Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

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When to Say Goodbye to A Pet Dog

My husband and I adopted our pet dog almost nine years ago from a rescue center in Connecticut.  In actuality, it was perhaps our dog who rescued me from a dark time of depression.

She was sweet and a good companion.  And two days ago we decided to get rid of her.

We named her Joplin, after Janis (not Scott).  We thought she was a runt black lab puppy, but when she stopped growing at 35 pounds, we realized that her slender legs and face indicated a terrier mix.

For four years, Joplin went everywhere with us and we were perfectly happy.  Then we moved across the country and had a baby and realized that our dog was a dog.  Suddenly the pet dog wasn’t the center of our universe, and she didn’t like that.  I think she went into a doggy depression for awhile.  She never wanted much to do with our first baby (we read about how to introduce the dog to the baby and followed the steps), and mostly kept to herself in a different room.

Then we moved across the country again and had another baby.  I admit that I had no time to devote to our dog for a few months while juggling a baby and a toddler.  Joplin started growling at our older son.  We paid a dog trainer hundreds of dollars to help us, and he identified that Joplin ranked herself higher than the kids in our family hierarchy and had some dominance aggression.

She got a little better, with a few times when I knew we were still on shaky ground with her.  I now know that my early interactions with her did not establish me in an assertive dominant role for her.  Then changing her environment so many times, coupled with the addition of children, left her feeling fully in charge of everyone except my husband.  Still, I thought we could get through during her lifetime or my kids’ childhood.

Then on Sunday she bit our younger son.  On the ear.  There was blood but no need to see a doctor.

And I am done.  I’m done because once a dog draws blood, it will likely do so again.  I’m done because she is an animal, always prone to the instincts of an animal and unable to make promises otherwise.  I’m done because my son is more important than my dog.  I’m done because 28 years ago I watched a dog tear my brother’s face apart, and then watched my mom struggle with him during a 98-mile drive through the mountains to a hospital, where it took surgeons almost 5 hours to put him back together, and then weeks of wondering if he would be blind.  I am done.

But I still love this dog, and now the question is, what do we do with her?  While we preserve our sons’ safety, how do we preserve the dog’s?

In consulting with our veterinarian and a friend who works in county shelters, here is what I’ve learned.

  1. The shelters are over crowded.
  2. Our dog is virtually un-adoptable.  Biting a child is a red flag.  Humping other dogs and being aggressive over her food bowl are red flags. Hating cats is a problem (but one I share with her).
  3. Rescue organizations can be questionable.  I don’t want her “adopted” out to skeevy people or to become bait for fighting dogs (yes, they use bait dogs for training, to the death).  Also, rescues could cause more environmental stress for Joplin.
  4. We need to find a home for her on our own.  A quiet home with adults only and no cats.
  5. We need to find this home quickly, for she can’t continue living here with our sons.
  6. If we can’t, the least stressful alternative for her is euthanization.

So we’re looking.  Do you know how hard it is to find a home for a 9-year-old, mixed-breed, cute-but-nothing-special dog who is sweet but has issues?

…How hard it is to look at her and know that she must find new parents or God.


Read more about dog ownership from Jane Warren.  I will certainly go into our next pet ownership (years from now) with different ideas for training and nurturing.

Improving Your Relationship with Your Dog

Be A Hero: Adopt A Dog

Things You Need to Know Before Bringing Home A Pet


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Comments (11)

  1. Dee 06/13/2012 at 12:25 pm

    Could I also recommend finding a holistic vet? Homeopathic meds are often very helpful in treating aggression, among other issues. Homeopathics helped our dogs recurrent ear infections (when the traditional vets were stumped), and helped curb a friend’s dog’s aggression toward their other dog.

    • Erica Fehrman 06/13/2012 at 1:59 pm

      I’ve never heard of a holistic vet – thanks for the suggestion!

