I really want to take her in.
I met her three weeks ago, when I was cleaning her kennel. Tossed out of the family home when her people said, She’s gotta go, Piper sat crying in confused abandonment in her kennel at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.
After I finished my rounds, I sat on the floor next to her. She sat next to me on the other side of the metal bars, hung her head low, and whined. Her beautiful, sooty face, pouty expression, and tan body spoke to my heart. I could feel the connection and her want to understand, her need to know, why the love she gave to her people, her intrinsic being, was not enough to keep her where she longed to be.
Three weeks in, and she’s still sitting in that kennel, crying and in need of her forever home. Next to Riley, another Pitt mutt, with as sweet a disposition as he is compliant with the volunteer taking him for walks. There are about 30 dogs at the shelter in these return-your-pandemic-puppy-as-there’s-just-no-need-for-you-anymore times, and people are working hard around the clock to care for them all.
Feeling the need informs the clarity of my decision. This afternoon, I’ll take along my scientist husband to go and meet her. From having spent time with her, I know that she’ll be sweet and grateful for the attention infused with possibility in our visit. I know she’ll be excited and positive with hope.
What I don’t know is whether our motley crew of three rescues at home will accept her into the pack. Trying to combine dogs from various backgrounds of abandonment, abuse, or neglect and make them all fit in is one of the hardest, most stressful and challenging undertakings.
I feel as anxious about the outcome as I do unsupported by so many who know me all too well, people close-in, shouting:
No! Don’t take in another dog! You already have enough!
As with my former partner, who compares me to my best friend’s mother with a lifelong calling to foster and adopt children in need (Mom A is a mother of 10 adopted children and, at the age of 80, is currently fostering her grandchildren), nearly all of the men in my corner of the world are putting on the brakes and hitting the stop button. I’m neither surprised nor affected, as my ex was always saying No, not another dog! and fighting me on every adoption, never agreeing to any one of our dogs, beyond the initial rescues.
Pleading and crying on behalf of my wants to take in a Border Collie mutt I found under a car in a parking lot on our anniversary weekend, I spent the entirety of that relationship in conflict over the animals I loved. I can still recall bargaining for the blue-eyed, Lone Ranger-patched, white and black spotted, three-month-old puppy, until he capitulated. With our second Border Collie/flat coat retriever mutt Rainier, I simply bypassed him entirely.
You got the trip to Mt. Rainier without advising me, I explained, so I got the puppy.
Cody and Rainier were lifelong bonded companions, as joyful in their existence here in the mountain valley as I was reaffirmed in my decision to take them both in. I ignored my ex’s exasperated sighs and remarks:
I look forward to the day when we don’t have all these animals, so that we can travel.
It caused me to dream, instead, of an animal sanctuary in the barn in which we once lived without running water, caring for abandoned wild orphans in need. Visions of administering Pedialyte in a syringe to baby raccoons, or cleaning the kennels of baby foxes, routinely popped into my head.
The thing is, I saw myself caring for all of them alone. I knew that he was no more interested in joining me in that life than he was in poking a stick in his eye. So, I also know that he is in the camp of men, including another close male friend, cautioning me against taking in another rescue dog in need.
After a lifetime of experience of men cautioning me against my better instincts, I feel a mixture of acceptance and resentment telling me that it’s not my responsibility to take in all in great need. I resent my trainer friend for warning me of the potential conflict of taking in another female, strongly opining that I’m setting them all up for a fight. Or others who are screaming at me to travel instead, and not so subtly saying that I shouldn’t be caring for more.
It all makes me wonder. Are men jealous of the attention, care, and love, the time spent or the devotion that women expend on rescue dogs in need? Is that why so many women tend to a pack of rescue dogs alone, as the men cannot bear to see all that devotion that could secretly be lavished upon them? Are these men projecting their own feelings to be detached of obligation, devoid of commitment, footloose and fancy-free to move about the planet in full enjoyment of their lives?
Pay attention to me, not that dog! I hear them saying.
I’ve learned that many are as afraid of, exhausted therefrom, or resentful of commitment to begin with.
I am no longer in a relationship with those kind of men. Instead, I am grateful every blessed day to be in life with a man who accepts me for me, who is secure enough in and of himself to let me be who I am. A man who feels no need—would not dream of—telling me what to do, and respects my feelings and intuition. He loves animals alongside me, helps me express the bladder (four times daily) of our disabled, joyful Texas hound mutt survivor or take him on wheelchair walks in our valley, and regards him as the canine toddler we care for, together.
Most important though is being coupled with another who understands that at this time in life I feel a great need to help the rescue dogs in need of saving and forever love. That, in and of itself, is sufficient reason to be grateful for these men. It’s what partners should strive to be, instead of imposing and projecting their feelings and limitations upon those in devoted relationship to them.
When we animal-loving women find one of these men, we should adopt them and take them into our home and blend them alongside our rescue dogs, as they are worthy of our time, devotion, and love, indeed.