When you’re passionate about something, you want it to be all it can be. But in the endgame of life, I fundamentally believe the key to happiness is letting go of that idea of perfection.
– Debra Messing
In the early spring of 2012 I decided to add a dog to my pack. As any individual should do, no matter how detailed their wants/needs list is, I visited several local animal rescue groups. I found the perfect dog, a little Chihuahua mix. After interacting with her for a while, I decided to “put a ring on it” and make her mine. I approached a volunteer and asked about her. I was given a mountain of paperwork to fill out, which included some pretty invasive questions, such as my income (which tends to have no bearing on someone’s ability to care for an animal), my plans for my pet if I died, etc. All the questions seemed to be desperately trying to cover every eventuality, every loophole that could possibly exist, and did a rather poor job of it.
However, I played along.
I returned the paperwork. The volunteer looked over the volume/application, and informed me that since I had stated I was married, I would have to bring my spouse to the shelter so they could meet him. So I drove home (which was about 15 miles away), procured my husband, and brought him back to the shelter. They met with/judged him, and declared that he was “acceptable”, but unfortunately I had mentioned that I had 2 kids, who were currently spending the night at my mother’s house, (4 & 6 yrs. at the time), and the volunteer would need to meet with them as well.
That’s where I drew the line.
I will not accept anyone judging my children to determine if they are acceptable for anything. I, as their parent, had determined that they were well-behaved enough to add a small dog to the family. There was no way that a few minutes of being judged by a stranger would yield the depth and charm of my children. My son, who isn’t even all that fond of animals, who goes outside without ever complaining to scoop up dog poop for me. Who was concerned that Sparta didn’t have a special blanket to sleep on (hers is plain brown, which isn’t fair, he determined). Or my daughter, who has bonded so strongly with our cat that she snuggles stuffed animals around him before they both go to sleep. Who, at 4 years old, already knew how to meet a dog for the first time after gaining a grown-up’s permission (sitting on the floor, only looking sideways at the dog, and allowing it to smell you first).
We walked out without the dog.
Unfortunately this seems to be a bit of a thing now with shelters. Invasive, ridiculous questions. Unrealistic demands. We want a dog. We want to rescue it. No, we aren’t perfect (I found out I would have failed the application anyway for having to work during the day; the dog would be left home alone for more than 5 hours).
During my time as a trainer for a local animal shelter, I saw the same scenario play out over and over. I was never involved with adoptions, merely the training aspect of the dogs and volunteers. However, I had seen volunteers allow an individual to adopt a dog, essentially skipping the order of applications, because they made more money than the first applicant did. I also saw some serious racial profiling going on. It was revolting.
I understand that volunteers, who have poured their heart into caring for an animal, want the best home for that animal. However, there are only so many “best” homes out there. They are driving people away from shelters with novellas of applications, strict adoption policies and sometimes rude and haughty demeanor. Maybe instead of finding the best home for an animal through profiling money, age, or race, they should remember why they are there. To find not the best homes, but good homes.
This article by Sassafras Lowery summed up exactly my feelings about animal rescue groups. I love rescue groups. I love the work they do. But are they driving away perfectly good homes in the quest for the perfect scenario?