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Why I Don’t Use the Phrase ‘Forever Home’

Dog shelters and rescue groups put too much emphasis on finding “forever homes.”

A “forever home” means the dog will live with that same family for the rest of her life.

The dog will never be surrendered to a shelter, re-homed or abandoned.

Yes, this sounds great. Ideally, every dog would be loved by the same family all her life in a “forever home.”

But this is not reality.

Circumstances change; sometimes finding a new family is best for the dog.

Why I don't use the phrase 'forever home'

Three reasons why I don’t use the phrase ‘forever home’:

1. Circumstances change. Re-homing a pet is sometimes the best choice, even if you love your dog very much. Re-homing a dog does not make someone a bad dog owner.

2. The phrase can be hurtful. Sometimes people love their dogs very much but can’t keep them for whatever reason.

3. Dogs don’t truly NEED forever homes. Most dogs actually adapt quite easily to new families. In that sense, “forever home” is designed around people – to make us feel good about ourselves. It’s not necessarily in the best interest of the dogs.

I am forever grateful for my dog Ace’s previous owner in Ada, Minn.

She did not provide “Junior” with a forever home. Instead, she gave him a solid start in life and then helped him find a different one with me.

My dog knew nothing but love, consistency and safety throughout his 12 years, in part because of his previous owner.

Ace and me That Mutt

I hope she has gone out and gotten a new dog since then, if her circumstances are right for it now.

I am lucky to have a stable life with a support system – my husband, parents, siblings and good friends. I have steady work and good health. I can afford the things I need, and I live in a nice community.

I’m lucky I have never had to consider re-homing any of my animals, except for a dog I tried to adopt last year who ended up not working out. She was able to go back to her breeder and has a great life there.

It’s OK if you don’t provide a ‘forever home’

I would love for every dog and cat to have a “forever home.”

However, if every dog or cat is loved and given the care she needs, then that works too. Sometimes that means staying in the same home forever. Sometimes that means living in two or three different homes; that’s OK too.

There’s a stigma that if you don’t keep your pet “forever” and you “dump” him at a shelter you are a bad person – unworthy of loving a dog, even.

It’s common practice for rescue groups to reject people from adopting if they admit to re-homing an animal in the past, regardless of circumstances. This is not helpful for the dogs in need of homes today. It’s not helpful for the people can provide a good home today.

Yes, sometimes people truly do abandon their pets for unfair or selfish reasons. A small percentage of people do bad things. We will never be able to change that.

But it’s far more common for people to re-home their pets responsibly by finding them new homes themselves or by working with the right shelter or rescue group when needed.

We can’t criticize people for doing the right thing.

Rather than finding a dog a forever home, let’s find her a TODAY home.

Let’s offer support when needed to keep pets and families together longer and to find new homes when appropriate. This could be as simple as donating a bag of dog food to a pet food bank or volunteering at a low-cost vaccination event. It could mean supporting affordable dog training classes or donating to a low-cost spay/neuter clinic.

Why I don't use the phrase forever home

Yes, I agree. Forever homes are great.

But loving our animals, doing the best we can and adapting to current circumstances – that is reality.

What’s your take on this?

Have you ever re-homed a pet or known someone who has?

Let me know in the comments if you would consider dropping the phrase “forever home.”

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Related posts:

Surrendering your dog to a shelter

Re-homing a dog doesn’t make someone a bad dog owner

Why do people give up their pets when they move?

Terri Abbett

Tuesday 10th of August 2021

I agree. I have been a forever home for many pets. I am very grateful to the people that did the right thing in rehoming a dog or cat they could no longer handle/keep to me. My Vizsla is a real joy to me as was the one before him and those that I will adopt in the future but the breed is not for everyone. I am glad Keeve’s first owner recognized a vizsla was not the dog for him after 10 months when Keeve’s behavior issues were still easy to overcome. My first, Evita, was dumped in the country at 2 and lived wild for who knows how long, I loved her fiercely but she had big issues from bad experiences.

Joanne

Sunday 15th of April 2018

I was given a female GSD from a previous owner that had to give her up. It broke his heart and we are still in contact. I have had her for over a year and she is a well-socialized dog. She does have leash aggression because she had been attacked while on a leash while with him and once while I had her. She is doing better ands she doesn't do well with big dogs, she is use to little dogs. Every one that meets her, loves her and she is a favorite at DDC. If I have to give her up and I hope not, she will go back to the previous owner. She is five years old now and I hope to outlive her. I have her on a raw food diet and hope to keep her healthy for the rest of her life. It's interesting what you learn from have multiple dogs.

Dianne

Thursday 19th of January 2017

I had to re home one of my Keeshond. I was getting a divorce & moving into another house. I had 6 dogs. I rehomed one. The one I rehomed was a big barker & didn't get along with one of my other dogs. He was also an attention seeker. I was afraid the new neighbors wouldn't appreciate his barking, I felt bad for the dog he kept going after, & with 6 dogs, giving him all the attention he was seeking wasn't possible. He went to a senior couple & got so much more attention as an only dog. I cried my eyes out but believe I did what was right for him, my other dog & myself.

Edwin Freber

Friday 18th of March 2016

so why do dog rescues make it so blank hard (plus expensive) to adopt a dog. I am tired of filling out forms and asking to meet with a potential "forever dog". It would be easier to adopt a human. (By the way - I am old and my last loving companion dies in January after 15 wonderful years together).

Steve Birnbaum

Monday 22nd of April 2019

You are right. I visited a friend in Florida who had a great dog and since my therapist has frequently suggested a therapy animal (I am 71 and live alone) I decided to look to get one when I got back. Well I was amazed and appalled by the paperwork and the hoops you have to jump through to try and get a rescue dog; I think getting a job at the CIA would be easier. I know these people have the best intentions but they are way overdoing it withe the 20 pages of forms to fill out, home visits, "appointments" to meet the dogs, etc. A person like me is trying to save a dog and get a companion; why make it this hard? If they are trying to get people away from pet storea and puppy mills, this is not the wat to do it. Petco will be my next stop.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 18th of March 2016

So sorry to hear you've had a difficult time trying to adopt a dog. For what it's worth, you're not alone. http://www.thatmutt.com/2012/09/28/too-difficult-to-adopt-a-dog/

Sean

Thursday 25th of February 2016

I agree that there is so much judgment and shame about re-homing dogs. While there are people who don't take the commitment they have made seriously (or think dogs are disposable), there are also many responsible people who face circumstances to re-home.

I have had to deal with divorce and relocation and dealing with dog "custody" issues, based on what's best for both the people and dogs involved. It's never easy (still trying to teach the dogs to skype). I've also experienced the challenge where a difficult dog can be (barely) manageable for 2 of us working together, but when the relationship ended, neither person could care long-term for the challenging dog due to work situation, finances, and the time/energy involved in giving a good quality of life to the pup.

Even if people aren't 'judge-y' about it, it is still hard to talk about no longer living with dogs you care for and love. It's also really hard to explain what happened to the dogs to other people when having casual conversations with people if you don't want to share your entire life story. If there was more expectation that not every home is a "forever home," it would be easier to have these conversations with people.