In response to the Quora question “I have to give my dog to someone else because I cannot nurture her. But it is really difficult for me. Will my dog accept her new owner?

If you will permit me, I’ll start my answer with a story that may seem unrelated.

I had a dog once that was a rescue from a research project. As much as I would like to make this story cool by regaling my heroic efforts to save him from the tortues of the medical community twelve monkeys style, it is alas not the case. He was born into the research project from a litter which had mostly been afflicted with a debilitating knee dislocation problem – the subject of the research project. As research subjects go, all the animals kept in the project were amazingly well cared for – including social time with the other research subjects and researchers. Well after his formative months, he, for the good or bad luck of it, was determined not not to be afflicted with the pre-requisite problem and thus was of no use to the project.

During his stint in the research project, his caretakers had grown to love him, an inevitable side effect of his openly expressive personality coupled with the fact that he’d spent more time with the researchers than the researched. I can only imagine the heartbreak they felt when they realized that they were unable to keep him in the project. As I understood it, the parameters for the funding of the project dictated that rejected subjects could not be taken home by anyone related to the project and also were not to be euthanized, thus the researchers were forced to try to find him a loving home outside the lab, but because of the bizarre nature of his life so far, they had concerns that he could not be placed in just any home. Growing up in a lab, even if you are treated well and are finally not the subject of the research, has a definitive impact on the development of one’s personality and ability to cope with normal life situations.

To make a long story short and to wholly avoid the conversation about the use of animals for research, I temporarily took him home to help them out while they looked for his new forever home. I was between pets at the moment, having recently lost two to age and health issues, so I had a relatively safe space for him. Three days later, we called off the search for said home. He’d found it with me.

At the time I was working for the same University where the research project was taking place, albeit in a different department. I had no idea who the researchers were, nor who the caretakers had been; that is until I brought him into the facility to have his annual vaccines the following year. I was walking him back to the exam room when I turned a corner and he lost his mind with excitement. Wagging his tail, squealing with excitement and pulling the leash as is if he’d just cornered his favorite prey and I wouldn’t let him finish it. I was a little baffled. There were no other animals in the vicinity. There was another human walking towards us, but one I did not recognize. As she approached she slowed and, looking at me, softly spoke his name. Her eyes were as full of love as his, but also silently checking to see if it was OK to acknowledge him.

As she got within range she got her answer. I let him go to her. Their mutual love was quite apparent. He accepted her cuddles and scratches going belly up for more, a privilege never afforded to strangers.

She and I talked for a few minutes while she hit all his favorite spots with her rubs. We purposefully avoided talking about his past. She couldn’t have told me much anyway. She seemed relieved to hear how well he’d adjusted over the past year.

The encounter didn’t last long. She and I both had other things to do and he was growing tired of being held so we went our separate ways; her leaving in a mix of sadness and pride, he and I simply moving on to the next part of our day.

The encounter left a lasting impression on what I think about a dog’s unconditional love.

Now to answer your question. Yes your dog will likely accept the new owner and will love them as equally as he/she has loved you, though this love will likely be expressed differently. Dogs don’t love in degrees as we do. Your dog will also not grieve long to have lost you, at least not in the way we see grief. He/she may look for you from time to time, but not out of the sadness that so often drives this behavior in humans. It is the nature of dogs. It’s very much one of the reason we love them so. However, your dog is also not likely to forget you. This is neither a happy or sad thing for your dog. The sad thing for your dog would be to keep it in an environment where it does not get what it needs. If you feel that is the case in your care, you are doing a very amazing thing for him/her. Even for “dog people” it is possible to have circumstances arrive in your life that make it impossible to give what is necessary. In “keeping” pets, we are 100% responsable for their well-being, not just for feeding them. Sometimes that means knowing when to keep them and when to let someone else keep them so they too can live their best lives feeling safe, secure and loved. It is precisely everything that we owe them in return for that unconditional love they give so freely.

Featured photo by Sonja Kalee via Pixabay.

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