My wife, Julie, and I are privileged to be the parents of three young boys: Riley (9), Will (4) and Alex (3), all of whom we adopted at birth.
Like any parent, we walk the hall of our home at night and peer into their darkened rooms, listening for the easy breathing of children at peace. Our boys are busy and spirited, the kind of youngsters who melt your heart and at the same time can test your patience. We wouldn’t want it any other way. They’re the answer to our prayers and our dreams come true. We give thanks to the Lord and their birthmothers for entrusting them with us.
So, when we decided a few months ago to adopt a dog from a local rescue here in Colorado Springs we assumed the application was only a formality.
Well, not so fast.
“We will not be moving forward with your application,” came the brief reply. “We wish you well in your search for a family dog.”
A return email asking for explanation went unanswered. A phone call was not returned.
Why were we deemed unqualified to rescue an aging Great Dane?
Here’s the story.
Three years before Riley was born, we adopted a 5-year-old Great Dane. He was from a local rescue organization here in Colorado. Shep was the dog of dogs, the kind you speak of when you reminisce about favorite family pets. His love and loyalty were unsurpassed. But age crept up on our gentle giant. No longer able to walk, he passed away at age 10. His collar and tags sit in a shadow box on our desk.
Heartbroken, we did what many grieving dog lovers do – we adopted again.
Macy was a Great Dane/Lab mix, sweet and gentle. She loved the boys and the boys loved her. She slid easily into our growing family, but previous abuse left her incredibly skittish. She also suffered from separation anxiety. She would do anything to be by your side. She once jumped out of a second-story window. She miraculously survived with only a minor cut. The laceration occurred when her leg tore and pulled the gutter off the garage roof. Our neighbors nicknamed her “Underdog,” and she became the talk of the cul-de-sac.
Despite therapy and training, she continued to find her way into trouble. She jumped through several first-floor window screens and once even scaled a six-foot-high fence. Riddled with anxiety, she regularly had accidents in the house, averaging one a week. We became good friends with our local carpet cleaner. I learned how to repair screens in a flash.
Some asked why we didn’t throw in the towel. Admittedly, I was tempted. Julie had more patience, though, and would regularly remind me that we were dealing with a sweet dog reeling from previous abuse. We couldn’t give up on her. I agreed.
But then our family situation changed in a significant way. My mother passed away and my elderly father decided to come live with us. In order to accommodate him we added a few rooms to the back of our house. The months-long construction process cut off access to our backyard. The constant presence of craftsmen and the whirl of power tools practically sent Macy into orbit. She was miserable.
Something had to give.
In accordance with our adoption agreement with the rescue organization, we contacted them to explain the situation. A representative was empathetic and made arrangements for us to “rehome” Macy through them, which we tearfully did one Saturday afternoon. She is now living on a farm in Idaho – nowhere near any second story windows.
I later found out the reason our application was rejected was because we had to rehome Macy.
To be fair, I can appreciate the rescue not wanting to place a dog with people who won’t fully commit, but even upon review of our particular case, is it logical?
The state of Colorado has deemed us acceptable to adopt a child – but a rescue organization has deemed us unfit to rescue a dog?
The experience illustrates our penchant as a culture to have upside down values. Our family loves dogs and, in fact, has invested significant money and time on their behalf. But caring for our loved ones (Exodus 20:12) obviously must trump devotion to “man’s best friend.” And in an ideal world, one wouldn’t have to trade one for the other. But in this particular circumstance, we did what was best for our family. Our pets add fun and flavor to life. In fact, we’re commanded to care for them (Proverbs 12:10). But one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to treat our pets like human beings and fail to see distinctions between us and them.
I’m left to wonder if that’s what this rescue organization did by refusing to reconsider their decision.
Despite the rejection, the Baturas are looking forward to welcoming a new dog home someday soon. We just hope our new friend won’t fly.