Pet Adoption: A Family Decision

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Following is another edited segment from my book-in-progress, Louie to the Rescue: A Memoir of Surrender and Redemption. My wife, Susan, and I consulted the web extensively before we adopted our first dog, Louie, but I shunted aside essential questions in the heat of the moment. I had also made up my own mind while marginalizing my wife’s feelings and succumbed to the pressure of the well-meaning adoption advocate. We loved Louie dearly, though his 10 months with us was challenging. He wound up being our foster until he found his forever home on a horse ranch. Please remember:  unless you’re flying solo through this world, adoption is a family decision.

. . . There was still so much we didn’t know about Louie. Much more than we could learn on a single “test drive.” Susan, wants to give it more time. We should comparison “shelter shop” for the best fit. In the meantime, we’d be giving Louie more time to recover at the vet and perhaps see what he’s really like. Her words reach my mind but skirt around my heart. I sense that if we leave today without him, we’ll never return. A week or two will pass. We’ll tootle off to another rescue event where Susan will fall in love with some white, fluffy lap dog - my secret antithesis of the hearty playmate I crave. My child. The one who never got to live.

My heart is racing on the bullet train toward Louieland. Not even my love for Susan and respect for our pact of shared decision-making can slow it down. The list of questions I’d compiled during my sober moments of pet adoption research get sucked out of my peripheral view by the whooshing landscape of shared lives and endless love. What we don’t know we’ll learn by doing. Experience has always been my best teacher, if not always the most compassionate.

Upon our return to the vet’s office, I hail Nancy who has just finished speaking to a volunteer about another dog. “Well?,” she asks.

“I think we’re sold,” I say, glancing over at Susan. In an instant, her eyes resign to my happiness. They also betray the faintest glint of someone who just lost a piece of herself. 

Susan cracks a crooked smile, then turns to Nancy. “One thing,” she says. “We think it might be better for Louie to stay here and get better before we take him home.”

“He is better,” Nancy says. “Beside that, he’ll be all alone in the kennel this weekend. All the other dogs are getting discharged. Wouldn’t it be better for him to go home with you?”

Behind Nancy, the steel door to the kennel is open. Behind it, metal cages are stacked high against the slate gray walls.

“What do we need to do?,” I ask.

A vet’s assistant trains us to use a humidifier to loosen Louie’s secretions and demonstrates how to clap his flanks to break up the congestion. There is paperwork to fill out and agreements to sign. We are taking Louie on a provisional basis and agree that if things didn’t work out for whatever reason we will return him to Roxy’s Rescue.

Not work out. The loser’s loophole.

Nancy loads us with provisions: a huge bed, several cans of food, some chew toys and a pink plastic water bowl. Louie looks on as we pack the car and leaps into the backseat when finally invited in as our last and most precious piece of cargo. He drapes his paws over the crest of the backseat like he’d always belonged there. Like he’s leaving nothing behind. We smile at Louie, tickle his cheek, and close the hatch of our pearl white Prius.

Traffic crawls on northbound Pacific Coast Highway. Slinking along, we call our parental units to recount the arrival of their grand-dog. I am bursting. Susan is getting there. I can feel it. She knows that this slow ride is really a parade. We’re the grand marshals. And Louie is the king.

Traffic loosens up beyond the workmen fixing a water main break. We pick up speed. I roll down the the passenger window and thrust my head face-first into the wind.

“It’s a boy!”

Susan giggles and smacks me on the arm. Louie tucks his snout into the hollow of my left shoulder.

A perfect fit . . .

Thanks for reading!