I did this post a long time ago. I’m not sure why I never posted it but our good friends over at Oh Corbin just did a similar letter and I was reminded that this draft was still there. ————————————————————————–
A while back, a woman posted a letter to her newly rescued dog’s previous owner. It went viral. I’m not sure when she was writing it that she knew that might happen. The writer/rescuer received countless accolades and endless negative feedback. Many embraced her anger at the dog’s previous owner while others found it wildly judgmental. The thing is, the dog that was rescued had just died. Grief can be very powerful. With grief, often comes anger. I found it sad that so much energy was focused on taking sides when we could have been celebrating the dog’s life. I think most of us rescue not to judge, but to save. That non-judgement should extend to those who surrender, those who rescue, those who foster, those who foster fail (my favorite of all failures!) and to those who grieve.
(To ALL animal abusers, you are on your own; you we will judge harshly.)
I was torn when I got Melvin, I was happy he was mine but upset that his owners let his health deteriorate It took me a little while to just feel grateful. This letter might have been different if I’d written it when I first got him. With time comes clarity.
Dear previous family of then Riley,
Thank you for deciding to not be dog owners. It’s because of you that my heart is full and my life is happy.
I was told of your frustration with owning Riley, that everyday you’d let him out in a fence-less yard before you left for work and that he’d wander off. You’d probably met some wonderfully well-behaved dogs in your life and you likely assumed Riley would hang out and wait for you while you were gone. Let’s be honest, Riley was not wonderfully well-behaved back then. He was a need-a-fence kinda dog. (To this day his recall is only mediocre). I’m just so thankful he was never hit by a car. They told me how frustrated you were that animal control had picked him up so many times and that on that last time, when they called you said: Keep him. Those two words, changed my life forever. When he left you and came to me he had mange and giardia and massive yeast infections, not to mention his horrible allergies. I want you to know that he’s so much better now, I don’t think you’d even recognize him!
I know that someone, somewhere did something to him with hangers. If that was you, I hope that heavy regret has set in. I pray that whoever it was, if they ever consider getting another dog, that the universe puts a hanger in their path and they’re reminded that they are not dog people. I want to assure you, his current life is free from punishment, what is required from him is only what he has to offer. Some days it’s exuberance, some days it’s sleep. Today it’s regurgitation. It’s all good.
I didn’t like you at first. But I know now that you and I were meant to unite. I’m eternally grateful you didn’t allow the vet to put him down. I’m sure many would have seen ‘the worlds most allergic dog’ as a hopeless case. I’m thankful you said – maybe someone else can help him. I imagine defeat was hard to admit. Or maybe you celebrated his departure. Either way, that’s okay.
Here’s the truth: I understand. I know how much money his medications cost. I know how expensive his food can be. I know, that just when I think we’ve spent all we can on tests, more are needed. He is not the dog for everyone and you didn’t know that when you went and picked him from the litter. I will probably never be able to retire, but I was able to make that choice freely when I took him. I really do understand.
His name is Melvin now. He is healthy. He is happy. He is my heart. He knows true love. He personifies joy. He and I were meant to be together which means you were meant to have him first. I rescue dogs, that means that they each have previous owners, a past that I have zero control over.
Thank you, for giving him up. You did the right thing. If we were ever to meet you on the street, I know he would greet you with love and understanding and wiggles.
Me. His forever.
PS. No, you cannot have him back.