Jo Ann Jaacks: Who is the real rescue?

Jo Ann's "rescue kitten," Darlin' plays with a toy.

It’s been 10 years now since my Pomeranian passed away after sharing our lives for 17 years. I came to the certainty that although it’s painful to lose a beloved pet, it’s also a testament to that loving companionship to seek another pet. Although Reni came to us as a purebred puppy from a very reputable breeder in Florida, I decided that adopting a shelter or rescue dog was the right thing to do.

I listed on www.petfinder.com, special breed rescues and all the Connecticut shelters. They all have their own application process which involves a LOT of personal details, and a LOT of daunting questions. The first application I filled out required three references from people who think I would be a good pet caretaker. That was easy because I realized more folks know me as someone who fanatically loves her dog, than know me as a writer. But there are many, many more questions.

Would I seek professional behavioral assistance if necessary? (For the dog, not me. Oh, wait a minute; it’s for both of us.)

Have you considered the daily expenses for maintaining an animal (food, vaccinations, monthly heartworm preventative, monthly flea/tick preventative, unexpected medical expenses, grooming, obedience classes, etc.)? I emptied my savings account and maxed out my credit cards for Reni’s cancer treatment, taking her regularly to an oncology specialist at the best animal hospital in upstate New York. Yes, I know dogs are expensive to care for.

What would you do if your new dog chewed up a pair of expensive shoes or damaged your furniture? My poodle “ate my Christmas” a month after I brought her home. When a friend and I entered the house for lunch, we were dismayed to see the seven-foot Christmas tree lying horizontal on the white shag carpeting (yes, it was that long ago). The earrings my Aunt Mary had sent me were rent asunder, their delicate gold wires gnawed off. The autographed book that was to be my husband’s special gift was spread-eagled and shredded atop the half-eaten box of European cookies. The lovely white angel tree-topper was face down with wings askew and the heirloom ornaments were in shards, surrounded by tree branches and non-blinking lights. The doggie gate that was supposed to protect against such mayhem was ripped out of the wall.

When my poor little poodle puppy, hanging her head in abject shame, dragged herself across the room, laid down in front of me and threw up on my new red leather pumps, my friend and I consoled each other, then spent our lunch hour at the emergency animal hospital. We laughed about it when we finally got together for a holiday lunch.

The adoption process is difficult, especially since a lot of rescue operations don’t have a brick-and-mortar shelter, just a network of compassionate foster folks. I admire, and am deeply grateful to all the volunteers who snatch animals from certain death, restore them to health and happiness, then carefully choose the right forever family for them. I understand the need for carefully vetting prospective adopters, since many animals in rescue situations have been neglected or mistreated.

After several months of researching, replying and waiting to hear about an available pet, I had the time to honestly assess the situation. I asked myself, and agonized over the answer: Is my true intent to offer sanctuary, or am I the one seeking to be rescued from my own sorrow of loss?

The question answered itself when, two and a half years ago, I was given a “therapy kitten” who was rescued by a friend.

Connecticut Media Group