This is not your dog.

Once a potential adopter complained about my terrible "customer service". Recently a man likened the experience of adopting a dog to buying a car.
Oh. Hell. No.
I explained to both gentlemen, very firmly, that they were sadly mistaken. They are neither clients nor customers. They are not buying and I am not selling. I am, however, serving. I do have clients. Today there are about 20, and at the top of the list is Petina.
Petina is a 10 year old Staghound from Indiana. She is likely mostly Greyhound but has wirehair, hinting at a Deerhound or Wolfhound in her not too distant lineage. Her previous owner was anxious because Petina was anxious because her owner was anxious because Petina was anxious . . . in her foster home, Petina is learning to not be anxious. Unless breakfast is late. If breakfast is late there is definitely going to be some whining.
In my version of The Bachelor, potential mates are carefully vetted. While the gentlemen above were waiting to be flattered and courted, our team of volunteers were busy judging them. We are not unkind, but we are thorough. The matches we make have to survive not just a night--or a season--but a lifetime.
In one way or another, all of the dogs we place are special needs. They are old or broken or old and broken. They are not a commodity or even an asset. They are a dependent and a liability. They are a child who will never move out and get a job. When you adopt a dog you are signing a contract to feed them, provide vet care, and pay to replace the remotes they eat. You are taking on the obligation to sooth the asses they bite. And yes, all of this can be a terrible responsibility.
Occasionally we will receive an application from someone who wants an emotional support dog or service dog. Again, I explain to them that is not what we do. We are not here to support you. We are here to support them.
The relationships that we make when we match dogs to humans are not balanced and that is by design. I am not looking for an adopter who will love Petina as much as she loves them. What I am trying to find for Petina is someone who will love her ten times more than she loves them. She needs someone who will love her when she's pouting because breakfast is ten minutes late. She needs someone who will love her if she gets stressed out during a thunderstorm and poops on their floor.
Petina needs an Emotional Support Human.
So before you apply to adopt, ask yourself if you can be there for this dog? When she is old and cranky? When she is scared and barks at the mailman? When she gets confused and eats your favorite shoes?
To be very, very clear, you are not buying a shirt or a car. You are applying for a job. This job has no salary, no 401K, no healthcare. This job is first, second, AND third shift. This job has no growth potential and will almost certainly end in tears.
It does, however, have fantastic fringe benefits.
This is not your dog. But if you are very, very lucky, you might be her human.
Emotional Support Human T-shirt
Designed by SHUG's Director, the Emotional Support Human t-shirt supports dogs like Petina. 100% of the profits go toward transport and veterinary expenses for dogs in need.

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48 thoughts on “This is not your dog.
  1. Oh how true all of this is and I’ve got 2 to prove it. One who is a real diva, and that’s the male of the pair. He whines when his food is cooling and he can’t have it. Then there’s madam and boy is she a madam. Has suddenly decided that the water in my glass tastes better than what’s in her bowl. They both hate me popping out even though I leave the radio on for them to party while I’m out and tell them that I won’t be long I’ll be back and that I love them, they still bark and howl for a few minutes.
    But hey I knew I was taking on this and more when they adopted me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love them both through the good and the better.

  2. So well written and absolutely true! We have three SHUG adoptions and let me tell you, I’ve never looked back. When you adopt, you adopt for life, as far as I’m concerned. You accept everything as a learning curve and adjust. In the end it’s all so worth it and the relationship you build is priceless!!

  3. Love this! Although we’re still nervously going through our adoption process, I am very glad that you are being thorough and ensuring that the dog is matched to the home that is right for their needs. For the life of me, I don’t understand those first-come, first-served adoption events. Crossing all fingers, toes and paws that we are Sighthound Underground Fit. 🙂

  4. I loved this article and shared it with other greyhound lovers. I have 2 adopted greys and there are definitely those times when you count to ten, but I love them no matter what!! I’m so glad the adoption process was so tough!

  5. Perfect analogy. Adopting an animal is an unpaid job but with so many benefits. Main one being you receive unconditional love. ❤️

  6. Wonderful post and a heartfelt thank you for all of the wonderful work you do on behalf of these four legged angels. Anyone who would liken a dog to a car should be (fill in the blank).

  7. Bravo! Two paws up!

    P. S. You are absolutely right. Animals need everything we can give. Animal lovers want to do everything possible, others need not apply. Thank YOU for making it happen.

  8. But can we ever even hope to love our dogs as much as they love us? It seems that the best we can hope for is to be the person that our dogs think we arem

  9. Thank you for this beautifully written piece. When considering adoption, it is so important to be honest about what it means to take responsibility for the life of another living being, for their entire life, and to be willing to commit to that. I love the phrase, “emotional support human.” And love the shirts!

  10. Love this. All adopters-to-be should see this. It’s not about you–it’s about forever homes for the dogs. If you’re lucky and deemed worthy, you’ll be rewarded ten times over!