  2. vanessa 06/12/2012 at 10:24 pm

    What do you mean by with your next dog you will look into other training or nurturing methods? How did you follow through with the training from the professional? Have you contacted the trainer after this? What was the trainers method in fixing the aggression? I worry that…it really should have been fixed if it was dealt with the right way by the trainer (AND with the right follow through with you as the owner)…not a “little better”. How much does the VET you consulted with know about dog behavior? What is their background in dog behavior?

    If you are getting rid of her I am really proud of you that you are finding a home for her on your own. It is very very humane, responsible, and the right thing to do as a dog owner.

    Aggression can be fixed and fixed completely. Taking a dog to “meet God” should be…honestly I can’t even talk about it so I’ll stop right here.

    • Erica Fehrman 06/13/2012 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks for your concern and caring questions. Our vet and trainer are both very experienced. It’s all a juggling act of protecting our children and our dog. If we have a future pet, we’ll start with better training from the beginning to establish a set hierarchy from puppy-hood. It is hard to put nine years of relationship into one blog post.

  3. Erin Oltmanns 06/12/2012 at 9:22 pm

    Our Malamute is unfit to be around my kids unless she is outside. Something about being in the house makes her EXTREMELY aggressive.

    We have certain areas of the house baby-gated off so that the dog can have her space and we can let our kids crawl, run, and roam free without worrying about them upsetting the dog. As my daughter has gotten older we’ve explained to her the dog is cranky and doesn’t want to be climbed on or petted.

    Our Malamute was attacked by a Pit Bull several years ago and hasn’t been the same since.

    I try to cut our dog some slack because of what she went through, but I would haul that dog to the pound in a hot second if she ever bit my one of my kids.

    • vanessa 06/12/2012 at 10:28 pm

      Erin, this all can be fixed with some hard work. Poor baby being attacked 🙁

  4. shellyknight 06/12/2012 at 2:09 pm

    Oh, that is so sad, but I agree that you are completely doing the right thing. I admire you because it must have been difficult to even write this post-and I have stayed away from the difficult topics.

  5. Tammy Hornek 06/12/2012 at 2:07 pm

    Our Border bit our daughter while herding her… at the age of 3. The dog didn’t try to hurt her… in fact, he was trying to protect her from going to a place in the yard she was not supposed to be. He missed her cornea by a fraction of a millimeter. The dog was upset, sorry and very sad that he hurt our baby. We could see that. We spent several days discussing what to do. During those days, we kept him inside the bathroom while we were all together in the house. Basically, the dog was in the bathroom, if I couldn’t be RIGHT THERE to watch him. The kids and the dog were not allowed to be in the same room together. So, we gated like crazy and closed the dog in the bathroom until our daughter grew tall enough to be safe from any chance of being “nipped” in the eye again.

    That process lasted for over a year. We, now, have our dog and our children. It was a difficult time… and the dog actually damaged the trim in the bathroom… BUT– the dog is here. Safe. Alive. And–WITH HIS FAMILY.

    We have actually had to find a home for our mini-dachshund, who pooped in the floor out of jealousy and anger. The day I found my son holding a piece of it (crawling phase), and the dog had access to go outside– it was OVER. So, sometimes you can keep them, sometimes you can’t.

    I totally understand your decision. If the dog has a messed up idea of the hierarchy, that cannot be changed, you certainly are doing the right thing! I pray you find a good home for him. One you know will love him as much as you do.

    Blessings & Support to you!

    • Erica Fehrman 06/12/2012 at 7:18 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience! My dad and I had border collies when I was a teen and they LOVE to herd. I appreciate your support and understanding.

  6. Jared Garrett 06/12/2012 at 1:39 pm

    We finally found a better home for our dog. It was a long process, and miserable at times, but everybody, even my 6 kids, knows it was the right thing to do for her.

    • Erica Fehrman 06/12/2012 at 7:18 pm

      I’m glad you were able to find a new home for your dog. It’s tough.