A word of warning: I’m about to WUI, Write Under the Influence. No, I haven’t been drinking or popping any prescription pills. I’m writing under the influence of a very heavy heart. I haven’t even built the header or nav bar for this new blog yet, but I knew I couldn’t put this post off. You see, tomorrow morning at 11:30 I will no longer be a furmommy. That’s the scheduled time for our two dogs to be put down. And like any inmate on death row, I keep hoping for some last minute stay of execution, but I don’t think it’s coming.
So, how about a little history lesson first?
In 2004, my semi-new boyfriend and I were setting up house. I had moved to Florida from Washington, D.C. to be with him. So we did what any new couple who were head-over-heels in love but lightyears away from a family would do — we adopted a dog. In hindsight, we made so many mistakes. We did no research first, had no supplies, but when we walked by a pet store one Saturday and saw an animal rescue group showcasing its batch of animals for adoption, we fell hook, line and sinker for this guy:
One look into those sad, big brown eyes and we were gone, baby, gone. Almost immediately, we came up with the name Homer. We took him everywhere — road trips, walks around the neighborhood, trips to the doggie park. When we got him, our vet estimated he was no older than 8, maybe 9 weeks old. In those early days, I learned just how difficult a newborn is. There were MANY sleepless nights, lots and lots of potty training disasters (let’s just say our living room carpet did not survive those days). And there were messes. Lord, there were messes. Exhibit A: The feather pillow incident.
But there was also lots of love. Lots of wet, sloppery kisses. And then things got weird. Shortly after his first birthday, he started exhibiting what we thought was toddler tantrums. One day we were at the doggie water park, and out of nowhere he pinned a beagle to the ground and had him by the throat. Not cool. Another day, we were at the grocery store and a little boy came up to pet him and all hell broke loose. Then there was the day he bit my grandmother.
Our dog was turning into Cujo right before our eyes. So we consulted the Dr. Karp of doggie training — Cesar Milan. We TiVoed shows, read books, tried to adopt the calm-assertive behavior, but it wasn’t working. Our dog was getting worse. We brought in the big guns — he was enrolled in an intensive 12-week training program. The first couple lessons consisted of him getting into staredowns with the trainer as he growled aggressively and barked at her as I held him back. They eventually became friends and he and I both learned A LOT from the experience. As I always said afterwards, he was the best-behaved aggressive dog you’ll ever meet. As long as strangers aren’t in the mix, he’ll mostly obey my commands. but if someone as much as walks into our front yard, he goes CRAZY.
So, when Homer was a little over a year old we thought, “Well, maybe a nice sweet dog will have a calming influence on him.” And that’s when we found Lucy at our local shelter. Much like any set of siblings, there was a lot of fighting at first (and biting and wrestling).
They eventually settled into a nice relationship. But like any best laid plans, ours went badly awry. Instead of Lucy calming Homer, he made her aggressive! She would nip, if my boyfriend even pretended to tickle me, she would go barreling after him at full speed, barking and biting. I admit it — I loved the protection, but I knew it wasn’t cool.
So, we just kept on with our lives. In the meantime, my boyfriend became my fiance and then my husband. And we were obsessed with our dogs. One example? At our wedding, one of the tables was named after our dogs and featured this adorable picture of them:
In 2007, I found out I was pregnant and we were thrilled! But there was a big dark cloud hanging over us — Homer. He had about 10 people he accepted, and if you weren’t in that club, he would literally try to kill you (just ask a family friend who tried the whole, “I know dogs. He and I will be fine” approach, which resulted in a bloody neck for the guy). After much soul-searching and consulting with my vet, we decided to put Homer down before I gave birth.
Maybe it was the surging hormones, but I just couldn’t do it. As I was about to give birth to a new life, I could not take away another creature’s, especially one I loved so much. So we decided to wait. We figured it will be months before the dog and baby have to interact so let’s see how it goes when she comes home from the hospital.
And Homer couldn’t have done better. He was sweet, he was protective of her, he was gentle. There were no incidents. And to be honest, both dogs didn’t even seem to notice the baby for awhile. They were just happy that we were home after being away for several days:
But once again, Lucy surprised us. She became the aggressive one. For a long time, it wasn’t an issue. But as the newborn grew into a toddler, things went from tense to downright scary. Around the time BabyJovi turned 2, Lucy started biting her. For some reason, she HATES the little one’s chalkboard and everytime she even walks near it, Lucy comes tearing into the room and tries to attack my daughter. There have been a lot of bites, but since Lucy is a Shar Pei mix (in other words, she’s got a huge fat lip), none of the bites have left a serious mark. Yet. We know it’s only a matter of time.
But for every bite, there’s also a lot of love.
So, it’s now time to do the adult thing. We’ve tried to find someone to take one or both and can’t. Homer doesn’t do strangers and Lucy comes with a lot of baggage — we’ve spent thousands of dollars on ear surgeries and she’s close to needing a total hip replacement. They’re not ideal candidates for adoption. They’re both a little over 6 years old and they don’t play nice with others, so a shelter just isn’t an option.
I know it’s the right thing. I know as bad as I feel now, I’d feel 100 times worse if they hurt my child or even someone else’s. But my heart isn’t getting the message.
Since this thing has quickly evolved from a blog post into a novella (God love you if you’re still reading this. I promise, future entries will not be anywhere near this long), I’ll finish up with some bullet points of the lessons my dogs taught me about being a mom:
- They’re going to make messes. They’re going to ruin stuff. Just accept it. And invest in hardwood floors or tile — it cleans up easier
- You’re going to break your own rules constantly. If you say, “They’ll never sleep in my bed,” you’ll cave during the first bad thunderstorm and they’re quivering in fear. And you’ll never be sorry that you caved.
- They’re going to make you angrier than you ever thought possible. But in a flash, you’ll find yourself laughing at the absurdity of the situation.
- There’s no such thing as too many hugs or kisses. It’s never enough.
- You’re going to become a hero for the simplest things — giving a treat, spending a few minutes focused on one-on-one play. Whether it’s a child or a dog, those things will make a world of difference.
- You’ll love more than you ever thought capable. Your heart will literally swell with love at times.
Good-bye Homer. You were our first attempt at parenting. We struggled mightily. But you always rewarded us with big kisses and in six years, I’ve always slept soundly knowing you were on patrol, protecting our family.
And good-bye Lucy, our LuLu. You were so needy, but we didn’t realize how much we needed you too. I’ll never forget your piggy noises, your incessant whining (you’re the most vocal dog I’ve ever been around) and the way you cuddle into the crook of my legs every night.