Do you remember the first day you brought your pet home? Is it etched in your memory along with other intense experiences like your first day of school, your college graduation or the minute you met your soulmate? If you’re like me, each new pet’s first time in my arms swims in memory along with the best moments I’ve ever had.

All this may sound corny but you know exactly what I mean. Even vets are not immune to the soulful wiles of a first puppy’s eyes or the fascination with a new cat’s household explorations. But our wants and needs in finding the right pet can make selection harder than for non-vets, at least partly because we have so many to choose from. It’s like Sophie’s choice at times: which one to save, which one to leave behind…

Last Friday was my lucky day. I took home a special-needs pup from a local breeder’s reject stash. Before I met him I had no intention of taking anyone home that day—or, indeed, for quite awhile.

It’s true that my nine-year-old Frenchie’s been slowing down somewhat…so I had been pondering the possibility of taking on a new pet within the next year or two—before her cranky geriatric adjustments began to preclude new-dog acceptance. Yet I hadn’t quite planned on it just now. But it’s all about timing, isn’t it? Beyond that, it’s about the right connection with the right animal…whenever it happens.

I’m a firm believer in chemistry. Anyone who’s meant to live with you for fifteen years had better be temperamentally suited to your household and its peculiarities. For me that comes around, on average, every seven years or so.

Because my home has more oddities and requirements than most, and perhaps because I don’t easily connect in a super-personal way to every animal that I’m immediately drawn to, it’s hard for me to find the right match. (Come to think of it, the same has been historically true for my boyfriends.) In fact, none of my five or so foster dogs in the past four years has managed to remain with me. I’ve always found them wonderful homes where that special connection was the ultimate outcome (I’m good at placing; I’d be excellent in human resources).

Like most vets, the irony of living in the land of plenty means that I take them all home or I take the extremely picky approach. I guess my foster dog habit serves to assuage my guilt on having taken the latter path. And like most vets, my choice in pets tends to stray towards the underdogs (if you’ll pardon the pun).

We vets are somewhat notorious for taking on the rejects. Perhaps we recognize that few have the means to accomplish what we can for these guys. And we like to think of ourselves as useful people. The innate efficiency of adopting the super-sick: that downed Dachshund whose owner elects for euthanasia instead of surgery, the cleft-palate pups whose multiple surgeries and need for special care would be impossible for the uninitiated, or the severely allergic pit bull whose days are numbered. These are our domain.

Of course it’s not just us vets. Everyone in the pet service industry has a story. I like to think of us as uniquely positioned to save lives when others can’t or won’t. But because of our ability to render our own services at the price of our own time, energy and professional connections, vets are probably able to assume the biggest risks.

My adoptee has a name: Vincent. He was born with a cleft palate. Although he’s five months old and  already beyond the bulk of his surgical requirements, he’ll probably need more care…at least a surgery or two on his soft palate and/or airway.

Vincent seems great right now. In fact, I feel guilty that he’s not more needy...and that he’s a purebred Frenchie. But sometimes the right connection is everything. After all, Sophie Sue doesn’t like many dogs (she won’t tolerate big dogs jumping on her). And my son has a soft spot for the Frenchie’s modest size and subdued exuberance. To be honest, so do I.

But I’ll keep taking on my downed dogs and pups with impossible fractures. Even if they don’t stay, they’ll get the care they need while they’re with me…and the best adoption agency patience can buy.

I’m sure you have your own stories. Give ‘em up…