Before we adopted our first dog, I told my husband that having a dog, especially an older dog we didn’t know meant we were taking out a social contract with the dog. For me, choosing to bring a dog into my home and family is something I take serious, because I believe loyalty goes both ways.
People talk about what loyal companions dogs are but they deserve loyalty too. So when my husband was ready to have a dog, I made sure he understood what intentions would be and what my part in the relationship would look like. I explained that any adoption meant that I was agreeing emotionally, financially and spiritually to commit to this dog forever. Til death us do part.
And when we finally adopted our dog from the San Francisco SPCA, that night, I literally looked her in the eye and shook her paw, saying I will do my best to set her up for success and give her the best dog life she could have in the big city. I promised her that I would try to never let her down, to not take her for granted, and to appreciate her dog qualities, for as long as she gave us. We had nine incredible years together that I believe were made indelible because of this social contract.
Don’t apologize for taking your relationship with your dog seriously. I genuinely believe when you are thoughtful about your interactions, with any dog for that matter, your experiences are going to be deeper and more enriching. I can still pull endearing and funny moments from my memories with our dog, and she passed away almost five years ago now!
When I volunteer at Muttville each week, I apply these same values to those sweet senior dogs.
My view is that these dogs deserve to be reminded that they may be in between homes but that they are still worthy of a social contract. If they were a stray, I tell them every week not to give up, that there is a forever family just for them but it can take time. I ask for their patience and to give Muttville their trust. If they give me a chance, I try to impress upon each dog that they are perfect, and perfectly worthy of shared love and loyalty.
That’s what my social contracts with dogs looks like, how about you?