A thank you note, to Melvin’s first family.

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.

24 thoughts on “A thank you note, to Melvin’s first family.

  1. I love feeling your love for your boys through your words. This is so beautiful…and while we can’t undo or completely understand their past, it sure does make us grateful for the here and now moments to give them the best today possible.

  2. This has me crying because it’s just like my heart dog story. Coco and the dog she lived with would escape out of the yard they were in and run the streets of DC. Animal control would pick them up and contact the owner who would come get them. The last time this happened, they had recently chopped her ears off themselves and mangled them. Due to her needing lots of vet care, the owner had 3 months to pay the Humane Society back before he could pick his dogs up. He didn’t care to pay for her so let her stay the 3 months until she was legally property of the Humane Society and she came up for adoption. A few months after we got her, she came down with IMHA and almost died. We frequently think about how most families would not have paid the $6k plus it cost to keep her alive. We are forever grateful for this crappy person chopping her ears off (it has opened us up to many conversations with people about our “pit bull”) so she ended up with us. It has also allowed us to become part of the amazing rescue community that Baltimore has. I am not a religious person but often think about how the community that a church offers sounds wonderful. I now can say that I am a part of the best community I can imagine. Coco has also been the foster to sister to multiple dogs (and two cats!) and has inspired many to rescue and adopt their new furry friends. Thanks again for sharing this amazing letter.

  3. An amazing letter indeed. Such a pleasure to read and I have such admiration for you guys who are so understanding of what you babies endured before. Although I’m not nearly as angry with the previous owners I still harbor some deep resentment. I do have to admit though that with time what I seem to experience more and more toward them is gratitude that they let her (Shelby) and him (Mack) go otherwise they would not be mine!!! And I do LOVE that they are mine. Thank you for sharing. I think reading these types of notes actually help me to deal with my feelings about Shelby and Mack’s previous lives. 🙂 <3

    • It is not easy. We are called by the universe to love them but our first instinct is protection or being their voice. At the end of the day, the love matters most. And dogs are so forgiving. I mean how do they do it so effortlessly?

  4. You are too nice…I could not be that nice. I love this: “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.” Sweet and funny 🙂

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