Thursday, December 29, 2011

What is a "forever home?"

Liam the pug cleans his paws in front of the fireplace of his forever home

People who do animal rescue often use phrases that both baffle and annoy people who do not do animal rescue. The phrase "heart dog" is just one example. If I understand this phrase correctly, it means that the dog in question is somehow very special to the person speaking, and the dog is therefore close to the person's heart. I think....

In any case, one phrase animal rescuers use all the time is "forever home." To outsiders, this phrase can be a bit baffling. After all, animals don't live forever, and very few animals live in the homes in which they were born. To cut down on confusion, I thought I might define what a forever home is.

When animal rescue agencies place an animal, they only want to do it one time. They want the animal to move from the rescue into the place the animal will live until it dies. This means the animal will have only one set of people to live with, and will never be given up, no matter what happens to the people.

So, adopters who want a puppy because it's cute may not be able to provide a forever home. They might be able to give the pup a perfectly suitable home until it grows up, but when it is no longer a puppy and no longer quite so cute, the owners might want to replace the dog with another puppy. The adult dog, then, goes homeless.

Adopters who want to adopt a dog but who have no money to pay for the dog may be in the same boat. Much as they might like the dog, if they can't afford to feed and house the dog now, it's likely the dog will get the boot when the people face an economic setback.

If an animal rescue is looking to place the dog just once, in its forever home, they might reject all sorts of people and continue looking for the right match. It might seem cruel at first, when the animal could simply leave the shelter quickly with the first person who comes along, but if the organization wants to just place the dog once, the patience could pay off.

Why is this all so important? Next time you have an hour or two to spare, go to the pets section on craigslist.com and look for adoption entries with the words "moving" or "lost my job" or "no time" in them. You'll find hundreds of adult pets who thought they were in their forever homes who are suddenly without any homes at all.

Forever homes seem to make emotional sense, but sadly, many people have no intention of providing their animals with forever homes. Let's hope this will change. If this little, clunky term helps turn the tide, I'll use it. Will you?