Photo Credit: Sahsha Kochanowicz Photography
Adopting a pet is a wonderful experience that can bring incredible joy and completeness to a family. The happy tale of searching the web or visiting a shelter to find “the one” is a beautiful story. We’ve all heard it and hoped our experiences would follow that narrative. However, for those of us who have gone through the process of adding a rescued pup to our families with young children, we know that this prettily painted picture isn’t always how the story plays out.
There are many factors to consider when adding a pet to the family. A simple Google search will pull up countless commonsense blogs and articles with practical tips and guidance. However, I’d like to share with you an invaluable tip that comes only through experience. Let our family’s heartbreak, guilt and tears spare your family some sorrow.
What is this paramount piece of advice? Here it is…
DON’T TELL THE KIDS YOU’RE ADOPTING A DOG! Even, if that’s the plan, DON’T SAY IT!
In my experience, the best thing to do while searching for your furry family member is to tell the kids that you are going to host, foster, care for, or become acquainted with a dog. I don’t care what words you use: relay the message that you are going to borrow a dog for a while. Slow the attachment.
I know what you’re thinking! “Did she just say borrow a dog?” Yes! I did.
I know, I know, dogs and pets are for life. But what if that dog you fall in love with at the shelter just isn’t right for your family?
When our beloved Jake passed away in 2010, we knew it wouldn’t be long before we added another dog to the family. We still had our sweet Jesse Pie, but there was a void that could only be filled by getting another dog. We didn’t want a puppy, so we searched. This was our first experience with rescue. Six months later, we loaded the kids into the car and excitedly headed on a 2hour road trip to get our new dog, Lily. At the time, we only had 2 children, who were 18 months and 6 years old.
We made the joyous journey home and spent the next week getting to know Lily. During those first few days, we learned that Lily was a resource guarder. That means she would claim “MINE” any time she had something: be it food, toys, her bed, sticks… anything. We didn’t spend our days trying to take items from her; she was just overly possessive and aggressive about things. Although we understand that stress from rehoming can exacerbate such behaviors, we knew we could not safely manage and improve this behavior while raising two little humans. Thankfully, my husband let wisdom override guilt, and we made the final decision that Lily would need to go back to the rescue she came from. Now, before you say, “poor Lily,” you should know that a few days later she went to live with a single man who adored her and gave her an amazing life as his girl!
Remember that 6-year-old kid I mentioned above? She was devasted. She basically faced grieving the “loss” of yet another dog. To this day, 8 years and 4 dogs later, she still keeps Lily’s sparkley bone tag and their picture from the original ride home in a keepsake box. Fortunately, 7 days after returning Lily, we adopted the most exemplary golden girl there ever was, Emma. <3 She gave us our fairy tale rescue story.
So take it from me: there’s nothing wrong with giving your family a few days or weeks to get to know the dog you’re considering adopting. This lets the dog get acquainted with your family, too. You absolutely should go into adoption with the plan to love, keep, and care for that animal for life. But, I wholeheartedly believe that not every dog is right for every family, and vice versa. It’s better to lose your adoption fee after a few weeks than spend their lifetime trying to accommodate a dog that isn’t suitable for your family. Avoid the trap of guilt and despair by waiting to share the adoption news with your kids and friends until you’re sure that Fido is the right fit for your family.