Doing the Right Thing, Even When it Hurts
I knew the day we got her. She was the runt of the litter, and gorgeous with brindle coat and white teardrop on her head. I picked her up in my arms and felt how good she would be. She was so sweet and kind, and I knew she could be the perfect dog for our family. I also knew that something didn't feel right. I was afraid I was too hasty in which one I chose, and I felt an ominous gray cloud over us as we left. Oh, I was thrilled to be finally getting the little puppy I had wanted for so long. I was happy. And yet I didn't feel the bond I expected.
We brought her home and she seemed to be the best thing to have happened to our family. She was so cute and sweet and full of energy. We are huge geeks, my husband and I, so we named her Kaylee after the engineer on "Firefly". The name seemed to fit her well. The kids bonded to her, my husband was unsure and yet secretly falling in love with her. Everything looked like it was going to be great. A little training, some love from the family, and we'd have the lifelong companion we'd always wanted.
Then she didn't house train well. Pee pads all over the house, and she would go in some corner and do her business there instead. She couldn't be trusted to not pee on the bed if I let go of her, and I couldn't sleep cradling her all night without hurting my back. So I did what I never intended to do and started crate training her. It was like having an infant again, getting up with her multiple times a night, struggling to get her to go back to sleep...
The bond I so fondly remembered having with my last dog and the dogs I'd had growing up just wasn't there. She didn't get excited to see me like she did the rest of my family. I was the only one she'd listen to and so I was the only one doing the training, which meant she didn't see me as someone to have fun with. I told myself I didn't mind, that if the family was happy, so was I. I reminded myself over and over that she was just a puppy and that we'd get it figured out.
She eventually stopped soiling her crate, but the fact that she soiled her bed at all had me worried. She still peed and pooped in the house, even though I knew she knew she wasn't supposed to. Eventually I would ask her if she had peed in my house and she would pull back her ears and guiltily slink over to her crate awaiting the "time-out". She couldn't be trusted outside of her kennel when no one was watching because she would either chew on things or make messes all over the house. I even tried a suggestion I'd read about keeping her in there for a week and only taking her out to go out to the yard to do her business, hoping she would finally get the association. I felt terrible the entire week and it still didn't work.
The entire time all this was happening, I could feel it. It was there, in the back of my mind, nagging at me. "You know she's not happy. Look at her ears and how often they're back against her head. Her messes mean she's troubled. You know this isn't the right place for her. Why can't you let her go?" And I couldn't, dammit, because I adored that little pup! As much as she seemed to be unable to bond to me, I loved her so very much. I had wanted her for 11 years, ever since I had to leave my sweet pit bull Sasha when I moved between states. I was having trouble admitting that I had made a mistake in adopting her when we did.
You know what makes a terrible situation worse? Having 2 terrible situations simultaneously. The one was the ongoing struggle of training this dog. The other was trying desperately to help my son manage his emotions and reign in his violent behavior. People see a violent 4 year old and assume it's because he was abused or neglected at home. That somehow it's the parents' fault. But what if the parents are doing everything right, and the child is neurodivergent? How come no one jumps to THAT conclusion?
That is my reality. My son has ADHD. My husband and I both do, too. He also has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, when means he's anxious practically all the time and has no idea why. Everything can seem scary for no reason. He got that gem from me. Add in the possibility of Autism and the combo, for a kid who doesn't understand the emotions coursing through his body, makes for a perfect storm of screaming and violence and defiance. Everyday has been a battle since he turned two and a half. It's exhausting. It's heartbreaking. It's worth every cuddle and, "Mommy? I love you," that I get. And it takes a lot of time and attention. Time and attention that the puppy needed, and couldn't get.
His violence created another problem I hadn't anticipated. Not only was I having trouble training the dog, and pit bulls are notorious for turning on their families if not properly trained early on, but my son started being aggressive to the dog. It was clear the day he was mad at me and burrowing his head into her side until she yelped and turned towards him at the same time. The motion caused her to nip his forehead just enough to hurt. This of course made him mad at the dog and I had to block him from hitting her. I knew then that if I didn't do something, the situation would only get worse.
So what do you do when you have a sweet, loving, adorable 8 month old puppy that is part of the family, but you don't have the ability to give her what she needs and still be there to give your son what he needs? You do the one thing you never in a million years thought you would do: You give her up. You find the place that seems a perfect fit for her, where she'll get all the love and attention you wish you could give her and more. And then you let her go.
Now there's no more messes to clean up. The house wont smell like dirty dog all the time. I don't have to rush home from the grocery store or whatever to let the dog out. I don't have to get up at 6am because she needs to pee, even though I could easily sleep until 8.
I do, however, have to deal with the sadness on my 6 year old daughter's face every time she sees me. She has admitted to me that she's mad at me. She got more mad when she saw me packing up the crate because I couldn't bear to see it sitting there, empty. She feels like I wiped a piece of our family from her existence. And who could blame her?! I certainly can't. I feel the exact same way. But I'm an adult who made the decision and she's 6 and powerless. So I told her it's ok to be mad at me. I don't expect her to forgive me any time soon. And while I know validating her feelings is the right thing to do, it kills me to see her face fall when she turns to look at me.
I have hope that she'll understand someday. I have hope that she wont hate me forever for giving away her "baby sister." I'll never forget the sound of her crying for Baby Sister to come back, or the look on her face when she saw me after she'd calmed down. But I know Kaylee is safer, and happier. I know I have cut down on some of the chaos in the house for my family. I know I did the right thing. I just wish doing the right thing didn't have to hurt so damned much.
About the author
I'm a stay-at-home mom of two who has always had a love of fiction and of writing. My favorite genres are fantasy and futuristic fiction. Someday I hope to publish a novel, but for now I'll settle for having you read my short stories.