Paperwork comes first, even for Summer

Posted 9/28/23

The dogs greeted us as we pulled into a parking space in front of EGAPL Heart of Rhode Island home on Worthington Road in Cranston. We couldn’t see the dogs but they knew there was a new …

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Paperwork comes first, even for Summer


The dogs greeted us as we pulled into a parking space in front of EGAPL Heart of Rhode Island home on Worthington Road in Cranston. We couldn’t see the dogs but they knew there was a new arrival early Saturday afternoon.

It has not been all that long since we had to put Ollie down on July 4. He was 16 and was suffering from a ruptured tumor that would have required surgery and a dubious recovery. While in a sense welcoming a new dog into our home would seem like a betrayal, I was reminded an adoption would guarantee a displaced animal a home. It was a good way of looking at it.

Carol wasn’t entirely ready. She knew what she wanted in our new canine companion and made a list including weight – 50 pounds or less - short haired, house trained and two to four years old. However, the thought of Ollie, his independent streak and even his adventurous escapes that tested our patience, are still painful, bringing tears to her eyes.

I prefixed our visit with a call to Karen Kalunian who once worked at EGAPL and now runs Animal Talk. Her column appears weekly in these pages. Karen is at the core of adoption organizations throughout the state. She knows people who do this wonderful work and even more amazing many of the animals available for adoption.

Since we thought we’d start at the Heart of Rhode Island, Karen suggested we look at Summer, a female with a pretty multi-colored coat and disposition Karen though would fit with us. She mentioned a few drawbacks. Summer is protective of her food and her space, however she thought these could be characterizations that might change once Summer is in a home.

Karen said she would let Donna, who volunteers at Heart of RI, know we would be coming.

It was a plan, although I was not prepared for how the adoption process has changed since we spotted Ollie watching us from a cage and knew we wanted to get to know him. That was about eight years ago and the process then was to be shown to a room where we got to meet Ollie.

Prior to Ollie, we adopted Binky from the Warwick Animal Shelter. A mix between a greyhound and Doberman, Binky was a big lanky smart dog with a sweet disposition, love for running and highly protective. Unlike Ollie he was a homebody. Binky picked us.

After being introduced, we took him for a walk along the embankment beside the animal shelter. We didn’t get too far before he jumped into the car through the open passenger window. When we got him home we put him on a wire run I’d rigged between two trees. Ten minutes later we heard the back door open. We were startled. There was Binky. Somehow he had given the wire run the slip and stood to open the door. That was the end of the run.

Our introduction this time around was a four-page application. It had the basics including name, address, phone number and age. That was okay, but what on earth did my license number have to do with adopting a dog? Then there was a list of desirable characteristics from housebroken (now, that’s a good thing) to being good with kids, cats and other dogs.

A couple and their two kids were ahead of us. They were just finishing their application. The kids were excited about meeting the dogs. Nicole brought out a puppy which she didn’t let out of her arms or for the family to handle. She had not had her round of vaccines. A second puppy that looked to be younger was brought out. Neither were available for adoption at this time. The family left.

Donna and Nicole looked over the application that I had not fully completed. They asked questions and filled in a few of the blanks. Nicole described Summer’s characteristics, bringing up the points Karen raised. She asked whether we thought this would make for a good match, or should we consider another dog? We told stories about Ollie and Binky. In the end we never met Summer or other dogs for adoption. We never saw them.

Perhaps we weren’t ready anyhow. Nonetheless, I was introduced to how carefully organizations like Heart of RI screen those looking to adopt and understanding an animal before deciding it’s a good match.

The days of having a Binky jump into a passenger seat through an open car window – the ultimate of the dog picking its master – I fear, are gone. It’s paperwork. It’s being cleared. It’s a background check. It’s checking off all the boxes. Is there room for the heart?


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