Just a little context here…
We adopted our dog, Bleu. He was one of the companion animals rescued in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. An awesome Canadian rescue, called Furever Friends, from Calgary, Alberta, drove down to Louisiana in the aftermath of the hurricane and rescued (literally) 60 dogs and cats from a high-kill shelter in Hammond, LA, who were scheduled to be gassed the next day. The next day. They packed up these little guys and drove them back to Calgary, where they all received the veterinary care needed (many, including Bleu, were quite ill and nearly died – again – because of heartworm, etc.) and then placed them in foster care until they could be found homes. Six months after the hurricane, we adopted Bleu – our own little Cajun hurricane. He had (and still has) some special needs, and requires daily medication (5 years later) to manage his anxiety. A lot’s improved in that time (except for the incessant attention-getting jumping, his hatred of other dogs, and his insistence at chasing and biting tailpipes on trucks), and he is a much happier, and more relaxed and attached.
That being said, I know that there were a lot of stories of people whose companion animals were “rescued” when the residents were forced to evacuate and leave them behind, and where these animals were then adopted out to families; leaving their original families frantically searching for them. This led me to an ethical concern: What if we were one of those families who had inappropriately and invalidly adopted another family/person’s beloved dog?
Thankfully that concern was able to be (mostly) put to rest, as we clarified that Bleu’s information, image, and the location/shelter information about him had been listed with Petfinder.com for nearly five months, with no searches for a dog of his description. Still I’ve thought quite a bit about what my reaction would be if someone came to me and claimed him as their own, wanting him back. We’ve had two veterinarians and two specialist dog trainers all tell us that based on his behaviour, they strongly believe that he was abused and badly beaten by his previous “care”giver(s), and his residual fear of men and protective nature towards me would lead me to agree. These vets have also explained that he suffers from a ‘dog version’ of PTSD, and we can see that as well. Bright flashes, loud bangs, heavy rain and/or winds, and even my husband speaking excitedly and using hand expressions will freak him out. He’ll run to high ground (aka top floor in our house and up high on our bed) and cower. He’ll hide under the covers with me – his body frozen stiff – shaking uncontrollably. When he first came home, if either of us would pick up a broom, or step over him, he would roll over on his back, pee on himself, and shudder; a panicked look in his eyes.
To be honest, I’m pretty sure now what I’d do if his previous owner(s) came looking for him. I’d tell them “Thanks for the physical and psychological scars you gave him, you jackass. Now piss off!”
Just bein’ honest here, folks.
He’s our little Bleu. We love him – scarred body, scarred psyche, and all. We’ve walked with him through a lot of things, and will until the day he passes away. We didn’t make this commitment to him “until it becomes inconvenient” (which it always has been – he’s a little “special needs”) but rather we made it for life. He’s been home for 5 years, and I wouldn’t change our decision. I wish, in hindsight, that we’d been better educated and prepared. I wish, in hindsight, that we hadn’t viewed him as ‘broken’ and then been super soft on him (aka not setting and enforcing clear boundaries and expectations), and that in doing so, we could have set him (and us) up for success from the start. We were super naiive. I still wish that he would learn to at least ignore other dogs and tailpipes – for his own safety and everyone’s peace and happiness, but we’ve learned how to deal with the things that we haven’t been able to work through yet.
But still. I have these worries.
I’m a veggie. I was an active supporter of PETA for a long time (until their stupid “boycott Canadian maple syrup to protest the seal slaughter” campaign – the most nonsensical campaign I’ve ever heard of [Seriously, people? It’s a vegan product and not related AT ALL to the seal slaughter!!]… long story for another day), and I still support a number of other animal rescue and rehabilitation organizations. I live by the mantra of “Don’t Buy. Don’t breed. Adopt.”
Then I get all panicked that I’m not actually doing the “right” thing with Bleu. What if we actually took someone’s beloved companion from them, and judged them as being incompetent of being able to provide him with the proper care and home he needed? Am I judging those from the under-privileged are he came from? Should we have continued to have an ongoing involvement in the area he came from? I get annoyed when people get puppies from a dog that accidentally got knocked up (spay and neuter, people – seriously) and call that “rescuing” a dog. Really?!? What did you “rescue” the dog from? We never claim to have “rescued” Bleu. Furever Friends “rescued” (again – literally rescued) him being being gassed at a high-kill shelter that was overwhelmed, post-hurricane, with so many dogs and cats that they couldn’t possibly care for them all. We just adopted him, and gave him a “furever” family. But them I stop and think to myself – who am I to judge them? Have I been a part of the problem as well?
I share this, to give you the only context and comparison I have for some of the ethical issues I’m facing as we pursue adopting children through foster care. Please don’t get me wrong here: children and dogs aren’t the same thing. Period. BUT, some of the analogies between the challenges facing kids coming from hard places, and companion animals coming from hard places seem like they could be pretty close… and I’m trying to use what I know to help prepare me for what I don’t know.
So – next time: Adoption & Ethics 2… a thousand shade of gray.