Growing up, much like other children, I wanted a puppy and constantly begged my parents for one. Luckily for them, my brother was severely allergic and even my hopes of getting a “hypoallergenic” dog were quickly shot down. I quickly realized a family pet was a definite no go, no matter how much I may beg.
Fast forward to my early twenties where I had been living on my own for a while and my desire for a pet became even stronger. Unfortunately, for many years due to rental reasons I wasn’t able to own one, but in 2015 I settled into a place which was pet-friendly. Despite my fear of being a first-time single pet owner, I began my search.
I was looking online at Adopt a Pet when I came across Pepita’s picture. I fell in love with her photo and even more so upon reading she was a three-legged dog. I filled out an application and within a couple of days, I was set to meet Pepita at her foster home.
Reality Vs. Expectation.
The meet and greet was not in anyway what I had imagined. I envisioned meeting a happy, friendly dog filled with excitement and me not wanting to part ways with her. Instead, she spent the entire time cowering in fear with her tail tucked between her legs, head down low, making disgruntled barks anytime I came close. Despite repeated attempts to coax her to come close with treats, the closest I ever managed to get was when she would
take snatch the treat from my hands and enjoy said treat far away. Instead of leaving feeling happy and excited, I left feeling disappointed and discouraged. It breaks my heart to say this knowing what I know now, but I heavily questioned if I should proceed with adopting her still. Perhaps I set my hopes too high imagining such a perfect initial meet; but how could I be expected to take home a dog who wouldn’t even let me get close to her?
Despite all my negative thoughts and fears, I had one even stronger and more important thought-I felt completely unable to walk away from her for whatever reason(s). It’s inexplicable given how poorly our first meet went why I couldn’t let go, but it all makes sense now.
I was open and honest with the rescue group regarding my fears and was advised by the founder (who is well experienced in fostering and adopting street dogs) that they take a little more time to warm up… Once they do, it is so incredibly worth it. I thought heavily about her advice and looked at the bigger picture; Pepita was been a street dog who had to fend for herself prior to being hit by a car and left for dead, she had her right hind leg amputated, put into a shelter with other street dogs and then took a flight from Mexico to Canada to then be placed into another entirely new home and environment, again. Needless to say, she had been through a lot. And just like humans who have gone through difficult or traumatizing situations, she was left still reeling from it all.
I began to see I was expecting way too much from her. I shifted my perspective from wanting this “loving, happy, affectionate dog” to “I am going to be a loving, happy, and affectionate person for and towards this dog.” The rescue group assisted me with my fears by letting me know I could foster with the intention to adopt Pepita, but I knew in my heart and head once she came to me that there would be no going back.
Although it took a while for Pepita to fully trust me, I always refer to her as the gift that keeps on giving. With each day that passes, she becomes less anxious and more trusting. I’ve had numerous friends, family and neighbors comment on how far she’s come since they first met her.
My blessing in disguise.
I had my fair share of worries in the beginning. I worried that her high anxiety would be too much for me to handle, I worried she wouldn’t ever play with all the toys I bought her and most of all, I was incredibly worried that we would never bond. Although Pepita definitely has her issues, she has come such a long way in such a short amount of time. Slowly but surely, she began showing me affection and has no fear in showering me with licks now. The affection isn’t just reserved for me either, but for any returning guest that she may remember. She’s come a long way from barking at people out of fear to now running around in circles out of excitement when a human friend comes to visit.
Despite what she has been through Pepita remains resilient. To be honest, I don’t think she really realizes she’s different in that she’s missing a leg and I surely never treat her like she is. In fact, I often say the unfortunate event of her getting hit by a car was her – and ultimately my, blessing in disguise. It’s why she was found, taken in, and thus brought to Canada to end up here, with me.
When looking for my furever friend I had originally set out for a young dog with little to no behavioral issues, good with people and animals, little to no shedding preferred, and overall didn’t require much training (I went into this really realistic, I tell ya). Pretty much everything I was looking for, I didn’t get in Pepita; instead I got a four-year-old with high anxiety, doesn’t currently do well with hyperactive dogs and who sheds more than I do (and I shed a lot!).
What I did get was everything I needed in my life and that I hadn’t even realized was missing. I have the most loving, loyal, best friend and life-long companion. Nothing makes me happier than to see her happy, and nothing makes me more proud than to think of how far she’s come since I first met her. She’s the perfect balance of crazy and lazy, just like her mama. For this reason and so many more, I truly believe we are perfect for each other.
I knew adopting a dog would be a big life change and a huge responsibility. However, I never in a million years could have grasped just how much my life and myself as a person would change for the better. Shortly after adopting Pepita, I felt a strong need to give back. I had the most unrealistic want to save A L L the dogs- they were all worthy of homes and it wasn’t fair some were adopted while others weren’t… but I like to think of myself as a reasonable person and I knew that was just not reasonable thinking. So, instead of making the impossible promise of adopting every single dog out there, I decided to remain realistic and find another way to give back – and that was to volunteer for the same rescue group that had brought Pepita from Mexico to Toronto.
My volunteer work has led me to newfound friendships with some of the kindest and hard working women I’m lucky to know, quickly becoming a very important and meaningful aspect of my life. It has helped shape me to be a more strong, motivated, and humble person. I discovered the power of my voice, something I knew was always within me but didn’t know how to bring about or was too afraid to do so. Turns out, a passionate and worthy cause was all I was missing…
…and a three-legged companion.
Adopt, Don’t Shop.
I will always strongly advocate for adopting over buying from a breeder. There are so many animals of various ages, sizes, and breeds in desperate need of homes. Some may have issues- whether it be behavioral, medical, or unable to be in a home with other animals, but these issues are (or at least, should be!) made very clear prior to adoption. Work with your local shelter or reputable rescue group and let them know what you’re looking for and they will help set you up with the right furry friend.
Please, don’t contribute to the on-going problem of breeding (especially unethical, backyard breeding) when there are so many dogs already in need of a home.
If you aren’t ready for the lifetime commitment of a dog for whatever reasons, then I strongly suggest looking into fostering. Foster homes are always needed for dogs as shelters are overpopulated and extremely stressful for dogs. Even the best shelters can be a loud, chaotic and frightening place for the dogs living there. Due to the unstable nature of these environments, they can cause even of the friendliest of dogs to become depressed or defensive further reducing their chances at finding a home. Often times, many of these dogs have not had a stable home or a trusting owner before and so these acts of kindness are completely new to them. Through the constant display of affection, love, and trust, it is shocking but nonetheless undeniable how much a dog can change for the better. You might be surprised at the positive impact it has on you as a person, too.