There was a time, before I had kids, when I knew the best way to raise kids. I was also an expert on marriage because I had lived with my parents and read books. Somehow that never prepared me for the reality of living with the same person day in and day out for over a decade. This month I have learned that I am also not an expert on pet ownership regardless of the many years I have spent loving pets and criticizing those whom I perceived as bad pet people.
We had one pet growing up, a German Shepherd named Star who was given to us by my mom’s best friend from a litter she had bred. We refused to pay for a dog, so we were given the runt and she was a part of our family from the time she was 8 weeks old until the day we had her put down 13 years later. We also raised Labrador puppies for Guide Dogs For The Blind based in San Rafael California. For the first year of the puppies life, they trusted us to teach them basic skills along with socializing them in public places. We then sent them back to California to be placed with a blind person. Being 13 years old and taking a puppy to the local grocery store was beyond embarrassing and it was a guarantee that your pup would shit in the cereal aisle or pull a loaf of bread off the shelf. We all learned a lot patience during those years of raising puppies. We also learned the best ways to clean dog poop off linoleum in less than 15 seconds.
We were dog lovers and we were highly critical of people who got rid of their pets. Our opinion was that if you adopted a dog, you kept it forever and then agonized about the day you would have to take Fluffy to her last vet visit. Can’t handle your dog? Fucking figure it out. Pets were meant to be kept forever, hell or high water. When I got married, my husband and I waited to get a pet until we had a house and a fenced yard, because we were conscientious pet owners and that was the “right” thing to do. Eventually, we adopted a mixed pup from the Humane Society, brought him home and patted ourselves on the back for being good pet people. Colt witnessed both of our kids coming home from the hospital, the adoption of our cat, a move and plenty of other wonderful moments during his life. He was a great companion and when we put him to sleep, we were eager to find another dog to be a part of our family. Perhaps too eager.
We waited two weeks, researched a little, and eventually bought a hound puppy from an ad we found in an online newspaper. He was adorable and instead of reading every piece of literature about hound dogs, we picked him up and we took him home. The woman we adopted him from told us that he was a mix red tick/blue tick hound, which he was not. During his first vet visit we found out that our puppy was a treeing walker hound. These dogs are bred to tree raccoon or mountain lions and they are natural hunters. He began killing birds in our backyard and attempting to bring them inside as trophies. Our cat was relegated to the upstairs while the puppy was inside because he had shown aggression towards her. It also became apparent very quickly that he would be too large to be an indoor dog, which is what we had wanted when we decided to get another pet. Eventually, we had to admit that we had adopted a dog that was not a good fit for our family and that he was more than we could handle. The guilt we felt was trumped only by the conversation we had to have with our kids when we realized that we could no longer care for our puppy the way he needed to be cared for.
This is one of the hardest posts for me to share because I know that the majority of my friends and family are avid dog lovers, like myself, and that our decision could be looked upon as selfish or mean. I thought I knew all there was to know about raising dogs and I thought I would never in a million years get rid of a pet, but I was wrong. Should we have done more research? Yes. Should we have asked more questions? Yes. But we didn’t and that was a lesson learned on our part. Last week we found a home for Oliver with a family who will train him as a hunting dog. They have other pups that he can be trained with and he will finally have the type of activity he needs with a family who will love him as much as we do. As much as we always will. If life has taught me anything, it’s that when I think I know how to do something the “right” way, I will be forced to understand that there is no such thing.