Nutty Brown is back.
Yesterday, we were feeling so good about his new forever. Today, we’re feeling so thankful for his adopter’s realization that he wasn’t the right dog, and his foster’s happiness at getting him back.
Returns happen. Those of us who work in rescue often cringe and curse when the news hits, but in the long run we’re usually happy that things worked out the way they did. In Nutty Brown’s case, his adopter was simply looking for a different dog.
Finding the perfect fit with imperfect information is a really hard task. Often we know the dog really well, and as hard as we try to screen the applicant, some critical information slips through the cracks. Other times we get a really good understanding of the adopter, but the dog is new to us or the adopter’s environment brings out behavior that we hadn’t seen before. Still other times, mismatches allow potential adopters to learn things about themselves that they hadn’t anticipated in the application process. As much as we’d all prefer a perfect match each time, returns can almost be a blessing in disguise: they allow us a more perfect match the next time around.
When I talked to Nutty Brown’s adopter on the phone yesterday morning, he kept saying “He’s a really nice dog, but.” And he is a really nice dog. But. Nutty Brown is just starting his life as a house pet. For four years, he lived outside on a chain with little food and shelter and virtually no human interaction. For years, his life was just him and that dirt lot and that tree. He’s got a lot of catching up to do.
It’s amazing, really. He’s come so far. He is house broken, he plays well with dogs, he walks nicely on leash, and he craves the human touch. It’s hard to believe he’s the same dog.
And yet. He is still working on understanding boundaries, rules, and some social skills. He gets nervous and overwhelmed easily in new situations and doesn’t know how to manage it. It’s nothing serious, but it takes a lot of patience and love, and a little bit of knowledge or a willingness to learn.
As it turned out, Nutty Brown’s adopters aren’t much interested in this type of behavioral work. They want a dog who is ready for any experience, welcomes guests with a tail wag and a polite smile, and doesn’t worry about too much. This is perfectly acceptable, and they deserve a dog just like that. There are zillions of them in the world. It’s just that Nutty Brown isn’t yet one of them.
We would never judge a family for its preferences and its ability to be honest about its boundaries and capabilities. In fact, we are thankful for great adopters and an atmosphere of openness and collaboration that allows great matches to be made.
And for now, the search for Nutty Brown’s true forever goes on.