The other day I was listening to Fiddler on The Roof, one of my favorite musicals ever. I love the story, the music, the dancing, and the history portrayed in this show about a patriarch trying to do what he feels is best for his five strong-willed daughters amidst the backdrop of life among the Jewish community of a pre-revolutionary Russian village. Fiddler won multiple Tony Awards and the movie version won three Oscars.
I used to live in Africa when there were many arranged marriages. I could never understand how that would work. How could you commit to marrying someone you had never met and spent time with or possibly had never even seen in person? I asked people and they would just shrug and say that it worked because they had no choice and that was life.
Yesterday, while listening to Do You Love Me? from Fiddler, I remembered those conversations. In the song, Tevye questions his wife of twenty-five years, the mother of his five daughters, does she love him. She seemingly doesn’t understand the question. She tells him that with all the problems in their little world maybe he’s just upset, or maybe it’s indigestion. But he persists. Here is a snippet of that poignant song.
Tevye: The first time I met you was on our wedding day. I was scared.
Golde: I was shy.
Tevye: I was nervous.
Golde: So was I.
Tevye: But my father and my mother said we’d learn to love each other and, now I’m asking, Golde… Do you love me?
Golde: I’m your wife!
Tevye: I know. But do you love me?
Golde: Do I love him?
For twenty-five years, I’ve lived with him,
Fought with him, starved with him.
For twenty-five years, my bed is his.
If that’s not love, what is?
Tevye: Then you love me?
Golde: I suppose I do.
Tevye: And I suppose I love you, too.
Together: It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after twenty-five years, it’s nice to know
So what does this have to do with rescuing dogs? This morning as I took Coconut out for a walk I started singing Do You Love Me? and it instantly hit me that marrying someone you barely know is not unlike bringing a rescue dog into your home after a brief meet and greet.
Most people who adopt might have decided between a puppy or a senior or something in between. Do they want a large or small dog or a specific breed? Or if they are like me, they put zero thought into what kind of dog might work for them.
Before COVID-19, people had the luxury of choice. They could stop by seven days a week as their schedule allowed, meet two or three dogs, go home and talk about it, and them come back the following week and look at yet more options. By the time they took their new dog home, they had fallen in love. But there was still the settling in period. Just like in a marriage.
The first evening I didn’t know about kenneling a dog when he was alone resulting in an emergency vet visit, a destroyed pantry, and having to replace my drapes, curtains, and shades. A very costly mistake. And that was just the beginning. No matter how much I wanted a dog I had no idea of the knowledge, work, time, and patience it was going to take to not just fall in love with him, but to make him a part of our family. I’ve come to realize that I likely could have adopted a dog I’d never seen and knew nothing about and gotten very close to the same result as long as I was willing to put in the hard work.
And the same can be said of those arranged marriages. Relationships, be they of the human or canine variety, take time to gel. When both parties decide they want it to work it is amazing how well things go. I can’t imagine being married to anyone else, though there are days when I wonder why I ever got married at all, and the same goes for this dog of mine.
Please remember this when we have available dogs. They go so quickly that it seems amazing these adoptions go as well as they do. We still do the same kind of vetting as we always have, but people have less time to “fall in love” with the dog of their dreams. These days, the overwhelming majority of dogs are reserved sight unseen with a non-refundable deposit or a full adoption fee. Those adopting might have had an idea of age or size or breed, but they no longer get to take time to evaluate and see a variety of dogs. And you know what? It’s working!
While we are looking forward to one day getting larger numbers of dogs more consistently, we have learned a lot during this time. We’ve learned that dogs are awesome and that if people are committed to training, schedules, nutrition, healthcare, and love they’ll likely have a long and loving relationship that will be mutually beneficial to both parties.
Kind of like marriage.
Now, if there was a dog in Fiddler on the Roof it would be perfect.