Almost all of the most difficult, tragic dogs our rescue adopted out went to hardcore dog people. These people were my idols. I’d watch as they rearranged their lives to address their dogs’ major problems. They’d change fencing, carpeting, sleep schedules, JOBS. They would spend a decade managing a dog carefully to make sure that he was safe and as happy as he could be. Their commitment was epic, and years later, Victoria and I will still take a moment to remember how amazing it was that these people made it work by sheer force of will.
But as the years passed, I also began to feel sorry for those adopters. While other dog owners took their dogs out to the park, or to yappy hours, these heroic adopters were performing elaborate rituals involving which dogs could go out first, knowing that if they made a mistake, someone — canine or human — might get seriously hurt. They were skipping social events because they couldn’t find a savvy-enough sitter. They were not taking vacations because their dogs couldn’t handle the separation. They were doing complicated daily medical procedures. And, most tragic of all, they couldn’t adopt other animals they wanted to because a dog already in the household just wouldn’t accept it. It just didn’t seem right.
I realize that these people want to help the dogs that need the most help, and I commend the sentiment. Every dog we’ve had or fostered until now has had some sort of problem that made him or her challenging to own. In other words, I get it.
But I’m here to tell you it’s OK to want to just have fun with your dog. It’s OK to want to take your dog for a walk during daytime hours. It’s OK to want to have a dog who can greet visitors to your house without submissively urinating or lunging at them.
Your dogs will age, or they might develop health problems, and you can, and will step up for them then. But you don’t have to ask for it. You can do a lot of good for animals even if you take an easy keeper.
- First, if you are out and about with your well-behaved dog, you are modeling responsible dog ownership. You’ll be able to give advice to people, and answer questions, whereas people with dogs that are jumping and straining at the end of the leash are rarely asked for advice. People figure you don’t know what you’re doing — they don’t assume that it’s the dog’s personality. You’ll have more credibility, which is incredibly important.
- You can own more animals if your dogs are able to socialize, so you’ll be helping more animals. This was a huge issue at our rescue. We’d have great fosters, and eventually, one by one, they’d end up with a dog who made it impossible for them to own another dog, or foster long-term.
- You can have uncomplicated fun with your dog. Your happiness is important, too. You should get to go to the park with your dog or take a walk during daylight hours or bring people into your home without constantly worrying what would happen.
I know when the last of my three dogs died a few months ago, I said to myself that my next dog would be easier. I wanted to have fun, like the people I used to adopt “normal” dogs out to. I put it out to the universe that I wanted a shameless, uncomplicated, greedy, sociable, affectionate, shameless dog. (Yes, I put shameless twice.) And lo and behold, who showed up but Cricket. Do I feel bad about it? Not really.
I know that a lot of you will not be able to resist the siren call of the troubled dog. It’s in your nature. But if you are starting to feel a little weary, joyless, or wistful, maybe it’s time to consider an easy dog. Consider this your absolution.