When something feels right, we just “know” it.
This happens fairly frequently when it comes to choosing the stuff of our lives - especially when we’ve done our homework. We know which shoes hit the right strides of style and support (and know enough not to wear them outside until we’ve road tested them indoors). In choosing an apartment, condo or house, we think about the people, services and amenities available in each neighborhood - and whether we could imagine ourselves living there in 10 years.
Somehow, though, this measured approach easily flies out the window when making selections in matters of the heart. Most of us know at least one person who was ready to rent a U-Haul after a first date.
Okay, that is an extreme example. But most of us have had the experience of good judgement taking a holiday when choosing our relationships. It’s as if we’d lost contact with our analytical skill, perhaps because we believe it is “unnatural” under these circumstances.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And, when it comes to selecting the right animal companion to share our home and life with, it is crucial that both the head and heart are rowing together in the same boat.
Consider the scenario of the family that visits a shelter and knows “immediately” that a certain dog is right for them. They “know” because the dog in question tramples over other pups in efforts to reach them. When he or she dives headlong into them, the family is convinced that it’s the result of divine intervention; the dog has chosen them.
While there could indeed be a genuine connection in this case, it could also be that the dog is asserting its dominance over his or her pen-mates. The family should be considering this possibility - one that could have implications for relations with other pets in the home and/or plans to adopt additional pets in the future.
Rather than allowing ourselves to get swept up by endearing looks (or put off by breed prejudice) there are some concrete steps we can take to significantly up the odds that our animal companion will be with us forever:
- Give our prospective pet and our family members adequate time to get acquainted. Some shelters and adoption agencies offer private rooms for this very purpose. Staff at these facilities are very accommodating and want us to take the time we need because they understand what a life-changing decision this is - for all parties. Some may even suggest a particular animal companion based on our needs and criteria.
- If we need more time, we could offer to foster the dog or cat. Fostering gives everyone - including other pets - the opportunity to know one another under real-life conditions. Whether the new pet is with us for two weeks or 20 years, we’ll be giving a high-risk animal a new lease on a happier life.
Of course, the adoption queries cut both ways. We must also ask ourselves whether we are right for the animal companion:
- Survey our physical space. Do we dwell in cramped quarters or an open floor plan? Have we eliminated all possible hazards in the home such as exposed wires, boards with rusty nails and towers of heavy boxes? Clutter is not only unsightly, it can seriously injure or kill our pet.
- Are we (i.e. everyone in the family) fully committed to providing adequate training to encourage the behaviors we want - and minimize the ones we don’t? If not, we should drive right past the shelter, pull in to PetCo and get ourselves some goldfish. At least they won’t be surrendered for toppling over young children and/or very elderly relatives.
Working together, head and heart can forge for a forever fit for our family.