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.
- The shelters are over crowded.
- 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).
- 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.
- We need to find a home for her on our own. A quiet home with adults only and no cats.
- We need to find this home quickly, for she can't continue living here with our sons.
- 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.