About 4 years ago we decided it was time to get a dog again. It had been two years since Winston, our last dog had died (pic above) and we were feeling it would be a good thing for the family – and Sam especially – to add another member…
So after a brief Gumtree search I found Lucy. It felt right and I thought she looked the part so I gave the kids the task of scouring Gumtree for any dog they liked. Funnily enough after they had narrowed the field, they too finished up choosing the exact same 3 year old golden lab.
We were all agreed. She was the one.
So we bought her and brought her home and ‘life with a dog’ began again. Her owners were sad to see her go but apparently they had ‘allergies’ brought on by her and couldn’t keep her. I’m not sure if ‘allergies’ was a euphemism for something else, but more about that later…
I must admit I had somewhat ‘immortalised’ Winston, our first dog, a super-fit, athletic golden retriever cross lab who could run all day and retrieve a ball from even the largest of surf. I only had fond memories of him and I had forgotten the bad – the inability to ever walk on a lead, the maddening barking, selective hearing especially at the beach, the morning surprises he frequently left us as his bowel control deteriorated with age.
Even as I remember now, I still hold him in high regard as a beautiful dog.
I really wanted to love Lucy, but I discovered she had some quirks that made it hard. She would pick up things in her mouth and move them – constantly – shoes that were outside could now be anywhere. Rocks, balls, toys all got ‘dragged and dropped’ around the yard. Ok – so she’s a dog… they do that kind of stuff. No biggie… just a pain.
But she was kinda ‘odd’ too. She began her time with us by climbing all the steps at our place with no problem, then one day she decided she didn’t want to any longer. Now she would only go up the limestone steps – not the timber ones – so dog walking meant taking her around the back of the house to get to the front. I may have thought ‘stupid dog’ on more than one occasion. She will now climb one set of steps, but still refuses to go down another. No logic that I can see – just silly. Get a grip dog…
There were various other quirks that just annoyed me, but the deal breaker for the last year or so have been the 3am wake up calls as she bashes on the door and asks to be allowed in. We keep dogs outdoors and she was fine with this for a couple of years, but it seems she is no longer fine. According to the vet she has developed anxiety (which needs medication…) and she doesn’t like being away from people. In fact if you let her she will sit under your feet every moment of the day.
So a 3am wake up call has happened fairly often in the last 12 months and we inevitably rise to a frantic, panicking, panting dog who is unable to settle even if we bring her indoors. She has been locked in the shed, tied to a post, brought inside, but very little works. Danelle has turned herself inside out trying to find a solution.
After 6 months of this I gave up on her – not consciously at first, but eventually I realised I was over her. I started to dislike her. I may have developed an ‘allergy’ to her… Maybe those previous owners didn’t tell us the whole story?… I began to call her ‘dog’ or ‘stupid dog’ when I’d see her and I no longer got up to her racket. I left it to Danelle who was still willing to persist. I was for selling her – moving her on – and getting our life back.
Gumtree was beckoning.
It came to a head last week when a couple of particularly bad nights left even Danelle weary and out of puff. We discussed it as a family and despite some reluctance we agreed to put her on Gumtree with full disclosure about her issues. She didn’t give us ‘allergies’ – she was just a full blown psycho, nutbag, crazy dog – buyer beware!
We had 8 calls that day – for an 8 year old insane dog…
The very first people sounded ideal and we agreed to re-home her with them. They lived in Fremantle, had another placid dog who needed a friend and both dogs would sleep in their bedroom. Not my cup of tea, but that’d work for Lucy. ‘Our lives revolve around our dogs’ she said and at that point I realised we were speaking a different language.
‘She’s all yours’ I said. Deal done…
They wanted to come that evening, but it was a bit soon for the kids, so we agree they would come in two days time. We’d gather up her stuff and say our goodbyes and then get our life back.
There were some tears and some regret – but none of it was mine. I realised that if we were actually going to do this then I had to be the badass – the hardliner who would see this thru to the end, because if I didn’t push this thing thru we’d capitulate and change our minds. Sometimes you have to do hard things and I am generally ok with shutting off the heart and allowing common sense to prevail.
This was certainly a win for common sense and I was looking forward to getting out balcony back (chairs currently stand up ended because she can tear them up when she is frantic). I was looking forward to uninterrupted sleep and not worrying about how we would manage her when we went on holidays. Life was about become simpler and neater.
I fell asleep early that night and had a most bizarre night of sleep, waking every few hours to a deep sense of ‘dread’ that this was the wrong decision. Each time I ran it through the grid of why we were doing it again – recalled that we had all signed off on it – remembered that it was a perfectly rational and sensible things to do – but each time I woke there was a clear sense of it being a ‘wrong call’ – a decision I would regret.
I’ve known God long enough now to know that sense of him speaking and this definitely felt like him – it sure as hell wasn’t me… I was done.
As I ‘opened the conversation’ with him and asked ‘what’s this about?’ I sensed he was saying ‘you gave up – you got lazy – you left it to your wife – and you got selfish. You just want it to be easy, but sometimes its not.’
I thought ‘I know it gets hard – but this one I can ‘fix’ by removing the problem.’
What if the dog isn’t the problem though?
What if it is actually largely my problem, my attitude, my refusal to allow her to be a weak, sick, animal – my struggle to be kind? I began to realise I wanted a dog who would never get sick, never cost money, never do stupid things… etc etc… I allowed myself to hear what a jerk I’d been both to Lucy and Danelle in simply giving up in being unkind to her. I realised if we sold her we would never have a dog again – ever – because I couldn’t be trusted to do the right thing with them.
I managed to catch Danelle in the bathroom before she left for work and I said ‘I think I’ve got this all wrong. I think we need to pull out of this whole thing.’ I explained what had happened. It felt weird. ‘It makes very little logical sense – but it feels right’. I knew that if I pushed on with my ‘head’ and ignored what was happening in my heart I would regret it deeply. I needed to go with what I felt was a really ‘dumb’ gut decision.
Danelle was relieved – mostly for Sam who was taking it hard – and she agreed to discuss it with the kids on the way to school, who were both wrapped we weren’t following thru with it.
I apologised to Danelle for giving up and made a commitment to help her. I ‘apologised’ to Lucy for the way she had been treated and I chatted with the kids about how my change of heart had come about. I think its good to allow our kids into the inner workings of our sometimes perplexing spiritual/philosophical processes.
Its been a weird few days ‘selling’ and then ‘unselling’ a dog.
Maybe if you’re not a God botherer like I am, you could just call it ‘an attack of the guilts’, but I believe it was more than that. I believe God was getting my attention. It was partly about a dog – an animal I had agreed to care for and then given up on – and in that he reminded me of our calling to care for the creation we interact with, but it was also about shaping of character and having another rough edge knocked off.
So we still have a dog.., called Lucy and she’s a beautiful dog.