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Testimonial 56 - Emma and Dolly

You Get Back What You Give Back

Part 1 - Emma

Emma was not the right dog for me. From the start, there were red flags. Why were her owners giving her away for free, instead of returning her to the rescue like their contract stipulated? Why was she wildly jumping up and easily touching my shoulders with her front paws? Why did she tinkle when we went into the condo where she lived? Looking back, these were obvious red flags.  But, at the time, I wanted a dog. She seemed to check off some items on my list, and she was so cute. So, I said yes. A week later, she was home with me. 

At first, it was her peeing on the carpet all the time that stood out. I called the vet and the insurance vet help line. They said that was normal growing pains.  Wrong!  She had urinary incontinence and would wind up on medication that did not help. Then came tearing things up and eating clothing while I was at work, as well as making on the bed and on the floor. It turns out that she had terrible separation anxiety! Things were not going well, but I reasoned that, if I did not keep trying everything I could, I would feel guilty. 

That is when Mary and Helping Pets Behave came into the picture. Mary helped me identify what I felt but could not voice: Emma was not the right fit for me. Giving her back was the hardest thing I could do. I worried what would happen to her. I genuinely had bonded with her and would miss her. And I had sunk a good amount of money into vet visits, medications, replacing ruined items, and toys and other things for her. But, I made the hard decision and turned her back to the shelter, like her previous owners should have done. I later found out that she was adopted soon after and is now in a home that is better suited for her. 

Part 2 - Finding the right dog to adopt

After the dust settled and I got my life back to normal, or some semblance of it, I started to consider that I wanted another dog. Despite the experience with Emma, I loved having a dog. But what kind of dog would I get, where would I get it, how would I react to red flags, and most importantly, would another rescue approve me because I surrendered a dog?

Once Mary helped me narrow my choices of dog to the pug breed, I applied to some pug rescues. I was nervous. During the process of applying, you usually have to talk to someone for a phone interview, fill out a long application, provide references, and answer that dreaded question: Have you ever surrendered a dog? More stress arose with this question, as I tried to calmly explain what happened in the order it happened, and why Emma did not work. It was nerve-wracking, but I moved forward anyway.

To my surprise, however, I find out that returning a dog is NOT a strike against you. Rather, it showed that, as an owner, you realize when it was not working, and you have the dog’s best interest in mind as long as you did what you could do to fix the problem. Plus, it tells the rescue that you are going to return a dog they provide that may not work, which is what they want. I learned, there are many reasons owners give up a dog, and the rescues understand this.  So, all that worrying about returning Emma was for not. It was actually good! 

Part 3 – Dolly (pictured above)

I will not bore you with the details of how I got Dolly, well, not all of them anyway. But once I got past the hurdle of applying and dealing with the returned dog question, I was accepted to a couple of high value rescues. I applied through the Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue for a 11-pound pug named Dolly. She fit the age range I wanted, handled steps well as I live on the fourth floor with no elevator, and seemed friendly. 

Since I was nervous because I did not want another Emma, I spoke with her foster mom and asked my questions and became more comfortable with the idea of Dolly. I shared pictures and videos of her with Mary who assured me she looked normal and sent off no red flags. So, I proceeded to adopt Dolly, and would wait what felt like 6 long weeks to get her.  

As soon as I saw her, her tiny cuteness made my heart jump. Over the next few days with her, I would learn what a great match she was for me. She is housetrained, does not need many walks, is friendly, listens to commands to come, sit, down, up, and more. She is playful and smart. She is a great companion, who loves me as much as I love her.  I could not ask for a better situation.  


So, why do I share all of this. What is my moral? I share because so many people think turning in a dog that is not working out is the kiss of death for adopting another dog. I am here to say it is not! In fact, it is in the best interest of that dog and you. And it can lead to finding an amazing new dog that might just be the one you were looking for in the first place. Plus, without the lessons learned from the dog you are turning in, you will not be as wise in your search process. So do not let the fear of having to answer that question about surrendering a dog hold you back from doing just that. 

Mary has been so helpful in guiding me on steps to find the right dog for me, which is beyond the scope of what I initially hired her for. I am so grateful for Mary. Emma, Dolly, and I have better lives because of it. That is priceless.

Charles Silberman from Laurel, MD

Mary Huntsberry, MA

Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist
Elite Fear Free Certified Professional
Montgomery County, MD

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