The Dog Situation.

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So.  Today’s the day we get the dog back.  My husband went out to the desert to pick her up, while I am staying here and finishing up the massive housecleaning overhaul we started yesterday.  I have dreaded this day since we got the call last week for several reasons and I need to vent it out before I lose my gourd.  Please refrain from hating my guts until you get to the end.

2011-2012: My husband and I are giant bleeding heart pushovers and were heartbroken over this terrified puppy we’d rescued.  She shrank from our touch and from any noises and was/is always on high alert.  We were sure she had suffered abuse and we tried everything in our power to get her comfortable.  I think, in so doing, we didn’t treat her like a dog – we treated her like a princess.  We gave in to a lot of behavior when we shouldn’t have tolerated it and therefore, created a (more insane) monster (than she already was).  She was so frantic when outside without us (in her panic, she once dug an actual hole in a concrete step outside our back door when left out for two hours) that we allowed her to stay inside the house while we were at work, which (obviously) led to indoor accidents and dog hair everywhere.  We felt so terrible for her that she slept on our couches and in bed with us.

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We bought her several cozy dog beds (one for the bedroom, the living room, the porch), and she ended up peeing on, and destroying, every single one.  My husband bought every speciality leash imaginable, and spent hours walking her slowly around the neighborhood, hoping to get her to stop pulling (she didn’t, and would end up choking and breathless at the end of every walk).  We introduced to her slowly family and friends, often missing family gatherings in the early months because we couldn’t bring her along and we didn’t want to leave her alone (although, to this day, the only family member she doesn’t hate is my dad and that’s because he feeds her endless table scraps).  We put her on medications for innumerable health problems (including spay incontinence, which is permanent, and mange, which was, mercifully, curable) and signed off on an emergency surgery when it was discovered that she had a massive, swelling infection in her sinuses.

I adored her and would have done anything for her, until I didn’t and wouldn’t anymore.  I know that sounds harsh and awful and heartless, but there came a point a few months ago when I realized we were living our lives tethered to this animal who was not improving.  An animal that our vet, to whom we were referred by the rescue, called “a lemon,” after our seventh visit in four months.  She is beautiful and so sweet with us, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.  When my brother-in-law offered to take her to his house, with it’s doggy door and other dogs and someone home all day long, I thought it was a perfect match.  Unfortunately, she fought with the other dogs and peed everywhere but outside, despite mastering the doggy dog the first night.

When faced with bringing her back, I was fully prepared to call the rescue we got her from and tell them we just could not have her.  We had done everything in our power short of calling a canine psychologist and doping her with anxiety medication.  I know that is an unpopular decision and I know it invites a lot of dramatic judgement.  I know this mostly because I was that person.  Until experiencing what I have with this dog, I was the first person to shame people (albeit quietly, in my vicious thoughts) for giving up their pets: They are your responsibility from the moment you pick them up!  How dare you surrender them!  How irresponsible and negligent!  Don’t you know what will happen to them if no one else wants them???

Which brings us to today: Yes.  Yes I do know now what will happen to her if no one else wants her – and it is the full embodiment of all my deepest fears for her.  If we let her go to any institution other than where we got her (which is a large ranch that rescues her breed), she’ll be left on the side of the road somewhere because she is an animal not even our family, who asked for her, can handle.

I am 100% positive of that and that is where my crazy is coming from.  I’m not sure we have the tools or the time to have her here again and yet I am now resolutely against giving her to a new family.  She goes to the rescue (where they will no doubt despise us and be endlessly horrified by our irresponsibility) or she stays with us.  However insane she made me and however many concessions I feel I had to make (concessions I realize now we shouldn’t have made in the first place), I love that dog and I want her to be happy and safe.

My husband, being less dramatic and more pragmatic in situations such as this, has devised a plan: we will bring her back and she will be a dog.  She will stay outside when we are gone and sleep in a crate at night.  She will totally hate this at first and it will be emotionally difficult for us to leave her and her giant sad hound dog eyes whining at the back door every morning.  However, this is the best solution and I have faith it will work for us.  Despite knowing it is what is best, it makes me sad, because another thing I used to have a lot of opinions about were people who have dogs and just keep them chained to poles in their backyards all the time: Why have an animal if it’s not going to be a part of your life 24/7?  

