It happens all too often – you find a match for your rescue pet, you take them through the process of completing your application process, you provide them with all the resources and knowledge you can to help them transition into pet ownership… and you get a call about two weeks later saying things aren’t working out. Too often, new adopters come to a rescue with the best of intentions and the most loving of hearts, but they’re unable to reconcile their expectation of what having a new pet will be like with what it actually is. For some reason, people expect pets to fall in this box of expectations as if they don’t have individual personalities of their own and the reality check often manifests into post-adoption remorse or “puppy blues”.
Well what now? Obviously, the pet would be better off back with the rescue instead of with a family that doesn’t want it, right? But hold the phone! It’s easy to judge this family or this adopter, but having already approved the application, we know this adopter has the potential to bring so much love and joy to this pet. So how can we help?
Knowledge is Power
You’ve already made your adopter’s acknowledge that new pets require an adjustment period, but have you made sure they really understood what that means? Shout out to the rule of 3s here because that’s something simple to stick in your adopter’s heads that’ll help dip their toe into the cold reality of the situation. They may already love their new pet, but that doesn’t mean their pet is ready to love them back. That’s the first thing they have to understand. It’ll only get better if given the time.
Additionally, referencing back to a handy guide for bringing their new kitten or puppy home can help them figure out what questions they need to be asking you as the rescue! People don’t know what they don’t know, right? And on the day of adoption, how many adopters are actively listening to what you’re saying as opposed to picturing what they think bringing Fluffy home will be like? Remind them about the resources at their disposal and encourage them to ask more questions.
They’re Only Human
Remind your adopter that this feeling is temporary. They’re likely exhausted, especially if they adopted a puppy or a pet that’s only partially housetrained. We’ve all experienced the “not again” headache that appears after the third time cleaning up the same dog’s accident because he’ll spritz a little outside but not empty the tank. But even if they’ve adopted a cat or a bunny, they’re still changing their daily routine. Changes like that take time and patience, and while a new habit is forming, they’re likely to feel stressed out. Sympathize with them, empathize with them, this is your every day! They’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed.
Network of Support
This is a great time to ask your adopter if their family is upholding their end of the bargain or if part of the problem is that one person is fronting the effort? Many of us are familiar with shows like “My Cat from Hell” or “It’s Me or the Dog” and the number one thing they emphasize is that everyone has to be involved. Behavioralists are another great resource you can introduce to the family! Search your local trainers to find someone you like and see if they’d be willing to extend a partnership with your rescue. Or if your animal rescue uses Pawlytics as their management software, you can also make use of our partnership with Petcademy! They’re a fantastic company that provides sms-based support for behavioral issues encountered by adopters and fosters. What’s even better, is that rescues are set up with a dashboard where they can monitor the communication to make sure their advice aligns with your values.
Progress is Progress
At this point, they’ve got the tools they need. They’re feeling somewhat confident again now that they know they’re not a unique case and it all does get better from here, but they’re still a little worried. “What if these feelings come back? What if I do all the right things and the situation still doesn’t get better?”
First off, set their mind at ease that you are a judgement free zone, and you only want what’s best for the animal. Secondly, challenge them to track their efforts. Gamify the integration of their new pet with their family. Tell them to identify two or three main issues they really want to improve and the steps they need to take to do it. By tracking their progress over a couple of weeks, they’ll be able to prove that things are getting better, instead of just guessing.
At the end of the day, we all want the best for the animals in our care, and if the adopter they’re with just isn’t the furry-tail match you were hoping for, that’s ok! You now have more information regarding the type of home and lifestyle that’s going to better suit that pet!