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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?

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