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April 10th, 2019 Leave A Comment

Words That Broke Her Heart

“No Heather, Rusty won’t be there when we get home.” I was speaking the words I knew would break her heart. “Why, daddy? Why not?” she asked as the tears began to flow. “Well, Heather, when you told me last night that you’d rather spend the night with Lianne than be home when the SPCA brought Rusty to our house, I realized that you didn’t want him as badly as you had said and that he wasn’t all that important to you. And I couldn’t allow him to come and be a part of our family if that were the case.”

When Heather was 12 she wanted a dog so badly that she wrote a short essay for Linda and me to try and make her case. She wrote:

                                    Why Dogs Are So Important To Me

I think dogs are the best animals in the world because 1. They are “man’s best friend”. 2. They are your first warning sound. 3. Once they get to know you they will protect you. They are also cute and cuddly! I need a dog because all of my good friends live far away and my dog would be someone to play with. I would walk my dog, feed him, scoop the poop, and do everything necessary. I am responsible enough to have a dog and if you don’t believe me you can find a job for me or help me find a job and I’ll do it!”

In May of that year, Linda and I decided that we would adopt a dog for Heather. A German Shepherd – Rottweiler mix named Rusty was awaiting a family at a nearby SPCA. He weighed about 110 pounds and had a beautiful rust colored coat. Heather instantly fell in love. Rusty however did not look us in the eye and never seemed to connect with us or return Heather’s affection even though she was sure he was the best dog ever. He had been adopted and returned to the shelter twice, not a good sign and one that we were ignoring.

I told Juan my friend at work that I was getting Heather a dog. At that time his family had at least 3 dogs. He said “Whoa Tim! You don’t get a dog for a child, you get a dog for the family. Kids will tell you everything you want to hear about how they will take care of it etc. but you will end up being the caretaker, it will be end up being YOUR dog so don’t ever think that you’re getting it for a child.” I filed that advice away in my mind.

After having dinner with our friends the Clark’s the night before Rusty was to be delivered Lianne, their daughter – one of the “good friends who live far away” in Heather’s essay, invited her to spend the night. Heather asked me if she could stay over. Suddenly I realized that this was going to be a really important conversation. “Well the SPCA is bringing Rusty first thing in the morning and if you spend the night, you won’t be there to greet him when he arrives” I said. Heather said that she hadn’t seen Lianne in a long time and would be able to greet Rusty as soon as she got home. I asked her if she was sure that was what she really wanted and she assured me it was.

Sirens, bells and whistles were going off in my head as if I was watching an old time July 4th parade! And thankfully Juan’s wisdom popped back into mind. Immediately I knew that it was completely wrong to adopt this dog. Heather wasn’t ready and all the motivation was wrong. I called the SPCA first thing in the morning and told them we couldn’t adopt Rusty and please do not deliver him today – everything is on hold.

Driving down to pick Heather up was a relatively short 45 minute ride for me but for both of us it was a long ride home to a house with no dog. Heather went to her room and sat on the floor with a tissue box beside her blowing her nose and sobbing “I made the wrong decision. I made the wrong decision.” I tried to comfort her saying that it wasn’t a right or wrong decision, it was just one that made me realize that the rationale, motivation and timing were not right.

This was one of the hardest things I ever had to do with a child up to that point. It was gut wrenching but it wouldn’t have ended well and it wasn’t fair to the dog or the rest of the family. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions and deal with the consequences. It was a tough day, emotions were running high but it was the right thing to do.

Heather eventually got over her disappointment at not getting Rusty – kids are far more resilient than we think. Linda and I got over having to disappoint her. I have no idea whatever happened to Rusty. I do know that as Heather would learn over time there is some truth in the verse from the old Rolling Stones hit.

“No you can’t always get what you want,

You can’t always get what you want,

You can’t always get what you want,

But if you try sometime you find,

You get what you need”

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