Answer: because sometimes, you’ve got to save yourself from yourself.  And for the record, she will not be chained to a post – she will run free through the grass and have access to the entire yard and the garage.  She will (hopefully) learn to be a dog and we will learn how to have one.

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Any thoughts/suggestions/terrible judgments?  (Feel free to be honest.  Nothing you could say could be something I haven’t already heard and/or thought about myself.)

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12 thoughts on “The Dog Situation.

  1. As you know, I am in a very similar situation. One thing we did that saved the day was crating her all day. Dogs are den animals and they won’t poop where they sleep. She never had any accidents in there and it saved out furniture from being eaten. Just an idea if you don’t want to keep the dog outside all day. I feel for you! Good luck! I’m sure it will be great. If not, call the dog whisperer. Really.

    • Thank you so much for the support! It makes me feel less like a total monster. We’re going to try keeping her outside during the day this week and see how that goes, but crating is definitely the other option. I think we’ve decided to have her sleep in the garage, which hasn’t even happened yet and is already killing me. She’s been back for two hours now and has let us leave her (momentarily) in the yard, has allowed me to brush her without trying to escape my grasp and has made no attempts at the couches. She’s laying contentedly on her “bed” (a fleece blanket I folded up and put in the corner – I refuse to buy more beds). I’m blaming the shock of being back. 🙂 Hopefully we can keep this up.

      Also, all joking aside, calling the Dog Whisperer has been discussed. A lot.

  2. Crate training is one of THE best things you can do for your dog and for yourselves. Try to make it a good experience – large kong toy with frozen peanut butter smeared inside to keep her busy. There’s also a product called “Adaptil” which is an OTC pheromone that is supposed to help w/anxiety – diffuser you plug in any indoor outlet, spray for her blankets in her crate, and even a collar. I’ve been in the veterinary field for 15+ years (Studio City x 3.5 yrs) and its worth a shot. No doubt you love her and want what’s best for her. I also could get you a list of a few good training books if your interested. Not that you don’t have other things to worry about 😦
    Wishing you luck and strength to continue the battle(s). Also, shame on the rescue if they don’t think you didn’t try – you did, and have the vet bills to prove it!

    • We crate-trained her when we first got her at eight months old because she wasn’t housebroken, but we stopped when she was. Now I think the best thing to do is to crate her at night, so she isn’t roaming around seeking things to destroy.

      I’ve never heard of Adaptil – I’ll have to try it. Just looked it up and it has great reviews. What are some good books??? We’re all about books around here.

      Thanks for the luck and the support. We’ll need it. 🙂 (Also, are you still in Studio City? Could you recommend a good vet over there?)

  3. We crate trained my girl Cali and she really came to love it. It was her safe place. If things got to hectic or too loud, or she just needed a nap you would find her in there. It was difficult at first, she didn’t know life without being right beside us. Now we don’t have a crate for the two dogs, but a back room that acts as a large crate.

    I know you have had a hard time with this!

  4. “Second-hand Dog: How to turn yours into a first-rate pet” & “Surviving Your Dogs Adolescense” by Carol L. Benjamin
    “Don’t Shoot The Dog” (revised edition) by Karen Pryor

    Good luck! I hope these help 🙂

    • Thank you, thank you! It’s been MUCH better than I could have imagined. We’ve got an adorable dog and an awesome new daily schedule (no sarcasm!) AND still no dog hair on the couches or dog pee in our bed. How we didn’t think of this sooner is beyond me.

  5. I thought I loved dogs until I spent a few months working at a dog kennel. Oh my god. Such complicated creatures. Capable of so much destruction. Rescuing dogs takes the skill, consistency, time, and energy of a half-human-half-god. you have my sympathy. No judgment here. I remain a cat person.

    • Thank you! I feel the same way about dogs these days. About three and a half years ago, we rescued and bottlefed (for six weeks) two week-old kittens, who are now the loves of my life. They run to the door when we get home and sleep curled up with me at night and love visitors. They are all the things people love in dogs without the need for constant attention and pack leadership. 🙂

      Before these two, I never thought I’d say it, but I am absolutely a cat person.

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