The face that launched a book and a blog’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.

23 thoughts on “Needing to Be Needed: How A Less Adoptable Dog Changed My Life”

    1. Why thank you, Clare. I was hoping you would stop by and argue that I was always warm and fuzzy but I’m still superficial so cute is even better.

  1. Anyone who visits your blog regularly knows that you are not empathetically-challenged, but if it took Frankie to make you realize it about yourself, then that’s another thing in his favor!

    I hope you tell us more about that energy healer one day …:)

    1. That’s very kind of you, Kirsten. As for that energy healer…it was part of a travel writing assignment and, had she not also told me all of my chakras were blocked — psychic constipation — I might have been more impressed!

  2. “It’s his need for me that I turned out to need.” Well said, Edie. You and Frankie have a beautiful relationship – it’s heartwarming to see how much you’ve brought to each others lives.

    1. Thank you, Amy. And you can personally attest that, other than taking care of Frankie, no latent domestic urges have emerged… (Amy tried to use my oven when she and the Go Pet Friendly crew visited me in Tucson and was no doubt surprised to discover that it didn’t work.)

  3. You always know how to inspire. Thank you so much for sharing this side of your story. I think maybe it’s enough for dogs just to exist, just to be their fascinating selves. They really don’t need to do anything else to make us feel better, do they? I know when I see even a strange dog walking down the street, I can’t help but smile.

    1. That’s so nice of you to say, Kristine. I agree that one of the gifts that Frankie gave me was “dog consciousness.” After this member of the species came to live with me, I suddenly became aware of dogs everywhere in all their doggy glory.

  4. That was so eloquent. I could see parts of it being a voice over for a “Pet Adoption Video that Doesn’t Make Edie (or anyone else) Want to Kill Herself.”

    I believe that dogs can make us more human. There’s something about entering into a relationship with a member of another species that’s special and soul-opening. But only if we’re open to it.

    You’re an adventurous spirit, Edie, and were ready to a life-changing moment when Frankie came into your life. Thank you for sharing that with us.

    1. You’re right, Pamela, I definitely had my Pet Adoption Video series in mind when I contemplated the PetFinder campaign.

      It’s funny, I never thought of myself as adventurous, but occasionally I do strange things like moving to Tucson without knowing anyone there… or getting a dog, sight unseen. I’m not sure whether that’s adventurous or foolhardy but I’m stubborn enough to follow through with these impulsive actions. Must be why I was attracted to a terrier…

    1. Pretty boy Frankie agrees, Steve’s Mom 😉 As for the planticides, let’s just blame New York and its dark, plant killing ways…

  5. As always I enjoy your blog.
    For me animals have adressed my need to nurture…..most humans can give, but have trouble receiving…animals are wiser than that. My guys aren’t cuddle bums, they give affection, but they’re not cheap dates. I love to hear their giants sides heave with snoring, I sleep like a baby when I hear that sound. Sometimes I roll over and drop a hand on their head to feel their kindness, even sleeping….

    1. Thank you for your nice — and funny and smart — comment. I had to laugh at your assessment that your guys are “not cheap dates.” And you’re right, animals don’t have any trouble receiving affection once they trust a human not to harm them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *