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Can you even be mad when someone returns an amazing dog?

I mean, you can, obviously. As a rescuer, you’re probably supposed to be mad, because that person signed a contract and said this dog was now part of their family, but they’ve dumped them back on you two weeks before Christmas. It kind of gums up the works, after all; maybe you were planning to take on a new dog or maybe you were full-up as it was, but you’re making room for this dog regardless.

So Celeste is back with us, and I can’t exactly bring myself to be mad.

Having dogs returned is a crapshoot. It’s written into the contract that the adopter must return their dog to our rescue if they can’t keep them, which is good because you know the dog is safe, and is scary because you never know what you’re getting back. Some dogs, like Bela, come back four years later a scabby rack of ribs with major behavioral issues. Some dogs, like Brooklyn, come back nine months later happy, healthy and well-socialized. When someone returns a dog who left wonderful and comes back wonderful, you really just have to be glad they realized they didn’t deserve the dog even if you didn’t.

Celeste came back less than two months after being adopted. She was the last of her litter to be adopted, which I thought was weird because she was the prettiest of the bunch, and it’s equally weird that she’s been returned when brother Pudge (fka Caelum) is tearing his mom and dad’s house apart on the reg. Her former family said she snapped at their six-year-old son, claimed her behavior was erratic and, of course, pulled out the “dominant” phrase while in the same text calling her sweet and trainable. Um, okay?

Since I’d been sure to introduce Celeste to young kids when we went to soccer games and she was, frankly, better with them than I was, I had a pretty good idea of where the fault lay in this situation. Nonetheless, when they dropped her off, I got a little nervous. “Be careful, she’s just really bitey,” they said. “Oh, and the barking. Constantly barking. And she chews everything, no matter what we do. Say goodbye to your furniture.”

I don’t want to sound smug, but it’s been four days since Celeste came back and she’s barely made a peep. She hasn’t even looked at my furniture except to sleep on it. She hasn’t been erratic or unpredictable once; I’ve picked her up, handled her feet, taken a peanut butter bone away from her, finagled a sweatshirt over her head, and all she does is smile her pitty smile. Since I can’t imagine these people would just make stuff up (they’re out of a $300 adoption fee either way), I can only come to one conclusion: she was bored.

When Celeste was adopted, she was trim. Like, racing Thoroughbred trim. I was trying to put weight on her. When she came back, the first thing I noticed was that she was fat. They told me what they’d been feeding her and my eyes almost popped out of my head because it was more than Niles (60 pounds) and Nelson (80 pounds) put together.

The second thing I noticed was that she was wearing the harness we’d sent with her. Not only did it no longer fit, but it was on wrong, so I’m guessing they weren’t using it much, if at all. She’d had no fenced yard to play in either.

The third thing I noticed, as she crawled around on her stomach at 100 miles an hour while Niles tried to engage, was that it didn’t look like she’d had any practice meeting other dogs in a while. It had been a month and a half and she peed upon seeing them. And yeah, they were all excited and Brooklyn was barking her damn head off, but she was far from the confident-to-a-fault puppy who’d left my house.

So let’s recap, shall we? These people adopted a four-month-old puppy and then, evidence suggests, did nothing with her. Sure, she knows how to high-five, but no walks, no playtime, no interaction with other dogs? I don’t get it. As they reminded us multiple times, these people were not first-time dog owners so they should’ve known better, but then again, maybe they relied a little too much on their “85 combined years of experience owning dogs” rather than actually thinking about the problem.

really

Well, whatever. Lesson learned on my part, I suppose. Just because someone adopts a puppy and plans to stay home with her all day doesn’t mean they’re actually going to play with her, I suppose. Not very catchy, that one.

Going forward, our biggest problem with Celeste is going to be not keeping her. She needed a few minutes to warm up, but she’s integrated seamlessly back into our house. She’s a peach to walk, loves to cuddle, is softer than a dog has any business being, and she has so much personality and expression. Matt and I both adore her, and we’ve already had to have that conversation where we mutually assure each other we’re too effing poor for a permanent third. We all know how that ended last time.

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