What if you are rejected by rescue?

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My first experience with animal rescue was rejection. I’ll never forget it- I had answered an urgent plea for a foster home for a bonded pair of senior lab mixes and had spent time with the dogs and spoken at length with their temporary foster. That day, I was sitting on an ottoman at my best friend’s house, anxiously awaiting word that I could pick up my new foster dogs, when the phone rang. They told me they were very sorry, but they didn’t feel it was the right match. I had bought them dog bowls and fluffy beds and spent the week showing all my friends the photo from the website. But it wasn’t the right match. I thanked them, hung up the phone, and dissolved into tears of disappointment right there in my friend’s living room. What if you are rejected by rescue?

It was nothing personal. I was working full time and going to school and my life was very busy. They felt that the dogs- one of whom was epileptic- needed somebody who was home more. And, the thing is, they were right. I had known it wasn’t a perfect situation and that it would take some creativity on my part to make it work, but I knew my heart was in the right place and I would do whatever I had to. The reality was, though, I was indeed too busy to be a perfect match for a dog with veterinary needs and all the good intentions in the world didn’t change that. They had told me I could choose a different dog if I liked and I promised there were no hard feelings, but of course I was a little hurt.

Eleven years later, I’ve seen it from the other side many times over and learned a lot about the process and what goes into making sure a pet and a potential adopter are a good match.

There are a lot of good dogs and cats out there. And there are a lot of good people. And not every good person is right for every good animal. 

Choosing to adopt a pet is emotional and exciting and fun. There are so many possibilities, so many dreams, and it takes a lot of maturity and pragmatism to look at a pet who is just-so-very-cute and step back and think, “realistically, my home is not ideal for him.”

But the same point that might be absolutely reasonable when you think of it yourself can feel like a value judgment when it comes from someone else. I mean, if you’re a good, nice, loving person who recycles, gives to charity, and always returns your shopping cart to the corral, why shouldn’t you have whatever pet you want? Why should you be denied because of things that aren’t your fault or are out of your control?

But “deserve” doesn’t come into it at all. It isn’t about that. Animals have needs- basic needs common to all companion animals and other needs that may be individual to the animal. And simply being a good person with a good heart and good intentions does not always mean you can meet those needs. If you’re planning to move to the other side of the world six months from now, it matters little to your pet whether it’s to do cutting-edge medical research that will save millions of babies or it’s so you can go big game hunting with your BFF, Vladimir Putin. What matters is: what happens to your pet when you move? Will they end up back at the shelter? If so, you could literally be the love child of Wonder Woman and Captain America and it would still not be reasonable for the rescue to not allow you to adopt a pet right now.

One thing to keep in mind is, the shelter’s priority is the animal. Their focus is on finding a safe, loving, and permanent home for the animals in their care. Quite often, that also means finding you your dream pet. But if what you want and what the animal needs are at odds, the animal will always come first.

And not being right for one animal doesn’t always mean not being right for any. Fragile pets, such as kittens, rabbits, or small-breed dogs, may not be ideal for young, boisterous children. But there are plenty of dogs and cats in the world who love children and can withstand quite a lot of handling and activity. Young, active dogs who need a lot of exercise and training may not be ideal for many seniors. Even the actual Queen of England doesn’t take on puppies anymore because she’s too old. But middle-aged and senior pets make excellent companions and are usually less active and require less training. Adventurers and escape artists may not be great for people who live next to highways, but mellow homebodies might do just fine.

Another thing to consider is something along the lines of supply and demand. That is, some adoptable pets are in high demand and the rescue will have several- or several dozen- applications to choose from. This is often where people get turned down on tiny little details. It’s not because you weren’t great. It’s because five other people who were also great were applying for the same animal and they can only choose one. This also means rescues that specialize in popular breeds can afford to be pickier and have higher adoption fees and more demands. It’s not necessarily representative of rescue as a whole and if you find their standards cumbersome or are unable to meet them, it’s worth expanding your search to all-breed rescues and less fancy/trendy breeds or colors.

Will you sometimes still encounter what seem like downright ridiculous rules and standards? Sure. Not all rescues and shelters are alike. And not all individuals are alike. But just because you deal with one kooky person who won’t adopt to people because they have the wrong zodiac sign or because they work outside the home or because they like pineapple on their pizza doesn’t mean all of rescue is like that.

Denial hurts, to be sure. But it really, honestly, isn’t personal. And while it’s tempting to take that disappointment and use it as a reason to just give up, the animals need you to step back, take a deep breath, consider the advice of the people who have done this hundreds of times before, and try again- this time, perhaps, with a better idea of how to find the perfect match.

Do you, like 2011-era me, have a way-too-busy life that makes it hard to meet all your pets’ needs? We can’t make your job less stressful, but we can make sure you don’t have to worry about your pet being home alone for long hours. CONTACT US for an exercise walk or mental stimulation for your dog. Both come with lots of kisses and special attention for your best pal!

And for some amazing rescue options in the St. Louis area you can check out these:

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