I was at an all day writing conference and by chance, I happened to overhear one of the writers say “I am worried about the new dog I adopted. She is home alone, and when she’s alone she gets anxious, she chews and tears things up.” There was a thoughtful pause, and then the writer continued, “I adopted her because I felt sorry for her. Not my smartest move.”
Even though I didn’t participate in the conversation, I couldn’t disagree with the author’s assertion that adopting because she felt sorry for the dog was not the smartest move.
We humans tend to do that, don’t we? We see someone who pulls at our heart strings, be it human or non-human, and we’re immediately flung into caretaker mode. Maybe we feel sorry for them because of their life situation, maybe the dog is literally at death’s door because of a surrender, perhaps we feel we can offer the animal a better life than the one they currently have.
Whatever the reason, we jump in, sometimes desperate to step into that role of taking care of the animal.
Yet when we jump in, feet first and eyes closed, we’re not doing anyone a favor, including the animal we so much want to help. We need to ask ourselves those hard questions.
The Hard Questions
When thinking of adding another animal to your home, your first responsibility is always towards the animals, human and non-human, in your home. It is essential to stay out of the all-too-common trap of adopting an animal to fulfill your needs and not the animal’s actual needs. Too often we don’t give enough thought about what it will be like adding another animal to our living situation, or we choose an animal unwisely. Through no fault of its own, the animal is deemed not a good match and is returned to the shelter.
We must ask ourselves difficult questions. Not only do we need to ask ourselves those hard questions, we need to be sure, as sure as we can humanly be at that moment in time, that we are answering those questions as honestly and straight forward as possible. Keep in mind, hard questions do not have easy answers.
Hard Questions Do Not Have Easy Answers
Q: Am I adopting this animal because I feel sorry for her/him?
Pity does not have a place in a healthy relationship, it is not a virtue. Nor is pity the same as compassion. Pity places us in a place of moral superiority to the animal, therefore making that animal inferior to us and a victim. When we see another as ‘less than’, we may in fact be contributing to their suffering through the lack of emotional or energetic support we are able to give.
Q: Am I adopting this animal because she/he is so cute?
We all fall for anything that’s ‘cute’. We can’t help it, we’re hard-wired to do so. Think of it this way – if we did not take care of our own human babies, we would die out as a species. That need carries over to those small, cuddly animals we see. And let’s face it, humane societies and rescues do an impeccable job of presenting their animals in their best light so the animals are relocated out of the rescue and into a good home with their forever family.
But while the animal is cute, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good fit for your home. Click here for a list of considerations (other than cute) when it comes to adding a new animal to your home and family.
Q: Am I adopting this animal to replace one who recently transitioned?
The common school of thought on this has been to get another animal pal as soon as possible. Well, that’s true except when it’s not. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into making an impulsive decision, which may not be right for you. Give yourself time to grieve thoroughly and as you need to grieve. Grief does not have a set time schedule. You will know when and even if, it is time to add a new animal family member to your household.
Keep in mind, this new animal pal is not a replacement for the one who passed over. Do not expect her/him to replace your beloved animal; this animal is a sentient being in their own right. Expecting an animal to replace another one is neither fair nor reasonable and can be heartbreaking for all concerned.
Q: Am I adopting this animal to teach my children responsibility?
An adopted animal is a beloved member of the family, not someone’s lesson in learning how to act responsibly. Young children simply are not mature enough to be fully responsible for another sentient being. Too often when a child is assigned this responsibility and does not carry through with it, the animal is the one who is punished by being returned to the shelter. What people choose to ignore is that returning an animal to a shelter can literally be a death sentence for the animal.
Adopting an animal can be a beautiful, life-changing experience. When you are thinking about adopting an animal, another sentient soul, make sure you’re making that decision for the right reasons. Verify that what you are able to offer the animal is what that animal actually needs.
I am a firm believer that our animal pal is out there, looking for us, waiting for us. My hope is that each one of you will not adopt prematurely but have the patience to wait for your animal pal. It’s well worth the wait.
Here’s To New Beginnings,
from Janet Roper, Animal Communicator http://janetroper.com/adopting-animals-pets-adoption-janet-roper-animal-communicator-educator-missoula-montana/