Lessons I Learned from “A-dog-tion”
I’m Faith Navarro. I produce several shows at PumaPodcast like The Hows of Housing, Kung Gusto Mo ng Pagbabago, and more. Before I was a podcaster, I was an assistant producer for Kwentuhang Pets Atbp., a radio program talking about animal welfare. I had never parented my own dog, and didn’t realize that I wanted to until I recently got my own place and was diagnosed with a mental disorder. And today, on International Dog Day, I want to tell you about what I’ve learned from adopting a dog. Here are a few takeaways from my a-dog-tion journey.
When getting a dog, we all have that fur-fect friend in our imagination: well-behaved, quick to learn, sweet but not too clingy. It’s probably why many prefer to buy purebreds that are expected to carry their ancestors’ desirable characteristics. Although there are a lot of very real ethical concerns arising from breeding, (How frequent are the mommas giving birth? Where do disabled pups go? Is it okay to force the dogs to mate?) I understand why people buy pure breeds - especially those who want their next dog to be their Service Dog for their invisible disabilities. We can talk about those concerns another time.
For now, I share some thoughts that might benefit those who are open to adopting mixed breeds like our local Aspins.
1. The dog will need us more than we need them. When I first brought home Rocky, an old dog from a shelter, I liked him a lot. He was sweet and I could see him becoming my personal Emotional Support Animal. The people at the shelter were celebrating the fact that a senior dog would finally find their forever home, like it was nothing short of a miracle.
I visited him several times but the night he went home with me, he developed a cough. I had to bring him to the vet. The vet did tests and he had to take medication. Getting a new pet means accepting that there will be challenges in caring for them, and it won’t necessarily always be you on the receiving end of affection. Dogs, purebred or mixed, are dependent on our capacity to care for them.
2. The dog’s behavior at the shelter might change when you get home. Rocky was timid at the shelter. He didn’t howl or bark. But when we went home, he started howling when he was bored. SOMETIMES AT MIDNIGHT! I know that this is part of the adjustment period, but it went on for more than 10 days. Because sleeplessness aggravates my mental condition, I had to make the tough decision to bring him back to the shelter.
Pro tip: Consider fostering to start, and make your intentions clear with the shelter or the person you are getting the dog from. Don’t blame yourself or the dog for not being compatible. Fail forward. And when you are ready, try again. But remember:
3. There is no such thing as a perfect match. Training is equally as important as finding a dog that feels like your soulmate. Rocky howled every evening to show his anxiety. Ollie, my newly adopted black Aspin pup, was “feeling close” since Day 1. He never cried. While Rocky knew that it’s only when I walked him outside that he can do his “business”, Ollie marked our house as his territory with all the smells you can imagine.
While I personally think that there’s no “the one” in your search for a dog, I do think there are several factors that will allow you to make it work. I found myself saying “Hey, I can take care of you, and you can take care of me, too.” Ollie knows when I’m sad and works his magic by licking my face or tugging my pants. He barks at me for belly rubs in the morning and I have no choice but to get my depressed self out of bed. Our relationship works. And for the parts of it that don’t, I think we both have the capability and the love for each other to get over those bumps.
As you go through your own a-dog-tion journey, I hope you find your Ollie too.
Learn more about the state of animal welfare in the Philippines with this episode of Teka Teka News.