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A Look at Returns, from the Foster-Based Perspective

 Returns Are No Fun, No Matter What. 

    When someone returns a dog, it can make you feel defeated.  

    Most of the dogs we take in are chosen by me.  That in itself is a huge undertaking: imagine walking through rows and rows of kennels of homeless dogs, all in need of help, and being able to choose only 1 or 2 to rescue.  -It's hard! 

    Being objective helps tremendously, but more often than not, empathy is a grand part of the choosing-equation.  My background in shelter work makes it impossible to not look for key kennel card details like: arrival date and income-type (stray, return, surrender).

    For instance, if I see that you've been sitting in a cage for 6 weeks, and the doggy next to you has been sitting in his cage for a few days, I'll instinctively want to help you- the long-timer.  Although, oftentimes this is impossible; the long-timers can have traits that make them harder to adopt out, things like their energy level, dog-compatibility, or even their breed, can play a huge role in adoptability.  

    And since this is a foster-based rescue, my goal is always to find great homes for the dogs we take in quickly  (this way is easier on the fosters, the dogs themselves, and it allows us to rescue more dogs in the big picture)!  

             ~That last paragraph was written by logical Jessica.~ 

This beauty was surrendered to us, then returned by the first adopter.  She's now thriving in her forever-home. 


    Now, when doing walk throughs, I'll often pick a dog based solely on the way she looks at me, or the energy of the dog- so it's an instinctual decision, typically balanced by a practical, left-brained application.

    I see the good in the dogs. 

    Many dogs need leash-work.  Most young dogs are still learning not to jump on people, and are very-much still testing boundaries.  This, to me, is obvious, engrained information.  I kind of look past some of this 'minor,' typical, young-dog stuff, and get right to the element of the dog, which allows me to see its potential.  

Luci was one of our returns this year. She's still adjusting and learning a lot in her new, forever home, and we're so proud of her owners for working with her!!!

    Although, as Tricia, one of our awesome fosters put it, "we just forget that not everyone knows what we know, and will do what we do with these dogs."  So, we end up with cases in which people give one of our dogs a chance, but find that its 'too much dog for them.'      Or the dog exhibits behaviors that make them or their other pets uncomfortable, uneasy, nervous, and/or unhappy.  

    All Young Dogs Need Work! -All of Them! -Some More than Others. 

    Back to returns: so it hurts when a dog that I've chosen, my foster or myself, has accepted into her home (this is huge), is returned.  It hurts to see that the adopter is seeing what's 'wrong with the dog,' rather than the dog's potential.  The dog's potential of course runs parallel to the owner's dedication to behavior modification practices. -This is in regards to getting rid of what 'you don't like' in your dog.

Sweet Sally pictured with foster mom, Michele, and her dog, Ellie. She's been returned more than once. 

    Dogs that are between 7 and 14 months are the most likely to be returned, in general, not just for this rescue.  

    This is because they're still young, still acting like puppies, but with a dash or more of rebelliousness on top of that... and they're big!!  -I've worked with many dogs over the years that can be inclined, at times, to bark at you, try to corner you, snarl at you, or even snap at you- none of this is uncommon for a dog going through its rebellious, (or as I call it) 'teenage stage.'  -It's not ok, and it does need to be properly addressed, but it's not necessarily abnormal behavior. 

When adopting out a young dog, sometimes I feel like I talk until I'm blue in the face 😁... offering advice on structure, redirection, boundaries, training tools, and the proper person-pet-hierarchy.  

Riva, once-returned, is very high-energy, thank God we have a foster that has acreage where she can run! 


    People smile politely, and typically seem to be semi-listening to my advice.  They'll often tell me about 'their dog training experience,' and I say, "Oh that's wonderful. I'm sure you guys will be just fine then. Sounds great!"  -And I mean it! I always hope for the best for our pets and adopters!

    And these same people sometimes return their dogs, maybe a couple of weeks into the adoption, maybe several months into the adoption.  -And of course we had one dog that was recently returned after just 2 hours.  

    It can be frustrating, and even disheartening.  But we can't let stay that way, not for long.  -Such an attitude, if sustained, would be detrimental to the returned dog, and the rescue, overall.

When I pick up a return-case-dog, or it's dropped off back at my home, or another foster's home...

    The energy is to be light, pleasant, and we act as if this is no big deal... something to be brushed off!  

    "You had a nice visit there," I'll say to the dog, smiling.  Or, "Did you enjoy your weekend visit?"  -There is a lot of power and energy relayed in words. This is what's best for the dog, so this is what we do.  

    I've seen what happens to dogs that are returned to shelters, and it's not pretty.  They go through tremendous distress, and are very negatively-affected, making them less-adoptable.  I'll blog on that next post; I can share one dog, Smiley's story.  -Although it can be very hard for me to look back on such cases because it hurts.  

    My fosters know how much I appreciate them on one hand, but on another, they'll never truly know.  -They allow these dogs a 2nd, sometimes 3rd, and even 4th chances, at a good life.  That is miraculous and they are angels on earth for these pets.

    I'm beyond grateful we're able to be a foster-based rescue.  This allows our returns to have a safe, familiar, happy place to return to... they think they're just 'back from a sleepover' if they haven't been gone long! And in cases where they have been gone for a while, they feel like they're 'coming back to a great friend's house.' 


    We stand by our pets.  And I hope that more and more people will continue to feel that way about their own pets... pets of one year, one month, or even one day. 

Humbie, now Herbie, with her forever mom, Dee Dee. -Returns of little dogs are rare. 

Note: when I blog, it never follows the format I initially had in mind... there's always so much to say! 

-We've never had a cat-return, but take in far less cats than dogs. 

Also, I'll never use the names of adopters or people associated with this rescue without their permission- ever. You have my word. I respect your value as a living, sentient human being, no matter what.

Lastly, if you're just now discovering PAFP Inc., we did start the rescue to provide a safe place for owners to include pets in wills, directives and/or trusts.  -And until that idea really catches on, we #keepcalmandrescueon, from our shelter partners, and by taking in some pets that people cannot keep. #PetLegacy Always work with a trusted #estateplanningattorney!


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