Sunday, March 18, 2007

The most obvious solutions usually the most painful ones as well

When I drove home fro m the vet’s office Friday, I found myself down, even more than usual.
I had reason for it. Denali’s teeth would need to be cleaned, something that would cost us a bill we really couldn’t afford. The vet bill was another $450 just for an annual exam for two dogs and some heart worm medication. But the money wasn’t it.
It was Dakota.
We got Denali almost five years ago. Kate and I were engaged to be married, and she was allergic to cats. I had a cat, a wonderful creature I loved dearly. I had to choose between her and Kate, and after a tougher decision than you might think, I chose Kate. I gave the cat up to a good friend. She went to a good home. But it broke my heart.
We went to the shelter three weeks before I’d have to give up GK to get a dog. I’ve always needed a pet, and welcoming a new creature in my life would at least soften the blow.
We were planning on a husky, but for some reason, we paused at the yellow lab mix with the wide smile, warm eyes and tail that seemed to wag back and forth, every second, like a grandfather clock.
He peed on the floor when we went to meet him. He’d obviously been abused. But as Kate petted him, he leaned more and more into her hand.
We were hooked.
Denali, in a home that loved him, finally, sprouted confidence. It wasn’t long before we grew concerned about the way he whined whenever he saw another dog. It would be nice, we thought, to give him a friend.
We got Dakota, the black lab mix, soon after at a Second Chance rescue home. It was a good experience. We swore we would not get a puppy, just as we swore we would get a husky. But I took Denali over to the home to allow him to pick the dog, and there was something in the way the little puppy played and played with him that we both liked. We got her.
The next day, she destroyed our couch.
And she played with Denali until they both sat, panting, in the middle of the living room.
And she soon learned to jump on the bed and curl up in a ball in the small half-moon that my sleeping form created.
And she continued to pee on the rug, even after she was housebroken.
Dakota was like that, an unruly teenager, a princess, a toddler going through the terrible 2s, an angel and a wonderful friend to Denali all at once. She enjoyed training, yet she loved to ignore Kate when she called her in every morning. She cuddled with Denali even as she attempted to eat his food whenever we turned our backs.
She was a pain in the ass, and she was a good dog.
Then Jayden was born.
Denali tolerated Jayden crawling all over him, even if he looked at us with pleading eyes. Dakota, however, growled at him even when Jayden simply passed her by.
Things continued to get worse.
I thought about the twins coming, and I asked myself why we were paying a lot of money for a dog that worried us.
It’s been a busy month. Busier than I would like. Getting ready for the twins has taken more time, I’m convinced, than getting ready for Jayden, and he was our first baby. Too busy, in fact, to think about serious decisions like giving up a dog.
On that drive home, in 10 minutes I was convinced we needed to do it. It hit me all at once. I could no longer pretend that I was too busy to really think about our future.
The problem was, giving her up would go against everything I stood for as an animal lover. I am not a PETA freak. I eat meat. I respect hunting and fishing. I wear leather jackets. But I also believe animals are not throwaways. And after looking into giving Dakota away to a family once, this time, we would simply have to surrender to the animal shelter.
We were, in a sense, throwing her away.
Many times we know something is the right decision, but because its painful, we put it off. How long have we stayed with a bad relationship because we didn’t want to face the hurt from a breakup? We’ve all done it once. For months I knew Dakota probably couldn’t stay with us. I couldn’t answer yes to this simple question: Would you trust her in a room, alone, with Jayden or the twins?
But the vet led me to deal with it.
Today we surrendered her to the pound.
For some this blog may seem like a simple justification for choosing a simple path to a complex problem. The dog, a dog you obviously thought was a pain, acted a little nervous around your toddler when he bothered her, so you dumped her off to the shelter.
That’s possible.
For others it seems like an obvious decision. Your kid was in danger, and you were probably lucky nothing happened earlier.
That’s possible as well.
I don’t have an answer here.
All I know is when we got in the car today, I looked over at the backyard, and Denali had his paws up on the door, staring into the van, his best friend in the back seat.
His tail was silent.
All I know is Dakota whined and barked in her new cage at the shelter, and that’s what I heard, much more than the lady telling us she was certain Dakota would be adopted.
All I know is she is no longer here.
I sit here, late on a Saturday night, exhausted after a tough day. We got the car seats installed. We had a baby shower, and the living room is full of pink socks, pink tops and pink dresses that would fit a bunny rabbit. We worked on the nursery. We worked hard this weekend, and it seems like we barely made a dent in all we have to do.
And we gave up Dakota.
It’s the first quiet moment of the day, when the nursery can’t be updated, the clothes can’t be put away and the car seats can’t be installed.
It’s a time when I'm the most relieved at today’s painful decision.
And a time when I regret it the most as well.


Mr Subliminal said...

Tough decision but the right one for all concerned. I'm a sucker for pets and can feel your pain.

Anonymous said...

What an awful decision to be faced with but you have to do the right thing for you no matter how difficult.

Occasionally I think about the day I no longer have my wonderful dog Lucy and its more than I can bear.

Anonymous said...

Oh yea I almost forgot Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

Casey said...

I"m SO sorry you had to give your dog up. We will be facing the same decision soon - i'm sure. We found out two weeks ago that COCO has a torn ACL and she is wobbling pretty bad. $800 surgery or $120 pain pills. We had to choose the pills due to lack of money for the wedding.

I know you did the right thing though and i'm sure Dakota will find a GREAT home!

CarmenSinCity said...

Awwwwww - I swear I got teary eyed when I read that. It's so sad when you have to give up a dog. I'm sorry you had to do that.

Chipper said...

I saw your front page article the other day in the Greeley Tribune on fatherhood. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading it. I think you're doing a great job! GL on your pending twin-hood. You'll do fine.

PhantomMut said...

Tough decision. Absolutely the right decision.