A few years ago, we tried. We were ready to welcome a four-legged furry guy into our house. We had resisted over many long years of children begging, with relentless begging dominating our daily dinnertime conversation. There was a poster board project with reasons to get a dog; there were tears, there was a very coddled and cared for fish, there was talk of stepping down to a guinea pig (yuck) or even a turtle (yuckier). [Apologies to those who have and love those animals.]
So we relented. There was no reason to pay thousands of dollars for a designer dog when so many needed a home. And then there were the benefits of getting an older pup, one who was already potty trained, so we didn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night. We monitored Petfinder and Facebook and sent countless emails, filled out lengthy forms, and provided references to vouch for our capability to raise an animal. Email after email went unanswered. We were turned down once after visiting a little guy at a foster home. Why, I don’t know.
Months later, we were finally chosen to take home a stunningly beautiful golden-haired one year old. We didn’t know his history, but he was sweet and gentle when we met, and he checked all the boxes (right size to make my husband look manly by his side, fluffy enough to cuddle with, toilet trained, young enough to play). He was medium-sized but strong, and with our mutual lack of training, we didn’t know how to handle each other. He cried loudly in the crate (it wasn’t what he had grown up with), so we let him wander the house. He pulled when on a leash and had me on my face on more than one occasion.
Despite our tentative relationship, he quickly grew to see us as his pack to protect and didn’t enjoy visitors. I’m not sure what vendetta he held against the piano teacher. At his first meeting with the dog walker, he opened his jaw and bit down on her arm. That was the beginning of the end.
Three trainers told us what we should have known. This dog was not for our family. This dog was not safe for our children’s friends. He was not right for us, they said, but we heard that we weren’t right. We couldn’t even manage to keep a dog for our kids. We called the rescue and fosters to try to understand his past and his needs. They told us we screwed up, that we should have had a consistent trainer, that we did it all wrong, and we hurt his chances for a normal future.
He was registered with the health department for the fateful bite and had a strike against him. One more, and he would be euthanized. We sent him back to the foster parents, to the bigger house, and experienced owners. They would not tell the next family about his past to give him the best shot at a normal future.
It would be years (and a pandemic) before we were ready to try again. This time, we started by fostering. The available puppy was said to be 3 years old and in great shape. She arrived scratching and teaming with fleas, with a tube of antibiotics for an eye infection, and a stomach that reached the ground. I hired a groomer to give her a flea bath. I told the rescue I was taking the dog to the vet. She showed up at my door hours later to take her away. I didn’t have the right to give her medical care.
Third time’s the charm. I posted on my local Facebook group asking about breeders. In response, I received numerous notes that I should rescue.
I Googled. I found a dozen reputable breeders. I called them all, two replied. No questions asked, no forms to sign promises away. We paid a hefty sum of money, and four months later, we took home a puppy.
He’s a handful, with a personality that our trainer described as “I’m too sexy for my shirt.” We love him. We socialized him. We trained him. We know his past. We’re trying to teach him we’re the alpha, but he’s 10 lbs, so even when he declares alpha, my little one can handle it.
Rescuing an animal is a beautiful thing, but there should be no shame in buying one. Maybe doing what’s right sometimes has to be what’s right for your family.