How I Became a Person Who Returns a Dog to a Shelter

returned-dog-to-shelterAdopt don’t shop. A dog is for life. Dogs are family. I’ve said it all.  I’ve meant it all. Until that moment when it all changed, when I became the sort of person I’d always judged, when I became the sort of person who adopts a dog one day and returns him to the shelter the next.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were in it for the long haul. This was supposed to be the newest member of our family, the forever pet.

But then came the scream. And the blood. So much blood.

They always say facial wounds bleed the most. And here she was with a chunk of her forehead hanging by a thread.

And there he was, the new dog, the dog we’d just brought home the day before, the dog we’d pledged to love and protect for as long as he lived. As my trembling hands worked socks and shoes onto my daughter’s feet so we could run out the door to a hospital, he tried to lick at them.

I turned my back on him.

And I sobbed.

In a moment the dog who’d slept in my bed the night before became the thing I feared most. He became a monster who would attack my child.

It’s been a week now. A week since the long night in the emergency room, the plastic surgeon, the antibiotics, the introducing her to other dogs, the pain and the tears, a week since our forever friend was returned to the shelter.

There is guilt. There is pain.

There is the acceptance that while he seemed sweet and playful, that while my child is old enough and responsible enough to play well with animals, that the two should never have mixed, that some dogs are not child friendly, that some dogs don’t know how to play well with kids.

There is the acceptance that we were trying our best to follow our strongly held beliefs that rescue animals can (and often do) make family pets. After all, of the seven other animals we’ve had in our home over the years, six were rescues (the seventh was a kitten who we did not pay for, but who came from a home with a cat who had an oops pregnancy). All have been true members of the family.

Adoption works.

Unless it doesn’t.

I’ve learned that it’s OK to say that. It’s OK to be that person who tried. It’s OK to be that person who did her best. It’s OK to say “no, this doesn’t work for my family.”

Because some dogs are forever. But some are not.

And people? People always are. That’s why they come first.


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  1. I am a dog trainer and there have been several occasions upon which I’ve told the owner of a rescue dog that returning the dog to the shelter was in the best interest of their family. Most recently my exact words were, “That is a face bite waiting to happen”.
    Hat’s off to you for acting quickly and responsibly. Now, forgive yourself and stop feeling guilty!

  2. Gosh, i cannot imagine leaving my kid alone with a dog I just rescued yesterday. Such a bad idea, such an accident waiting to happen. I care about my kids face WAY more than that. I see this as parental failure. An avoidable mistake on the part of the adult which the dog and the child are paying the price for. Don’t blame the dog, lady. Blame the person you see in the mirror. That poor dog and that poor kid.

    • The child wasn’t LEFT. Three adults (me included) were sitting three feet away from them, in the same room, when the incident happened.

      • lovepeoplefirst says:

        Hi Jeanne,

        Was the dog a pit bull? Just out of curiosity since it really sounds like this is a pit bull attack, they usually go right to the face and neck. I hope your daughter is OK now.

        Thanks for letting me know the breed.

    • I’m raising my kids to not be judgemental buttholes, but I guess I care about my kids WAY more than you.


  1. […] “I’m sorry,” I jumped in, “but she’s not really comfortable with dogs. She was bitten a few months ago.” […]

  2. […] “I’m sorry,” I jumped in, “but she’s not really comfortable with dogs. She was bitten a few months ago.” […]

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