Remember last month when I got a little mean about puppy applications? I was frustrated with people thinking that raising a dog from puppyhood would guarantee them the adult dog they’ve always wanted. I stand by everything I said in that post, but I wouldn’t have guessed the universe was organizing a real-life example of everything I said as I was writing it.
As I mentioned previously, we got quite a few applications that listed general wants for the puppy; they want them to be good with cats, good with kids, to like going on hikes, to enjoy “Dancing with the Stars,” you get the picture. Most of the time, we’re not going to make those items a discussion. There’s really no point. Yeah, we can’t guarantee the puppy will have those qualities, but most people aren’t going to jump on board with adopting a six-year-old pit bull instead of the fluffy puppy they applied for.
However, one inquiry was different. The family was looking for a smallish dog, and that’s a definite thing, a thing we can answer with, “Yes, we anticipate the dog will be about that size” or “No, we think the dog will be bigger/smaller than that.” We could be wrong, of course, but we can take a much better stab at that than personality traits. The family also had some pretty specific desires regarding the dog’s energy level, along with the usual things about being friendly and affectionate. Most, if not all, of the puppies had pending applications at that point, so I took a shot. I emailed back and suggested Macaroni.
Now, Mac is a cute dog, but I didn’t know if she was cute enough to win this family over after they’d inquired about a puppy. What I did know was that she was a great fit for them based on what they said in their email. At the time, we didn’t even have any cute photos of her; the ones in her Petfinder profile still featured her saggy nursing-mom undercarriage and some camera-flash glare, so I was frantically trying to find a couple decent Instagram posts that showed she wasn’t still an overbred dog living in a scumbag’s basement. I was not optimistic about making a match, but I was just pissed-off enough about the puppy clamor to give it a shot.
But they emailed back. They said yes, they were interested. Then, amazingly, they actually followed through and filled out an application.
I still wasn’t optimistic. The family (understandably) had some reservations after a negative experience with a rescue dog previously. Reservations — natural though they may be — usually translate to “running at the first sign of trouble,” but again, this family was different. Mac developed an ear infection during her trial period (just her luck) and wasn’t acting herself for a few days, but they stuck it out. It probably helped that we’re not a crappy organization, so we paid for the vet visit and offered them advice and support. At the end of a month-long trial period, they adopted Miss Mac. The trial period actually started on Mother’s Day, which I’ll always remember. After seeing applications pour in for all 10 of Mac’s puppies, it was nice to see a happy ending for a mom.
However, there were a lots of things about this adoption that made me happy. The first was that this family did their research before applying. They knew we were a good organization, so when I said, “This puppy may not be what you’re looking for, but this adult dog might be,” they knew (I think) that I wasn’t pulling some kind of bait-and-switch. They trusted us, and that goes a long way when you’re trying to find a new family member.
The second thing was that they came in with an open mind, and honestly, that’s the best thing. When Matt and I first applied at Pitty Love Rescue, we were not perfect applicants: We were new to our jobs, had just bought the house, aren’t married, had never had a dog together before, and took forever to get them our vet records (sorry, Marianne!). We did one thing right, though, and that was to say, “We’re open to whatever dog you think would be a good fit for us.” The dog we initially had our eye on was not Nelson, but a lovely female pit with amazing eyebrows named Wasabi. But, we weren’t just looking for a dog with brow game out the wazoo. We were looking for a dog who wouldn’t send two newbies spinning off the rails and who wouldn’t eat our cats, and Nelson has been everything we ever wanted. I can only hope the same is true for Mac’s family.
The third amazing thing was that they kept their hearts open. Mac may have been a good fit, but that doesn’t mean she was perfect. She covered their lovely house in white beagle fur in five minutes flat. Her loose-leash walking needs some work. Then there was the ear infection. Rather than viewing her as a scruffy not-puppy who was being an inconvenience, they kept in mind that Mac had spent her life until rescue in a basement, and she needed their love and understanding. Since they’ve also made the awesome decision to connect with one of the rescue’s recommended trainers, I think things can only get better from here.
I realize I’m probably just spinning my wheels with niceties. Hell, I can’t influence my friends enough to adopt a dog instead of buying, so this probably won’t make a difference in anyone’s approach to the adoption process. However, on the off chance you’re reading this while thinking about adopting, please, please, consider what you really want and what is really important. Do your research, keep an open mind, and keep an open heart.