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Pandemic Stories: When your dog adoption doesn't work out. A fresh life lesson courtesy of a senior dog

What happens if you think you’re ready to adopt a dog, and you do, but days later you return them to the rescue? How do you feel? How do you process what happened? How do you understand that you got through the entire adoption process only to give them back? And, you go through this upsetting and unfamiliar experience during a pandemic that requires social distancing, masks and sheltering at home. That’s an unique twist. This is what happened to me and my husband. 

We had the best dog in the world. We adopted her as adult from the SF SPCA and had the best adoption experience with them. Our new dog lived and flourished in our lives for nine years. She passed away five years ago. My husband was devoted to her and had no interest in getting another dog right away, if ever. After about a year passed, I was ready to be involved with dogs again, so I began volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. I had loved my time during Cleo’s older years and appreciated all that she had shown me that I wanted to spend time with older dogs more. It has been a great experience going to the doggy loft each week. I am reminded of why I look toward dogs for answers to life’s moments since I was a child. They have provided solace, protection and simply a great distraction in the moment.

image from grouchypuppy.com
My big old girl

It’s no surprise that over the years I bring home stories and photos of the dogs at the Muttville doggy loft to share with my husband. I love sharing their personalities and all that I learned that day about the life of a dog. The stinky kisses and cuddles they share with me are pretty great too. Thanks to Muttville, I have learned so much about what little dogs are about. I’m more aware of their needs, behaviors and fears. Our previous dog had been a large shepherd husky with very different needs, fears and behaviors, plus her enormous size made her a third roommate.

After weeks of the pandemic lockdown, I was pleasantly surprised to hear my husband say he thought now would be a good time to bring a new dog home. We were home for the long haul, couldn’t travel, and knew a small girl dog this time would be nice. There had been so many feel good stories of shelters clearing out their dogs into foster homes, and record adoptions on the news and online that I quickly agreed. Maybe that was my mistake. I jumped when maybe I should have pressed the pause button.

I’m still processing this experience. The abrupt end. Should it be called a failed experiment? I may have dived in too quickly into absorbing the little burrito girl into my being. I fell hard for the little baked potato, taking photos of her progress every day, and made notes on her health and behavior to learn or share with Muttville or her future veterinarian. Muttville has been amazing and couldn’t be more understanding with what happened. They have reminded me multiple times that adopting a senior dog, especially virtually, is a big deal and that sometimes it doesn’t work out but you won’t find out until the dog is home with you. This is why they describe the adoption process as match making.

I am embarrassed that I plunged into this adoption because I love and respect dogs so much. I would never intentionally treat them as casual beings with little awareness of their surroundings. Right now I am trying to not feel only bad, but to also focus on the positive, that once it was realized that this wasn’t the right time after all to have a new member in our home, she was given back with the opportunity to find her better match. She deserves that life and love because she is a perfect little dog with all the wonderful behaviors that make life better for us humans.  

This experience has shown me a little of what other people must go through emotionally when they can no longer care for their dog. Maybe a dog that they’ve had since puppyhood. How it must feel to believe the only fair decision you can make is to give the dog a chance at a better rest of their life. It’s a hard, and for me, heartbreaking, decision. But such is life. Life isn’t black and white. It isn’t linear. It isn’t as predictable as we may like or expect. I am just grateful now, today, that if I had to go through this experience, that I did it with Muttville. The very fact that they are clear and upfront that they will always be there for the dog, no matter what. I’m so grateful for that. I’m grateful for their lack of judgement toward me.

After having her for six days, the sting is still there for me, but I do believe over time it will lessen as I process my feelings, and focus on the positives. I certainly learned a fresh life lesson thanks to a senior dog.

Have you gone through a experience like this?

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