I couldn’t let Petfinder’s Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable Pet Week go by without sticking up for my canine – and feline – counterparts: the timid guys and the bashful girls.
Pets aren’t in shelters because they’ve committed a crime. Sometimes their owner passes away, leaving no one to care for them. Sometimes their owner has to move and can’t take them along. Sometimes their owner no longer has the means to care for them. Sometimes their owner just isn’t very kind. They are moved from places they knew, places they felt secure – whether actually safe or not – to a building with new smells and sounds. Nothing is the same any more. They don’t know how they got there or if they will ever get out. Their owner is gone, replaced with dozens of strange people they’ve never seen before. They are surrounded by other animals they don’t know – some of whom they are sure they don’t like. They are prodded with medical tools, transported in noisy vehicles, plunked down in carriers, and after all that, they are left alone in a cage with no way out. The experience is nothing short of terrifying.
Many of these animals are plucky. They are able to roll with the changes and show off their best sides. Highly adaptable, these animals are the first to be noticed by potential adopters. They are the ones bouncing around their cages, rubbing their heads against petting hands, barking playfully with wagging tails. They appear fearless, fun, and friendly. Who wouldn’t bond with an animal like that instantaneously?
Sadly, there are also many animals who don’t recover so well. Animals who are more insecure, who have always been a little shy. They have lots of love to give but they are less trusting, more uncertain. These animals don’t rush to the door of their cages with a happy smile or mew. They hide in the corners, turn their backs, and flatten their ears. They pull away from reaching hands, curl their lips when someone moves a little too fast. All they want to do is disappear. Thus, they get passed over. Forgotten. People walk by their cages without even noticing their presence. The longer their stay at the shelter, the more frightened they become. Who could fall in love with an animal like that?
Being shy and easily intimidated myself, I understand a little of what is going through the minds of these reticent dogs and cats. They want to love and be loved. They want to go to a new home where they will feel safe, where they will let their brilliant sides shine. But they don’t know how to get there. They have been rejected too many times already. It’s scary to put themselves out there again. All they need is someone to realize they are not necessarily stand-offish, just shy. They need someone to pull them out of the dark corner and give them time to regain their confidence.
These cute little introverts may not be right for everyone. They may take more patience. They need a quiet home where they can explore in peace. They might not be affectionate at first and they may not be interested in playing with their new toys. But if given a little time and a little space, I know they will eventually become the best dog or cat you have ever known. It’s the more difficult pets that are the most memorable, after all. Picture the first moment your new companion is brave enough to lay beside you on the floor. Imagine how it will feel the first time your timid little dog chases a ball or licks a child’s hand. As my favourite pet adoption video says, the greatest reward isn’t the moment you adopt a pet, it’s the moment the pet adopts you.
The fearful cats and dogs at the shelter may not be the ones you immediately spot when you walk onto the adoption floor. But I think if you do take one home, the love they will bring to your life will be richer than you could have expected. It’s the love that comes from earning an animal’s trust. When you adopt a less-adoptable pet you change lives: the animal’s and your own.
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