your dog if he poops anywhere, anytime in public. On the one hand, I can understand that; on the other, would an out-of-the way spot in the woods or in a vacant lot be so bad? (Oh yes, my friends, the municipalities will lecture you about dog poop polluting the ground water.) And yet, said poop can be thrown out in the regular trash. Pet excrement in the trash was a no-no in Oklahoma ten years ago.
Anyway, my biggest hesitancy may be my guilt over having given away several dogs in the past (to good homes, not to shelters), failing in my responsibility to love and care for them all their lives. It always seemed necessary at the time, or so I told myself, but I harbor this secret guilt that it may have been just a matter of convenience for me. That’s one reason I’m thinking about a rescue dog. Get a dog who has been abandoned and who needs a good secure home. Give back, provide a home for a dog who needs it, and absolve myself of some of the guilt.
Except, what if I do it again? What if I move, get married, suffer a financial set-back, or become physically unable to care for a dog? What if there’s some unmanageable behavior I can’t deal with?
I haven’t even gotten into the issue of what kind of dog I’d get. What age? What size? This is a crowded little 1,100 sq. ft. house with a backyard that’s maybe 60′ x 40′. My all-time favorite breed is the Golden Retriever, but that’s too much dog for a place this small.
If you think I’m overthinking this, I think you’re right. It’s just where I am right now — firmly riveted in one spot by insecurity, indecision, and a seemingly incurable case of “initial inertia.”
I came across this item a few months ago:
Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.
I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been walked today. Sometimes the overworked shelter keepers get too busy and I didn’t want her to think poorly of them.
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn’t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life.
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.
Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.
I would promise to keep her safe.
I would promise to always be by her side.
I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.
I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.
I rescued a human today.
It made me look at things from a different point of view and just about convinced me that I need a rescue dog. Recently the local channels have been full of news about how many pets are landing in shelters because of the bad economy. It always makes me think, “I can afford to give one of those dogs a good home.”
This morning I finally actually picked up the phone and called Denver’s most well-known no-kill shelter to find out the best time for a visit and ask about a particular dog on their website. The news had reported last night that this particular shelter has been getting up to 40 calls a day from people wanting to surrender their pets.
What I learned was that I’m not eligible for one of their dogs. Why? Because I can’t provide three personal (not relatives) references from people who know me well. I guess that’s what I’ve come to, not being a people person and keeping to myself. I can’t even adopt a homeless dog.
Yes, there are lots of other shelters and rescue groups in the Denver area, and some of them don’t sound quite as strict on their applications. Some, on the other hand, require in-home visits from a representative. They take dogs very seriously here.
So the internal debate continues. I’ve always told myself, “When in doubt, don’t,” and sometimes that’s wise; it’s also a great rationale for never doing anything.
The dogs pictured above are currently available for adoption in the Denver area.
*Written by Janine Allen CPDT, Rescue Me Dog’s professional dog trainer. Janine’s passion is working with people and their dogs. She provides demonstrations for those who have adopted shelter dogs, lends email support to adopted dog owners that need information beyond their Training Support Pages, and aids shelter staff and volunteers in understanding dog behavior to increase their adoptability. Copyright 2009 Rescue Me Dog; http://www.rescuemedog.org