Saturday, December 3, 2005
Memorable Adoption (and other) Dialogues
One of the major jobs of anyone trying to place animals is screening potential adopters. Sometimes this is done through adoption applications. And sometimes it is done through personal interactions, meetings and/or phone conversations.
Over the years I have had thousands of adoption conversations and interactions with people. Following are some of the most memorable and/or the most typical:
An 85-year-old woman called one day seeking a "kitten:"
Me: "Ma'am, have you considered that an adult cat would be a better choice for you than a kitten? Kittens get into things, they are active, and they scratch and play bite."
Caller: "Oh, no, I don't want an adult."
"Well, you know after a cat is spayed, how they get that pouch under the stomach? I don't want a cat whose stomach sags!"
"Well, I am sorry, but we have no kittens for you. We only adopt kittens in pairs."
What I wanted to say and didn't: Well, Ma'am at 85 years of age, I am sure you have more than a few things "sagging!"
Caller: "I am looking for a small dog."
Me: "Can you tell me about your experiences with small dogs?"
"I have owned three small dogs. A Pomeranian, a Lhasa Apso and a Shih-Tzu."
"How long did you have these dogs? What happened to them? Where are they now?"
The Pomeranian I gave to my friend when I moved. The Lhasa I gave to North Shore Animal League when I moved again. And the Shih-Tzu I gave to my parents when I came to New York."
"Ma'am, we're looking for a little more commitment than that in people we adopt to."
Caller (very indignant): "What do you MEAN? I loved my dogs! I was committed to them during the times I had them!”
(Does that mean someone is “committed” during the few hours of a One Night Stand, I wondered?)
“Ma’am, "Who gets the next dog, when you decide to move?"
Caller: "I am looking for a kitten. But, she must be a semi-longhaired Calico, born under the sign of Pisces."
Me: "Ma'am, we are rescue. We don't breed cats made to order."
"Well, with so many cats and kittens out there, I feel I can be fussy!"
"Well, I am sorry, but we cannot help you. All our Calicos are born under the sign, Scorpio. And they bite."
Caller: “I have to put my cat up for adoption.”
Me: “How old and what sex is the cat and why are you giving it up?”
Caller: “She is 12-years-old and we are giving her up because we are having a baby.”
Me: “But, surely you know there are millions of babies who grow up with cats. The cat is no threat to a child!”
Caller: “Well, my husband has health concerns that the cat might transmit something to the baby. He wants me to give up the cat.”
Me: “Your husband is being unreasonable, as well as uninformed. Presuming the cat is an indoor animal and well cared for, she presents no risk to the child. You also need to understand that it is almost impossible to find a new home for a 12-year-old cat. People seek younger animals.”
Caller: (sounding upset). “But, she is a wonderful cat! I don’t want her put to sleep!”
Me: “Its not a question of what you want, Ma’am, it’s a question of reality. We have far more cats, than what we have adoptive homes for. Your cat is literally looking at the needle, unless you and your husband can find a sympathetic relative, friend or coworker. I don’t know of any no-kill shelter or rescue group that can take her.”
Caller: “But, isn’t that why organizations like yours exist?”
Me: (slightly annoyed) “No, it isn’t. We exist to try and save those animals who have no homes. Your cat has a home."
“I will call someplace else.”
Caller: "I want a small puppy for my 89-year-old mother."
Me: "The dog you are inquiring about is very young and active. He needs to run everyday. I don't believe he would be right for a senior citizen."
"My mother is in good health and very active."
I tried to picture an 89-year-old woman jogging in the park everyday with a adolescent, bouncy Lhasa Apso.
"Sir, have you tried the Animal Control shelter? There were several small, very nice, older dogs there yesterday who had come in after an owner passed away. One of them would be a far better choice for your mom."
"I went there last week and the small dogs looked dirty and unkempt. I want a healthy dog for my mom. The dog must be housebroken, quiet and loving."
Me (slightly annoyed): "Sir, its not the dogs' faults that the previous owners didn't take proper care of them! They can easily be cleaned up at a groomer."
"But, how do you know about the temperament? I can't take that chance!"
"Treat a dog well, and s/he will be loving and trusting. Everything good in life involves 'chance' and risk. Animals aren't computers we can program! They thrive in a loving, nurturing home!"
"I don't want to deal with your organization. You have not been helpful."
"Whatever. That is fine, sir."
And I thought to myself that yes, this man will find a young dog or puppy for his 89-year-old mother someplace. And then that dog will come into the pound when either the mother decides the dog is "too much" to take care of or she becomes ill, goes into a nursing home or passes away. For sure, this man isn't going to take over care of the dog. He simply sees the dog as "therapy" for his mother or a substitute for his own lack of attention to her.
Caller: "I am interested in Missy, the Pitbull you have for adoption."
Me: Have you had a pittie before? Can you tell me of your experience with them?"
"I have had three," the young woman answered. "I rescued them as puppies."
"Where are they now?"
"All three are with my parents."
"Why is that? Can you tell me of the circumstances?"
"Two I gave to my parents when I moved to a no-pets apartment. The third I gave to them because my then boyfriend was allergic. But, we don't live together anymore and the place I'm in now allows dogs."
"That is good. Tell your parents to call me if they are seeking a fourth Pit bull."