Why dogs are adoptable and why we embraced the word ‘surrender’
San Francisco SPCA hosts spring gala 🦋 Metamorphosis on April 30

Lessons learned from dogs and my biggest mistake made I still feel guilty about

Have you ever done something to a dog, that years later, you still feel bad about? Maybe the biggest mistake I made when we adopted our first dog was six months after we first brought her home. I can still remember every detail and this moment happened over ten years ago. All I can say is, thank goodness dogs don’t hold grudges, and are predisposed to living in the moment. Sure, I can make excuses to let myself off the hook but I decided it was better to focus on learning from the experience and appreciate her ability to teach me such an important lesson.

The short version of this story is that I assumed (yep, big mistake right there) that because we’d only had adopted her six months ago, and because she was a dog, staying with another dog, in the home of a dog trainer, that she wouldn’t miss us. I was wrong. Very wrong. I didn’t know that she could, or would, bond that quickly with us.


We left our newly adopted dog for a week while we were away on a planned trip to Hawaii for our anniversary. The dog trainer that we left her with told us not to bring anything except her food because she had everything in her apartment our dog might need or want. Another mistake we made was agreeing to this logic.

When we dropped our dog off, we didn’t stay more than a few minutes. And when we left, we did so by tossing a ball down the hallway, then dashing out the door while she chased it. It crushes me even now when I think about this. I imagine her looking back and only seeing a closed door where we were a moment ago. I still remember telling myself that the other dog there will quickly distract her and she won’t miss us. She had played with this dog many times at the park and the beach.

We were two days into our trip when the dog trainer called us to say that our dog had resource guarding issues. You know what the truth was? Our dog missed us, and the only thing she had there that smelled like us was her leash. She kept laying down on the floor below where it was. And when she wasn’t there, we were told she laid by the front door.

This experience taught me that dogs can bond quickly. Before this I had assumed it took a long time to connect with all dogs and gain their trust. Maybe because she was adopted and older she bonded with us faster than normal? I don’t know but you can only imagine how guilty I felt for not expecting this. When we got home I promised her (making a new social contract) that we’d never lie to her like that again — and we never did.

This experience taught me to treat dogs as individuals with unique personalities. To not assume anything based on their looks or background. I’m grateful to her for this lesson because I have carried it forward to my volunteer shifts at Muttville. I treat each dog I encounter as an individual and try not to make assumptions about how they might behave. I let them show me what they are about and that makes all the difference.

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