I’ve been in a dog envy state for a while. I had been waiting until I felt my schedule and traveling had settled to a predictable level that I could responsibly adopt one, and finally that day arrived. Therefore, I’ve been on the hunt for the right hound. I’ve run into a lot of oddly problematic policies which seem intent on creating barriers rather than facilitating homes. For example, I am currently the facilities and program manager for a space, and I own two residential properties in Detroit. Yet, in spite of having deeds to the properties and a clear online verification of my status at the facility, the Michigan Anti-Cruelty rescue wouldn’t let me adopt a dog because they were concerned I didn’t have “permission” to have one and required some type of letter from someone saying it was okay: since I am the decider in all cases, I was confounded from whom this letter should come and what purpose it would serve. So, the cute Papillon mix didn’t come home with me; I will never go back to them; and I will give a negative opinion of their policies to anyone I know. Not a particularly good outcome for their mission, and as a result of inexplicable rationale on their part. A few days ago, I found a doggie at the Michigan Humane Society and my friend piped in, Are there any discounts for vets? I never think of asking, but this is now his roll and he asks everywhere he goes. As it happens, there is a significant discount for adoptions through an external partner NPO, Pets for Patriots, which would reduce the fee from $290 to $100 and has some other veterinarian benefits and such, too. It sounded great, so I demurred from adopting until I had signed up. I filled out the short online form and sent my DD-214 (discharge record). My signature was prominently displayed as Marlena Hanlon, and I referenced the fact that my last name had changed to Hanlon from my nee name. All seemed well and good. Bring on the puppy! I received a response which had the first mistake of using my first name, which I do not use – which I very clearly do not use. The request was for documentation of the name change. Okay, no problem. I responded with a soft correction about using Marlena, and I included an old license which used social security numbers (SSN) as the license number and had my nee name; my social security card with my current last name; and my US Passport with my current last name. Is there any question of my identity? Because, I think that’s the reason for the requirement: for whatever history, the organization is veryconcerned that the veteran him/herself apply and that s/he is a veteran. Okay, whatever: I am me and I do qualify, so it doesn’t matter. But, no. The former marine handling this matter kept insisting on a “legal name change” document, which he defined as a court order, marriage license or divorce decree. And, still, presuming to address me with my first name, which I had now corrected a couple of times – I mean, look, if you don’t want to use my middle name, for whatever reason, then address me by Ms. Hanlon…but you don’t get to throw around my first name like you’re my grandmother. With regard to my last name, however, the change resulted from none of those processes. In the state of California, where I lived when I changed my name, none of those were required for a legal change. It was, in fact, a simple process of changing the name on your license. Same with your SSN; I guess the Social Security Administration figured that since you were using the same SSN, they knew who you were, and didn’t really care what you called yourself. Passport, too – I think I had to fill out a form when I renewed my passport to change the name, but given as how all of this happened 20 years ago, I don’t think it really matters how it went down. Now, keep in mind that the 90s were a gentler time, and the security issues which we have to navigate in the system now weren’t at hand. I’m sure now there’s a DNA swab required. What’s even crazier about this exchange is that the marine stated he’s just following the rules, per their web site. Hey, lady, he seems to say, my hands are tied, your food-possessive Yorkie in waiting be damned. But the “rules” actually state: If married, divorced or for other reason you have changed your name: Proof of legal name change(s), e.g., marriage certificate, divorce decree, other legal document detailing name change So, in fact, I had provided ample evidence of my “legal name change,” including documents which had been approved by every level of government. Let’s be clear: the original DD-214 shows my nee name, birth date and social. My old drivers license also showed those items. My social security card showed the name change under the same SSN, and the passport showed that all of this had been vetted and verified by the US State Department. The University of Michigan provided an in-state tuition benefit on their basis. I have had multiple FBI background checks under my current name and, yes, even the USCG and IRS send correspondence to me as Hanlon. Yet somehow, the line of documentation showing continuous identity with a clear name change is not adequate for adopting a stray dog. I have failed the “requirement” to submit documents which the law never required and therefore do not exist. I wonder if the marine understand that “eg” means for example, and not precisely these and nothing else, because that’s clearly how he’s interpreting the rules, and not what they state. And therein lies the problem. Many organizations suffer from staff who know something about the rules, but not the most critical fact: that is, what is their purpose in supporting the mission? If this rule is to ensure that the discount is not abused, God forbid, by random people who might want to adopt a death-row kitty, but are for sure, definitely, no doubt being used by the actual qualifying vet, then there is no question in this case that the purpose has been met. But without knowing the purpose of the rule, many staff improperly apply them, because, fundamentally, they don’t understand why they are using them. In this case, it manifests as a demand for specific paperwork which, although it meets the criteria, is not the only documentation which meets that criteria. But, this particular person is not thinking about the purpose, or critically thinking about how purpose would be extrapolated. This rule is being applied in such a way that the mission has become ensuring absolute identity, rather than facilitating pets for vets. And, it’s additionally lazy and nonsensical: the Executive Director, Beth Zimmerman, wrote to me to say that they “do not as a matter of course compare social security or other such personal information, but do require legal proof of name change.” So, not only is critical engagement set aside, the effort of comparing SSN and DOB stretches the capacity of staff to a breaking point. Wherever we look in this case, the organization is engaging examples as a fixed check-list, thus creating a barrier in a mission which was founded to create a bridge.