Today is National Sorry Charlie Day. Some of you are old enough to remember Charlie, the cartoon mascot and spokes-tuna for the StarKist® brand. Charlie believed that he was so hip and cultured, that he had “good taste,” and he was the perfect tuna for StarKist®. In another commercial, Charlie insists “I’ve got plenty of heart, but StarKist® wants tuna that’s good for your heart not with heart. Once again, the voiceover would give the hopeful tuna the bad news. “Sorry, Charlie®!”

Before there was Wisconsin and NEW PAWSibilities I was a published book and article writer and spoke throughout the country and at several international events. As a writer, I can tell you I heard, “Sorry, Carmen,” more often than I heard, “Why, yes!” It never stopped being a very humbling experience. What I learned about being rejected was to not take it personally. A similar idea had just been published, I couldn’t get to the conference and so I failed to meet the editor who could have championed my proposal. The list was pretty long. But what I never heard was that I was a terrible writer or that my ideas were dumb. And with each rejection, I learned and polished my writing and ideas until I got a contract and an agent and, eventually, a career.

Some of you are feeling like the Charlie of the rescue dog world. You scan the website every day, you sit down with your morning coffee and this Facebook feed and read about all the cute dogs we have. You confer with your husband or roommate or kids wondering is this the one. You have a checklist of what you need. Not a puppy. No, wait, it has to be a puppy. A small dog, no, a huge one. Certain breed, a certain age. So many options!

You work full-time and when you finally get off work and rush over the “perfect” dog is gone. It’s heartbreaking because you never even got a chance. You hear your own version of, “Sorry, Charlie.”

Or even more heartbreaking is to get there in time only to find out there is no chemistry. The once-coveted dog you just knew was your dog saunters in, sniffs around looking for treats, sits in front of you and says, “Meh.” Really, they say it with their body language or their eyes. They just aren’t feeling you and it’s crushing to be rejected by a dog.

That’s because dogs are smart, emotional, self-aware beings. They instinctively know their person and they will wait for that person. I often ask myself why such an adorable dog found himself to be in a shelter. He’s perfect. He’s cute, the right size, happy, reasonably good at behaving. Once he got here why on earth did he stick around for three weeks? He saw lots of people from what I hear, but we were the lucky ones. My husband walked in wanting a totally different dog and now he can’t imagine ever having the larger female dog of varying breeds. Coconut is perfect for us and every rejection led us one step closer to him.

We have so many dogs who need a home. Dogs who will know that you are their person. It might take two or three visits to find the dog. Your heart might get broken. But every crack in your heart makes you more vulnerable and more open to a greater love of the dog who finally chooses you.

Weekends at NEW PAWSibilities have a kind of frantic energy. It’s peak time for people to look for a dog and so rooms are filled, dogs are being shuffled from one possible person to another. Some dogs don’t get a look. I urge you to be open about choosing a dog. Even if you are convinced of who you want, take a chance on the one who has languished for six months. You never know which dog will give you that, “Sorry, Charlie,” look. You might walk out with the dog you knew was your dog. But you might walk out with the most unexpectedly perfect dog for you. We’ve all heard that choosing a dog may be the only chance you get to pick a relative. Guess what? It’s the only time they get to choose a relative too. You can handle the “Sorry, Charlies” for that one time you get to hear, “You’re mine!”