PetFinder.com’s Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week is wrapping up today. While it was a terrific campaign, I initially took exception to one of the slogans: “Adopt Me Because I Need You” (see the widget at the end of this story). I’d rather highlight the joy our pets bring us, and the word “need” makes these dogs and cats seem so, well, needy.
But then I thought about it. All pets need us, whether they’re healthy purebreds raised by careful breeders or so-called less adoptable shelter residents.
And, for me, that need turned out to have been transformational.
Less Adoptable Frankie
I was so clueless when I adopted Frankie, my first dog, nearly eight years ago that I didn’t even know he was an undesirable. No one told me that five-year-old dogs were less adoptable — certainly not his rescuer. And I didn’t know he was fearful because I hadn’t met him.
That’s right. I adopted Frankie because I saw a picture of him — the one posted here — and I thought he was cute. Like I said, I was clueless.
Not a Maternal Bone in My Body
Frankie was lucky — but not for the reasons that most people think he is.
I’m not entirely evolutionarily challenged. Like most people, I’m hard wired to feel warm and fuzzy about babies and puppies. I just never had the desire to take care of one of my own, of either species. I’m not very domestic either. The joys of cleaning and cooking elude me. I was a serious plant killer in New York and… well, you get picture.
When an energy healer in Sedona — long story — told me I needed to get in touch with my feminine side, I wasn’t insulted. I knew exactly what she meant.
And that’s why, when Frankie came to live with me and turned out not to be the fun, frisky, unconditional loving creature I expected him to be, I panicked. When he glued himself to my couch, looking deeply depressed, I figured it was my fault, the result of a defective nurturing gene. I thought very hard about giving him back. Hey, I’d signed a contract stipulating that my adoption fees would be returned if I decided within two weeks that I didn’t want Frankie. Who was I kidding, thinking I could handle a complex of unfathomable needs?
Now here’s where Frankie’s luck comes in. Just in time, my competitive streak and sense of pride kicked in. I knew several mean and, frankly, not particularly bright people who seemed to have no problems taking care of their dogs. If they could do it, I figured, so could I.
I Get In Touch with My Inner Nurturer
Time went by and a mutual attachment grew. Frankie came to trust me and I came to a greater understanding of dog-kind in general, Frankie in particular. And I discovered the parameters of our relationship. I found that I could make Frankie’s frightening world a more comfortable place, along with accommodating his needs for food, shelter, and medical care. He could cheer me up because he’s a charming little devil, but he’s not especially empathetic and he’s way too small to drag me out of a burning building.
And that’s okay. It’s not his job to take care of me; he’s not a service dog. It’s his need for me that I turned out to need. In spite of my initial ignorance and the many, many mistakes in his care I’ve made, I know I’m doing right by the little guy. That unconditional love? It turned out to be coming from my side.
I’m sure there are many whose hearts were always open to nurturing the helpless; maybe they deserve dogs that can care for them a bit more than Frankie is capable of. But for me, the newfound confidence in my caretaking abilities, the knowledge that I wasn’t cold and selfish, were the best gifts I could have received.