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Anxiety & Adoption

This has been a crazy week for me. For a few months now I’ve been seriously considering getting a pet. At the end of July, I found a sweet dog named Whiskers on Petfinder. He was the exact type of dog I was looking for: slightly older, sweet, and an Airedale Terrier mix. But being me, I over-analyzed and second guessed my decision to adopt, especially since I’ve never had a dog of my own. I waited so long to finally commit to adopting that by the time I actually went to see him at an adoption fair, he’d been adopted the night before!

I felt ridiculous for waiting so long to make one decision, so I decided that I’d learn my lesson and move quickly next time. Well, as luck would have it, I did find another dog named Griffin. He was similar to Whiskers, but also had some other qualities I was looking for. I emailed the rescue about him, drove out to meet him at Petco, and finally filled out an adoption application. I still felt nervous, but I was happy that I’d actually pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, I received an email Tuesday last week saying another family got approved to adopt Griffin, so I figured that was the end. However, the next day the rescue contacted me again to let me know that the family had gone with another dog, and they could bring Griffin by the next day! Talk about a whirlwind! Within a few days, I went from pet-less to having a dog dropped off at my apartment.

As excited as I was to become a dog owner, I was still extremely nervous. In fact, the first few days I was slammed with anxiety and a whole spectrum of emotions. Each day was a struggle trying to adjust to this new way of life. I did a lot of research before deciding I could handle a dog and specifically Griffin’s breed. Everyone told me how he’s a big dog and has a lot of energy, but I thought I could handle it. I reasoned that millions of people around the world own dogs, if they could do it, so could I. But there was no way I could comprehend the way everything would hit me. Suddenly, I was responsible for this life, and I would be for the next fifteen or so years. It hit me hard, and it made me realize that maybe my anxiety and commitment issues are more serious than I thought. I’d get overwhelmed thinking of all I had to do for him. I worried constantly about doing something wrong. And I cried a lot when I thought about how I didn’t want to feel this way for the next fifteen years of my life. And those were only a few of the things running through me.

Thankfully, the rescue offers a trial period before officially adopting out their animals. It’s to help potential adopters see if the new pet actually works in their lifestyle and if their personalities mesh. I thought for sure I’d be fine, and we wouldn’t be a “bad fit”. But I was wrong and that’s okay. I had a helpful talk with a coworker of mine who runs her own dog rescue, and after a lot of tears, she explained that how I felt was normal and sometimes things don’t work out. There’s no way for you to know how you’ll react until you’re in the situation. And it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or the animal; it just isn’t the right fit. I let the rescue know, and they’re coming to pick Griffin up tomorrow. Knowing it’s the right thing to do, I still feel like a terrible person. I genuinely believed I could handle him, but I was wrong. I’m going to take some time to recover from this emotional week, and when I’m ready to adopt again, I’ll know more of what I need in a pet. I also am trying to chalk this up to another learning experience and at least I got Griffin out of boarding for a week (his foster family is out of town). I’m exhausted and emotionally drained, and I know tomorrow when he leaves is going to be tough because I will miss him.

Have you ever had to return an adopted pet? Have you thought you were prepared for something only to find out that you severely underestimated the affect it would have on you? What have you done in these situations?

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