Message from a shelter dog
by Christine Macielak .........................................

First of all, I would like to thank you for choosing to adopt me. By adopting me, you have made a difference for many lives. You have shown the shelter staff, rescuers and volunteers that the work they do here to provide adoption services is not in vain, the shelter system does work. You have made room here for another animal in need, one who will hopefully see the day they, too, will leave for a new home and a new life. Most of all, you have a made all the difference in my life. Before we leave, though, I want you to know some things about me.
First of all, I am looking for a leader in my life. You must be the alpha dog if our relationship is to be a long and happy one. It is an obligation, not an option. Let me explain why: I am entering your world. I want to be a good dog. But I cannot do this by myself, because I don't know what you want or expect from me. I am not a mind-reader, nor am I a little human with fur and a tail. I am depending upon you to teach me to live in your world, and in order for you to be the alpha dog who teaches me to be dependable, steady, understanding, and a loving companion; you must be dependable, steady, understanding, and a loving companion.
Dependable: You must realize, as we start our new life together, that I am not running the show. You are. I need you to understand that I am a physical creature, just like you. I have needs including food, water and shelter. I need to go to the bathroom just like you do. I feel pain when I am hurt or hit or hungry. It is my nature, however, to suffer in silence. My silence does not mean I am not hurting. And when my physical needs are not met by my alpha, I, like any other physical creature, will try to meet them any way I can, and when I do, please don't punish me. You, as the alpha, are the one I look too to provide me with my daily need for food and water and shelter. If you take the time to feed and water me regularly, I will learn to trust you and believe in you and your provision. This will make it much easier for me to learn not to do things for myself, like stealing food off the counters, going through trash, or bothering you while you are eating. I must be let out to relieve myself regularly, if you want me to learn not to do that in the house. If you leave me locked in the house, and just forget about me, I will suffer as long as I can, but, like you, I cannot go for many hours without a bathroom break. I feel cold and heat, too, and I need a comfortable place where I can rest and be protected from the searing heat or freezing cold. None of this takes much time at all. How long does it take to fill a bowl full of dog food and a pail of water? How long does it take to let me out in the yard? Only a few minutes a day will satisfy my physical needs, but if they are not met, nothing else will make sense to me and I will not be able to learn anything. Think about yourself: when you are hungry or thirsty or cold, how much can you think about anything else?
Steady: I am an intelligent creature, capable of learning many things. You've seen the wonder dogs on tv, the ones who save lives, answer phones and square-dance. This does not happen by magic. They are taught everything. You, my alpha, must be ready, willing and able to spend the time it takes to teach me what you want me to know. I learn by repetition and reward. This means I must do the same thing over and over, and every time I do something right, I must be rewarded. The rewards can be a treat, a pat, or even an enthusiastic 'good job'. I have a keen sense of what my alpha is feeling, and when you are not happy with me, I am intensely aware of, and saddened, by that. If you are not happy, don't abandon me. Instead, let us both rest and try again tomorrow. Learning takes time. I must have some of your time every day if I am to learn what you want me to learn.
Understanding: I am a social creature, just like you. I was not meant to be chained up in a yard for days or weeks at a time. I was not meant to live a solitary life. I enjoy your company and look forward to spending time with you. I want to be welcomed into your life. I feel emotions like love, anger, disappointment, happiness and fear. I want to greet you when you arrive, because I am a social creature and being acknowledged by my alpha is a great honor and privilege. When you ignore me, it's as if someone you deeply loved and depended on, someone you wanted to please with all of your heart rejected you.
I also ask for your understanding if I make a mistake. We all make mistakes, so please don't stop loving me if I do something that displeases you. I don't do these things out of malice, with the intention of causing you loss or inconvenience. An understanding alpha knows that, and first looks to see if anything they, as the leader, did to allow the mistake to happen. Was I especially hungry for some reason? Did I not get let out in time because something got in the way of your getting home in time? Do I have a chew toy that I can use to satisfy my natural need and desire to chew? If you, my alpha, have done everything you can to prevent my mistake, and I did it anyway, step back and consider what must be done. Remember that I didn't do it deliberately to hurt you. Please don't hit or kick me, because all I will see is your fist or your foot, and I will feel the blows, but won't know why you are hurting me. Please don't starve me for I am not as advanced in thought processes as you are, and I will not be able to figure out that I am being starved because of something I did hours ago. All I will know is that I am hungry, and my alpha doesn't care. Please don't chain me away from you, or lock me up alone, as that will make me fearful and less able to learn the next time you want to teach me something. Please don't push my nose into any mess I have made. I didn't do it on purpose to make you unhappy, and your anger is confusing and frightening to me. Keep in mind that I may have been ill and couldn't do what I knew was right. This does not mean that I am a bad dog. Violent, cruel, punishment is a reactive approach that causes me nothing but fear and pain and confusion. The best approach is a proactive one. We will work on this together, calmly and consistently, until I understand what you want.
Loving: In all the chaos of life, you will undoubtedly experience many changes. It is my hope and prayer that as your life moves on I will always be a part of it. Please don't forget me in the midst of successes, failures, gains or losses, for I see myself as a part of your life no matter where that life leads. Please remember, too, that I will most likely have a lifespan shorter than yours. I will age and slow down, my coat will not be so shiny, or my legs so fast, but there will never be a day when I will not know you are there. Stay with me, my friend, to the end of my life. It is you I want to see just before the gate of the Rainbow Bridge comes into view. It is there I will wait for you. I will not forget you. Just as I did in this life, I will wait for you, to greet you when you get home.
Comments would be appreciated by the author, Christine Macielak
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