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Do You Ever Miss a Dog You Chose Not to Adopt?

Before I adopted Maybelle, I spent a lot of time with Wilbur, a sweet Pit Bull I adored but didn't think would be a good match for me. I still think about him.

Theresa Cramer  |  Jul 17th 2015


Sometimes adopting a new pet is simple. A stray kitten shows up on your doorstep, or you go into a pet store only to find an adoption event happening and just can’t walk away from that one dog. But my road to adopting Maybelle wasn’t that simple.

When I bought my house, I knew I wanted a dog, and I let my friend, Cathy, an animal control officer, know that I was searching. She did not hesitate to tell me she had a Pit Bull in her pound who she just adored and knew I would too. Cathy was right. Wilbur was a little red Pit who loved to play with the other dogs at the pound — even a big Great Dane mix with Wobbler’s — but who was a bit timid around men. Cathy’s fiancé managed to win him over, though, and would take him on field trips to watch softball at the nearby high school, where he basked in attention from the kids.

Wilbur on one of his “breaks” during our walks.

Wilbur on one of his “breaks” during our walks. (Photo by Theresa Cramer)

There were two small problems. Wilbur was not only the laziest dog I’d ever met, but after months of being at the pound, he still hadn’t managed to learn how to sit on command. In other words, he was not particularly trainable. I would visit Wilbur once a week or so, and take him for a walk around the schoolyard. It was July, so it was warm out, but they were not overwhelmingly hot days. Wilbur and I never managed to make it back to the pound without him lying down and giving up on our walk halfway through. Once, I thought I was going to have to call Cathy and ask her to come get him in the truck. And even though I took treats with me on each walk, he never did learn to sit.

I got so far along in the process as to ask Cathy to bring him over to my house to meet my cats. We hung out and had a beer, while Wilbur sniffed around and the cats were locked in a back room. When I finally opened the door for the cats, Jerry had the good sense to hide. The thing about Ruby is that when she recognizes a dog she can push around, she will. So she marched into the living room, hugging the perimeter, and sat down under an end table right near Wilbur. He went over to sniff, and she whacked him in the face. He made some noise and tried to retaliate. Cathy and I yelled. He stopped. While he wasn’t much for training, he also didn’t want to make you mad.

Maybelle, whom I eventually adopted, is a much better hiking partner than Wilbur would have been.

Maybelle, whom I eventually adopted, is a much better hiking partner than Wilbur would have been. (Photo courtesy Theresa Cramer)

So now I had three reasons to think twice about adopting Wilbur. I wanted a dog to go on long walks and hikes with me. Wilbur wanted to lie around the house and maybe chew on a ball. I enjoy dog training and was used to herding breeds who often outsmarted me. Wilbur was a sweet but bad student. And though I knew Wilbur was a gentle soul, I was not convinced that Ruby would ever stop provoking him.

I decided I should see what other dogs were out there. I turned to Petfinder and immediately became overwhelmed. How does anyone ever choose a pet from that site? I was paralyzed by the sheer variety of choices. Then I found dog named Bella who was living in a prison where she had undergone rigorous training and passed the Canine Good Citizen test. Adopting her would mean having to drive from Connecticut to Virginia, but that seemed like a fun trip.

Maybelle and Ruby have a grudging respect for one another. (Photo by Theresa Cramer)

Maybelle and Ruby have a grudging respect for one another. (Photo by Theresa Cramer)

I applied, but a series of mishaps and miscommunications ensued. I sent emails and left voicemails. By the time I heard back again, I’d already walked into my local humane society on a whim and walked out with Maybelle.

One of the first things I did when I adopted Maybelle was pay a visit to Wilbur at the pound. I wanted to be sure that they were buddies just in case he ever needed a place to go.

Wilbur was adopted soon thereafter by a family who wanted a low-key dog. From what I hear, the parents would often wake up to find their toddler sleeping in Wilbur’s bed with him, both of them snoozing away. He got the life he deserved, but I always wonder “what if.”

Do you ever miss a dog you chose not to adopt? Tell us your story in the comments!

Read more by Theresa Cramer:

About the author: Theresa Cramer is a journalist and editor by trade, an NPR addict, and an avid gardener. She blogs at Writer on the Prowl, where you will find pictures of her garden, her pets, and musings about whatever is on her mind. She is working on a book about content marketing and how to make the transition from journalist to brand journalist.