When I was offered the job at the Humane Society, the decision to accept it or not wasn’t as easy as you might assume. For one, it would mean that I would go from working a little over part-time to working more than full-time. It would mean long days alone for my dogs. It would mean working weekends which I hadn’t had to do in years, and frankly dreaded. But it also would mean that I would have to facilitate adoptions with none of the background work that I was used to doing through the rescue.
In the rescue, when there is a potential adopter, they fill out an in-depth application, we check vet references, and we perform a home visit. You might remember there was a family interested in Maggie and I thought they were an absolutely perfect fit for her. Everything checked out and I decided to do the home visit and meet-n-greet all at the same time. When I got to their home it was, to put it lightly, not in a condition that I would find safe for any dog, let alone one that had a propensity for getting into things she shouldn’t and sending herself to the hospital. I thank God all of the time that I did that home visit and didn’t just let Maggie be adopted by this seemingly perfect family because there is no doubt in my mind that while they would have adored her, she would have been miserable in this home. So you can imagine my apprehension when I learned that basically anyone that wants to adopt a dog (or cat) from the Humane Society is allowed to. Unless their is a note in our system about the person, which only happens if they have been convicted of animal abuse (that we know of), or the person basically tells us they plan to leave the animal chained outside (or worse), we must allow them to adopt the dog or cat of their choice, even if we know it’s not a good fit. Take a minute and think about just truly frightening that is. Talk about needing to have faith.
While speaking with the director about my concerns, because I truly wasn’t sure if I was going to take the job or just continue on my merry way, volunteering as I saw fit, she told me that statistically speaking, the Humane Society’s return rate was actually lower than most rescues. I found that hard to believe at first but we went into a discussion about the expectations that adopters have when adopting from a shelter vs. a rescue (this is an entire post for another day) and I realized that it does actually make sense that people would, generally speaking, have lower expectations of a dog coming out of a shelter than one coming out of a foster home. If the dog exhibited an unwanted behavior, the shelter adopters are theoretically more likely to accept it (and hopefully work to correct it) than rescue adopters. I know it guarantees nothing, but numbers don’t lie either. It was enough to convince me, and I (obviously) accepted the job.
From January 1st thru today, the Humane Society has adopted about 1100 animals out to homes. That is significantly higher than most rescues do in years. And we have also seen returns. When you’re used to a rescue that only gets a couple of returns a year, and you see a couple in a month, it feels like a lot. A whole hell of a lot. I know that statistically speaking it is less than rescues, but it doesn’t make it any less upsetting when a dog you did the adoption for is sitting back in her kennel, scared and confused out of her mind. For me, my normal emotional reactions go something like this: first incredulity, then a deep raging anger, first at the adopter, then at myself, all with constant underlying sadness, to finally a feeling of hopelessness. How will things ever change if people keep abandoning their dogs? Not upholding their commitments? The last one is a fleeting emotion though, because in my years of doing this work I have learned that for all of the bad people, there truly are more good ones, but it still clutches my chest like a vice grip. Once these emotions have come and gone there are two that remain: sadness and instead of hopelessness it’s now hopefulness. I will be sad until the day that dog leaves again but I quickly become hopeful for it’s new family. Because I have learned to have faith in fate. And that dog is back because there truly is a much better family for them on their way. Of this I am sure.
You’ll notice that the title is Faith in Fate: Dixie Edition. I did that because as I was mentally plotting out this post I realized there was no way I could pick just one story to share on the topic. I decided I would randomly share these stories as a way to remind the public, my fellow animals rescuers, and most of all myself, to continue to have faith in fate. So, without further ado, I give you the story of Dixie, the first of many wonderful stories I plan to share.
Dixie, a scruffy little Schnauzer mix, was transfered to us from a rescue and we knew nothing about her prior to that. Well, that’s not entirely true. We knew that she was not well cared for. Dixie had cataracts, a mammary tumor, hair loss, dental disease, kennel cough, and seriously overgrown toenails. In short, she was a hot mess. She was allowed to live in one of the offices; the kennel setting was just to scary for this 7-year-young lady dog. We all adored her sweet temperament and when a nice woman and her daughter came to adopt her, we were all so excited. Finally she was going home where she would be doted on like she deserved. When I walked in to work the next day and learned that Dixie was back, I was flabbergasted to say the least. “But she was adopted just last night?! What the hell happened?!” Turns out the “nice lady” and her daughter got Dixie home where she had the nerve to whine. Imagine, a 7 year old dog, who had been bounced around, countless times at this point, was confused and whined the first night in yet another new environment. Remember the emotions I mentioned earlier? I was pretty much just feeling rage over this particular return.
The day Dixie was adopted another woman came in to meet her, just as she was leaving with her new family (for that night anyway.) She had seen Dixie’s picture and knew that she was the dog she had been searching for. She was so set on Dixie, in fact, that when she learned Dixie had just been adopted she cried. In a flash of not-yet-realized genius, we took down her phone number and told her that we would call her if another dog like Dixie came along (something we really never do.) As soon as Dixie came back we called her and she rushed over, in tears again, but this time from happiness. Once Dixie’s second adoption in two days was complete I walked out with her new, forever mom. She gave me a big hug and said, “I’m sorry that we have to rush off, but I have 7 years worth of love and fun to catch her up on.”
Have faith in Fate.
All of the dogs in this post, pictured having a blast in playgroup, are adoptable thru the Jacksonville Humane Society.