Last month, I helped someone return his dog to the rescue. He'd adopted Porter, one of the Nottweilers, and they'd lived happily every after - until life happened. He fell in love, moved, took the job he could get, and ended up working twelve to fourteen hour days. We worked together to try to find a way to keep Porter happy and healthy with his daddy away from home so much, but in the end, it was in Porter's best interests to return to the rescue.
Porter's person was in tears when I went to pick up our Nottweiler. "After what I've done to Porter," he said, "I just can't imagine having another dog."
I was a little crushed. After fifteen years in rescue, I tend to take a bit of pride in my ability to spot a good dog owner and to be able to match that owner to the right dog. At no point during our relationship, from adoption to surrender, did I feel that Porter's person was a bad dog owner. He was doing his best with a difficult situation, and in the end he made the decision he felt was in his dog's best interest. I hope that I never become the person who humiliates someone who has only tried to do what was best for their dog.
In rescue, we often see people who surrender dogs as "The Enemy." But I don't feel that giving up your dog necessarily means that you're a Bad Dog Owner. Life happens. Poor matches get made, even by experienced rescue people. Many people, myself included, are only a handful of paychecks away from making such hard decisions. Would you really be homeless - and make your dogs be homeless - instead of parting from them? Personally, winters in Minnesota are cold and summers are so hot, and if someone could give my dogs what I could not, I hope that I would be brave enough to put their needs first.
And I hope that doesn't make me The Enemy.
More than just treating others the way I wish to be treated, providing Porter's human with compassion instead of criticism speaks to the type of person I want to be when I grow up. Porter's owner already knew that returning his dog to the rescue was not the ideal situation; he knew it with every fiber of his being. If I'd made him feel worse, it would not have changed the situation. And just like the kindness I put into the world becomes a part of me, so does the cruelty. So when given the option, I will error on the side of kindness, because I would rather be a kind person than a cruel person.
And I hope someday, when he is in a better place, Porter's person will welcome another dog into his life.