  11. Thank you for an extremely well-written, concise view of adoption from the rescue organization’s point of view! We rescue Mexican street dogs and constantly run into people who don’t understand this at all. I don’t care if somebody thinks I am harsh anymore – the dogs always have to come first.

  12. Beautiful! We are their humans is exactly on point. Pets are forever. We adopt to help the pet. They may help us on the way, but this is not why we help them. Having said that, we also need to raise awareness for people why they should adopt and not buy. We should not judge them. We should be understanding & educate them about things they might know. Shelters & rescues without community support are doomed. This is why even if our job is hectic and depressing, we should always have some tolerance and acceptance. We, like animals, cannot judge.

  13. EXACTLY. Diabetes, seizures, dental issues and the removal of an eye are all reasons why my husband will not be able to afford a vacation again this year. But when we got our two chihuahuas 12 years ago, we signed up for the full ride. Your message is such an important one, and you write beautifully. Thank you for all you do for the dogs in your care.

  14. Beautifully written, funny, heartwarming, and so true. The hardest part of fostering is finding and vetting someone worthy enough to adopt. And even then, even if we’re sure, we still worry. It’s like sending your kid out into the world.

  15. The only thing I agree with in this post is that there’s no growth potential. Since adopting and fostering, I have grown more than I could ever imagine. While this job has lots of expenses, every single one is worth it for the unconditional love we share and the unbreakable bond we’ve developed.

  16. “Signing a contract to feed them, provide vet care, and pay to replace the remotes they eat. You are taking on the obligation to sooth the asses they bite.” But you forgot to mention THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, and the hardest, you are agreeing to be there, in their final days, to not let them die alone, or with strangers, to hold them close to you as they cross the rainbow bridge.

  17. I had a man complain to me about the home checking process for the sighthound charity I work with in the UK. He said he didn’t understand why we made it so difficult when he was “doing you a favour” by taking one of our dogs. I told him we didn’t need those kind of favours.

  18. That was so beautiful, it made me cry. Everything I’ve been thinking and couldn’t put into words. Other than raising my kids, being a mom to my fur girls has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Thank you for caring so much for these lovely dogs and always putting their best interests first and foremost.

  19. I love my Penny Rue.
    She comes to work with me every day. She has been a great addition to the family including 2 Italian greyhounds cousins.. I was so greatful to meet you and your incredible enthusiasm, heart, and passion for rescue dogs of all ages. Penny is such a blessing to me personally Cheryl.
    I am thankful for your compassion and heart. ?

  20. We’ve adopted 2 seniors: a 9-year-old grey and a 13-year-old golden retriever. The greyhound had been returned from 2 homes for silly reasons. It was sad to see him try to go with every person he saw – he seemed to think it was his lot in life to just keep changing families. But somewhere around 6 months with us, he realized that he could stay. He never tried to go with someone else again, and on walks, he tried to run back into our house. We loved him so much. The golden’s family was supposedly divorcing, and he was very depressed after they dumped him with a rescue. As he realized that we loved him, he became a happy, animated dog- a typical golden. Those two adoptions were probably the most rewarding ones of our lives. Thank you for all you do!

  21. I totally completely 110%, to the moon and back, whole heartily agree with you. I have had a pet since I was born and I learned familial love from my fur and not so furry (fish, a snake) siblings).

    Through the years I learned, like you attested, that we must always love all of the fur babies in our care in ways that can only be described as how a parent takes care of their infant or their elderly loved one, both with an exceptional attention to detail knowing and anticipating their wants and needs.

    I think all pets are special but here’s where I put the caveat: with the dog. I’ve seen dogs love, truly love, the most hateful of their humans. Do it anyway. The caveat is, a dog who truly loooooves their forever home, their “pack”, their people, are the ones who will step into danger to keep the pack from getting harmed. That’s service to me. 😉 They will learn (sometimes) perculiariarities about their pack- my friends young poodle can tell when her housemate also a poodle has a diabetic low. She will tell her people, she’s not trained. I could go on but you know my heart- it’s just to offer perspective.
    In the service we had dogs trained to do certain dangerous skills yet they, for the love of their companion, adapted behaviors beyond anything they were taught.
    I agree, you are spot on. Dogs are never property, never an object to be thought about as anything less than an extension of ourselves.
    Thank you for toeing the line. I apologize if I was redundant, seemed argumentative or difficult that is absolutely 1000% what I was not trying to do.


  22. I absolutely agree with the “This is not your dog” article, and also appreciated the “Yes, we are crazy” article as well. As my wife was a responsible small-scale (sometimes called hobbiest) Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder until a job change with a less flexible schedule made breeding unworkable, I very well understand that dogs are not “things”. She was also very careful who bought her puppies, and made it very clear to potential buyers that her first priority was insuring the quality of the home environment they went to. We are also the lucky adoptive parents of Ruben, a Galgo that SHUG brought over from Spain. He is a very affectionate, wonderful addition to the family, with a personality all his own. He loves snuggling and belly rubs (among other things), and is best buddies with Sergeant, our youngest Ridgeback. I can actually say that Ruben is my dog, but only because he has clearly decided it is so.