Gotcha Day


Today is my dog Chico’s “gotcha day.” This is the term for when a pet gets adopted from a shelter and becomes part of the family, but it feels a lot like a second birthday for my little buddy.

My wife and I were looking to add to our family, but with my wife’s allergies, we had to be careful. After a couple of failed attempts to find the right dog, we went to our local Animal Rescue League to check out two Bichon Frises named Freddie and Fannie. (At the time, I worked at a mortgage company that will remain nameless, but can be identified as one that has a billion dollar fine hanging over its head, so the idea of having dogs named after two major players in the mortgage industry.) As we walked by his pen to see Freddie and Fannie, Chico jumped and caught my attention. Little did we know it was at that moment Chico jumped into my wife’s and my hearts.

We spent a little time with Freddie and Fannie, but they didn’t seem to take to us very well. As we thought about leaving, my wife suggested we check out Chico. And am I glad she did! Spending time with Chico showed us he was fun, lovable, and above all else the piece of the puzzle my wife and I needed to find to make a whole family. Even though he was 9 at the time, it didn’t matter to us. The three of us bonded in the time we spent with each other. An hour later, we walked out of the ARL with Chico and started our new lives together.

When my wife and I adopted Chico, we didn’t know a lot about his history, so we had to learn by trial and error. From what we were able to gather from his mannerisms, Chico had a tough life. His previous owners gave him up after only a week because they felt he wasn’t potty trained right. He also came into our home with a distrust of men, which made things a little awkward for me since, well, I am one. I also had a slight fear of dogs stemming from a childhood incident where a dog scratched me on my forehead when I tried to pet it.

After months of trying to figure each other out, Chico finally got comfortable enough with us to start playing and being more outgoing. He still has issues to deal with, but my wife and I keep those issues in mind and act accordingly. Now, four years later, Chico is a happy little guy.

Aside from celebrating Chico’s “gotcha day”, I do have a serious message. Don’t overlook the older animals looking for homes. Sure, they’re not as cute as puppies and kittens, but they’re no less loving, no less deserving of a good home. They may have issues as Chico did, but they need love and understanding. And, as Chico did for me, they teach us to be better people.

So, if you’re looking for a pet, adopt, don’t buy. You will save a life and experience a whole new understanding of love in the process.