Dog adoption – make the language inclusive, not polarised!

Nandini Vaidyanathan elaborates on the cumbersome process of adopting a dog

We moved back to Bangalore three months ago. We figured pretty early that not too many places here were pet friendly. We were more keen on treks within a 100-km radius that would let us take our 1.5 year old female Labrador, Iris, on day treks. Towards this end, I became a member of a few Whatsapp broadcast groups that consisted of pet parents, dog rescuers, and the rest of the ecosystem such as dog fostering agencies, vets, pharmacies and the like. Somewhere along the way we also decided that Iris might like company of her own kind, so we decided to adopt another dog.
That is when I came to know that this dog adoption business was a thriving industry. I never knew there were middlemen called adoption facilitators. I never knew that there were different agencies dealing with rescue and rehabilitation of exclusive pedigrees. In my naiveté, I thought dog adoption was a simple business. We state our requirement, the agency/owner who fits the bill will reach out to us, we observe the dynamics of the interplay between Iris and the new dog and if both are not tearing into each other, we bring the dog home. Bingo, happy ending.
I was so terribly wrong. First we were asked to fill a very lengthy Google Adoption Form. I protested saying this comes later, right, once we have made the decision with respect to a particular dog? Wrong. This is the starting point. It is like a Spanish Inquisition. Typical questions were: How big (in terms of SFT) is your house/apartment? How many hours in a day will the dog be left alone? Do you have a canine nutritionist who will design the meals for the dog? Have you identified a private behavioural trainer for the dog (not kidding)? Do you have the means for engaging the services of a private vet for your dog?
Needless to say, I had to grit my teeth and fill up this form, not once, but several times. I need not have taken the trouble at all because it seems that our being vegetarian makes us absolute pariahs in the dog-parenting world. Obviously nobody reads the adoption form carefully because I always mention very clearly that we are vegetarian and except for egg, Iris is vegetarian too and we give her home cooked human food which is flavourful, nutritious, varied and enjoyable (please see picture of how Iris is served). Once the adoption papers are submitted online, the next step is that someone from the adoption agency, more likely the adoption facilitator, will call. The last call I had a couple of days ago went something like this:
What food would you be giving the dog?
Home-cooked, nutritionally well balanced, vegetarian food except for breakfast which is a vegetable- stuffed omlette.
What? No meat?
Absolutely not. We are vegetarian, I have written that clearly in the adoption form.
Oh, this will be a short call then. All our dogs have to be given meat. The nutrition has to be decided by our canine nutritionist, whose services you have to regularly engage and pay for. The food has to be dog food, prepared by one of our service partners, you have to subscribe on a monthly basis. You also have to engage with our canine behaviour specialist who will regularly assess the physical and mental health of the dog. And you have to go to the vet that we recommend.
My jaw dropped. It was all done so slickly, so efficiently that it left me speechless (not too many people manage to do that to me, I assure you. And this one seemed to be in her twenties!)
I drew myself up (as much as I could on the phone) and told her: you should have read my adoption form, then there would have been no need to waste my time! Touche! (However petulant and petty it sounds I am very happy that I ticked her off).
My take-away from this brief exercise of trying to adopt a dog are the following:
1. I understand the people concerned are irate at man’s inhumanity to dogs, but if the voices were less superior, less strident and more empathic, may be the dogs will benefit by finding good dog parents who genuinely are willing to provide the best homes for their dogs (like us).
2. You can’t run adoption services like a Nazi general and lay down ridiculous rules.
3. Whilst there is supposed to be no charge for the pets to be adopted, monetizing the ecosystem (nutritionist, behavioral expert, vet, diet) reeks of a racket and if there is good intention behind this whole rescue and rehabilitation process, I couldn’t get a whiff of it anywhere in my conversations.
4. The process of adoption, seemingly to protect their interest, actually discourages serious dog parents from adopting.
Like humans, dogs need a home where the ambient environment nurtures their growth and well-being. For that, the script has to be written in the language of empathy, flexibility and understanding. Else the so called do-gooders will cause as much grief to the dogs as the ones who abandoned them did


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