It’s not a life or death decision, but it is still a dramatic decision. Looking back now, it was a spontaneous decision that was made because my husband and I felt special; we felt chosen. We had to attain what had chosen us. In hindsight, maybe we were setting ourselves up for failure. I mean we brought a dog into our house with an abused past. He seemed sweet and innocent and scared. He was afraid of men. He didn’t have a personality. He followed the vet around and couldn’t stand being out of her sight.
We thought we wanted that. We wanted the worship that Shaffer had to give. We wanted to be the chosen ones. So we adopted Shaffer.
For awhile things went smoothly. Shaffer was a sensitive dog, afraid of everything. He’d run and hide when our voices raised, whenever we grabbed his collar, whenever we walked toward him. It took weeks to bring him around; for him to seek out our company not because he needed to be with us, but because he wanted to be with us. I remember rewarding him for small successes: his tail jumping, him bowing playfully, him jumping up on command. It was so cool seeing this dog go from an insecure canine to a stable family pet.
But for some strange reason, this stability came with a few quirks. It started with small things like him escaping his crate no matter what the cost was or how much he was harmed. This puzzled us because he spent most of his time in a kennel at the vet; in fact even if the kennel was open he stayed there. So we decided to cease kenneling him and just keep him in the bedroom. He tore up the door in a frantic escape to get out. He tore up wooden blinds. My husband was angry and I stood up for Shaffer.
Then he developed more annoying habits. Stealing “treats” from the litterbox. Taking things off the table even though we were in the other room. He once ate a whole package of crackers while my husband was in the shower. I laughed it off. I thought it was good that he was showing us his personality.
Then he started growling at the younger animals whenever they would get near him. If the puppy was playing with a toy and got too close he’d growl at her. If the kitten walked by him, he’d growl at her. It didn’t bother me that he’d growl at the kitten. After all, she was the one who used to wake him up from his nap only to hiss at him when he’d look at her. It was him growling at the puppy that started raising red flags.
I know that older animals sometimes become bothered by younger animals, but I’ve never seen a dog that just doesn’t want the younger ones near him. Haley will sometimes discipline Molly when she starts bothering her, but if Molly is playing nearby Haley doesn’t really care. Shaffer is bothered even when Molly plays nearby. He doesn’t really like her near him. He hates it when she lays next to him.
Strangely enough, he doesn’t mind dogs his size. During the storm a few weeks ago he stayed with my in-laws. At first he was a little unsure of their Sheltie, but by the end of the next day he was running around the backyard with her. I started realizing that maybe, just maybe, he needed to be in the country running with dogs his own size.
He’s now mastered the art of jumping the fence. If he’s left in the backyard by himself too long (too long being over ten minutes) he’ll jump the fence and lay on the front porch.
We told the vet a several weeks ago about him suffering from Separation Anxiety (in hindsight, him following the vet around was an indicator of this). She gave us some suggestions, but we all agreed that we didn’t want to give him any sort of sedative. We followed these suggestions and things got better for awhile.
I’m not saying that things have reached a point of n return. He doesn’t do a whole lot of “bad” things, but he does enough annoying things that have made me wonder if we’re really the right home for him. I mean, we live in a home that is less than a thousand square feet with four cats and two other dogs. He’s the biggest one of them all. It does get kind of cramped in the house and I think he feels this.
I’d like for him to have a place to run, but as I said above he won’t stay in the backyard and we have a huge backyard that I’m sure I bigger than our house. I’ve taken him to the dog park, but all he does is finds a place to lay down and stays there the entire time we’re there.
I’ve stopped laughing off his quirks and I’m starting to wonder if he really was the right dog for us. Should we have adopted him? Should we have been so quick in deciding? Was our feeling chosen the reason why we adopted him?
Then sometimes I wonder if Shaffer was only supposed to be in our lives for a short time. Maybe we were only meant to be foster parents and not his forever home. Maybe our task was to bring him out of himself so he could enjoy life in a home in an active family. Maybe it’s actually up to someone else to teach him how to play, how to be a dog.
I honestly feel guilty about even contemplating taking him back, but I want to look out for his happiness and our happiness. I console myself by saying that it isn’t a death sentence for him. He’ll return to the vet where he was adored and doted on. Where he got pizza crusts, pets, and where someone was there 24/7 (it’s an all hours vet). He got multiple walks a day, companions his size to hang out with, and free vet care. The resident cats are so used to dogs that they don’t hiss, arch their backs, or show any sign of aggression.
Still, I feel like a bad person giving up on him. Then part of me says that I’m not giving up on him, but giving him a chance for true happiness. I’m lying to myself, aren’t I?
I’m still debating on whether or not to take him back to the vet. My husband doesn’t want to. Now he’s the one that’s standing up for Shaffer. He’s the one that’s making excuses for Shaffer: maybe something spooked him, maybe he was trying to play with the cat and not actually went after her, maybe this, maybe that, maybe…maybe…maybe.
I apologize if this post paints either Shaffer or my husband and I in a bad light. I just needed to wonder. I know I could wonder in my own private journal, but I feel a need to be judged, or sympathized with, or yelled at; told that we took this dog in and it’s our responsibility to take care of him until death do us part. I don’t know why I crave that right now, but I do.
…Until next time, those clumps in the litterbox aren’t treats; if you’re looking for the good stuff knock down the nearest bookshelf, the treats are at the very top.