What dogs are meant to us

October 17, 2013

Loving our dog is like loving our child with a fatal disease because we know they will die in a limited number of years, and love them more for that limitation.

Adopting a new dog is to save another life in honor of our late dogs.

Yes, it’s been heartbreaking to me, too, especially when my soulmate dogs died. When one of them, Forte died, I thought that the world was ending on me. So, I was the same as those who believe that they should not adopt a new dog right away, because I was not ready, or feeling that I had to show respect to Forte by not adopting a new dog.

But then, when I adopted Valentino three months later, I regretted that I did not adopt him three month sooner for three reasons:

First, he sort of “reset” the world for me, and got me out of my depression from grieving. I could not even walk the streets alone, as every step I took reminded me of Forte. When I adopted Valentino and took my first walk with him, his gratitude and a bright smile pulled me out of my funk. So I felt dumb that I had unnecessarily tormented myself by staying in that dark place for three extra months.

Second, because I took three months to adopt Valentino, he also suffered three extra months in solitary confinement at an outdoor run of a rescue group in the high-desert. How selfish was I!?

Third, what did I mean by respect for Forte? Whom was I kidding? Dogs are not selfish like us, and Forte would have appreciated it if I had saved a canine buddy in his honor. Adopting a new dog does not replace our late dogs. In fact, we’d never be ready, as we will always love and miss our late dogs. But we are honoring them by saving other lives in their memory.

If dogs had longer lifespans than we do and outlive us, then I’d be worried about what could happen to my dogs after my passing.

So, this is how it’s supposed to work: our hearts are destined to be broken when our canine soulmates leave us for the rainbow bridge, but every time we shed our tears, it teaches us to be less selfish. And that is the ultimate gift our dogs give to each of us — to become a better person.

Marie Atake is Founder & President of Forte Animal Rescue and a former Commissioner on the Board of L.A. Animal Services.