Getting too attached to a rescue dog

This is a story about a dog named Bailey. When her owner, Sylvester, needed to be hospitalized for a month after just having landed himself housing, this dog found herself at risk of having nowhere to go. Sylvester was terrified that he would have no choice but to surrender Bailey to the animal shelter. So C3 –  an outreach team set up by Los Angeles County Health Department – reached out to me and asked DDR to help.

Without meeting Bailey, I agreed to open our kennel doors to her. I thought: How difficult could a 25-pound dog really be? Plus, she wasn’t even a year old. However, soon after being dropped off at our vet in Gardena, I got a call from them letting me know she was “spicy.” That was their exact word! Bailey arrived at our kennel shortly thereafter and I quickly knew exactly what they meant. That is to say, I saw the “spice” right away! She was barking, fearful, and disoriented, and I was immediately saddened by how much she must have been missing Sylvester. At first I kept her on leash and took my time gaining her trust, slowing approaching and allowing the bonding process to unfold. As days turned to weeks, Bailey’s stay got extended twice with us so we had more time to work together. And through consistency and patience, she began to blossom.

Before my eyes, Bailey became a dog who enjoyed running around and playing with other dogs. Although she still barked at new people, she grew more confident. Sylvester was healing nicely and when he finally told us he had been released and was ready to take Bailey back, I was happy for him. For both of them. But to be honest, I was also incredibly sad. I thought: What if she didn’t want to go back? What if she got lost on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles accidentally? And if she did, how would she survive? Wouldn’t she miss the new dogs friends she’d made here, too?

The reality is, after twenty years of caring for other people’s dogs or rescuing and rehabilitating them until they get adopted, sometimes I still get too attached to one, like I did with Bailey. Of course I said goodbye and let her go to her first home, which should be her forever home. But it hurt. It’s okay that it hurt, and it’s okay to admit that it did. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat regardless. Especially when I heard from our kennel manager who drove Bailey to Sylvester’s new apartment. She said it took Bailey a minute to recognize her dad. But then instantly and fully, she went wild with joy, tail wagging, surrendering herself to the happy, balanced puppy she had learned to become. Bailey was indeed home, and it filled me with gratitude to have been a part of her story.

The truth is I might still get too attached to dogs sometimes. Maybe I’ll never learn how to full detach. But I’ll still help them. It’s still worth it. As for Sylvester and Bailey, they’ll be part of the DDR family forever. We told him that if he needs more help down the line or a place for Bailey to stay, or if he just needs more dog food and supplies, we’re here for them both. We always would be.

Thanks to you, our fans and friends, DDR can make those promises. Thanks to you, we’ve been able to help more pet owners like Sylvester than we ever thought possible. Now he has the opportunity to enjoy a new, healthier life, in his new apartment, with the little dog he rescued off the streets. His girl, his Bailey, his family. We would never stand in the way of that; we exist to strengthen it. We appreciate you for continuing to support our work so that we can continue to help keep pets and the people who love them together. We know Bailey and Sylvester thank you too.