Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good Dog.
Growing up as an only child I loved going to my friends houses. Don't get me wrong, I loved my house too, but when I went to a friend's house, there was a certain noisiness and a bustle of activity that I couldn't have at my own home no matter how loud I played my music, put the television or had one-way conversations with my Barbie dolls.
Part of the reason it was so much fun to go to my best friend's house in particular was because they had pets, and plenty of them. In fact, I believe that if at any give time it would have come down to a people pet ratio, it would have been equal. Not only did they have a lot of pets, they were equal opportunity pet owners, too. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish...no pet was too big or too small. But there was only one animal I was ever truly envious of them owning and that was a dog.
See, all of my life, one of the things I've ever wanted the most was to own a dog. Since I was an only child I always made the argument that I should have a dog to keep me company, but my mother never saw it that way. She said that owning a dog was a big responsibility and one that she ultimately would have to take on which she didn't want to do. My father could have easily been persuaded, but since mom put her foot down on the matter, things never changed.
One day a stray dog wound up on our street and everyone tried to convince my mom that it was destiny and that I should keep it. The family that had all the animals were my biggest supporters in this crusade. Mom still didn't budge and so then and there I vowed that I had to be patient until the day when I could one day own my own dog in my own place.
Now that thirty-one years have gone by and I've finally moved out of my parents home one of the things I was most excited about was making my dream to be a dog owner a reality. After we were somewhat settled into our new home we started researching breeds and places do adopt from. My husband was rather indifferent on dog ownership as he had both a sister and a dog before, there were no unrequited feelings to fulfill. Still he knew how badly I wanted to own a dog and so he decided to let my desire to own one fuel his desire to support me.
We went to a few different places and found a few good dogs, but we also found that a adopting a dog is serious business and a process that can be stringent as well. We knew we wanted to adopt because we wanted to give a dog who was taken in by people who loved dogs a good home. We filled out multiple applications and in some cases had to wait a certain amount of time before we could even be considered to play with a dog, let alone adopt him or her. In some ways the waiting was agony, but I also think it was necessary. Adopting any living being is a big responsibility and if you are a dog lover, you'd be remiss in not checking out who you were letting adopt any animal. After all, it's not like animals can defend themselves.
After researching and visiting a number of places we narrowed it down to a few certainties. One, we wanted a dog that was a little bit older than a puppy and preferably didn't need to be housebroken since we weren't experienced in this. Two, we wanted a medium sized dog that wasn't going to grow to be too big, but wouldn't be too small either. Instead, we wanted the Goldilocks of dogs...juuust right. Third, my husband wanted a male dog as he believed a female dog would be "higher maintenance". And fourth, we wanted a non-dominant breed like a Beagle or a mixed breed because we loved the mannerisms and the appearance of these types of dogs.
Although we had been to enough places to know that adopting a dog, let alone the right dog was not going to be quick and easy, impatience ultimately got the best of us. We ended up at a shelter that had a dog we fell in love with, but didn't match our prechosen criteria at all. For one thing it was a she, not a he. I wasn't so emphatic about that, but the people at the shelter said there really wasn't a major difference, so the husband caved on this one. Another thing was that this dog was a lab/shep mix which while beautiful, would ultimately grow to be a larger dog than we planned on taking on. And lastly, she was a two-month old puppy that would need a lot of TLC along with training.
All reason was thrown out the window though as we looked at her. She had "sisters" with her there, each with a unique personality all their own. but Dolly (as she had been loosely named) had a personality all her own. Instinctively it seemed she was as "in" to us as we were to her. She sat up and cocked her head to the side almost as if to say, "So, whadda ya think? Do you think you want me??" We played with her with no precautions and we were told that if she was the dog we wanted, we could take her home right then and there. Newly in love and wearing our rose-colored glasses, we proceeded with the adoption.
As we were filling out the paperwork, however, apprehension started to sink in. Instantly we were paired with a different person who worked at the shelter, one who we quickly learned was much more knowledgeable and experienced than the first lady who helped us. This is not to take away from the first lady, but it was her lack of expertise that really hurt us in the end. When we at down with the second lady we quickly realized that A LOT of work came along with adopting a new puppy. Not only were we new dog owners, we were going to be owners of a brand new dog, one that had to be fixed, and taken to the vet and one that already had an infection that she had to be on medication for. It was like becoming a parent overnight without the nine month incubation period. I was willing to take on the for the responsibility, I just don't know if I was prepared for it.
Still we listened to the advice and the instructions as best we could, trying hard to soak it all in like a sponge, but after awhile it became hard to keep track of all the information coming at us. Really if they could just write some things down so you can refer to it later, that would be so much more effective (and calming). At this point I think both my husband and myself were apprehensive, but I still wanted the dog so not saying yes didn't even seem like an option. After all, people adopt dogs every day, how hard could it be?
One the way home I sat in the back with her while my husband drove since we didn't have a crate for her yet and the whole "driving in the car" thing was a new experience anyway. She was antsy at first, but she calmed down quickly and didn't even have any accidents. After awhile she started to look up at me and search my eyes. I know I may be sensitive to such things and read into it too much, but I really felt that she was trying to bond with me. After she'd look at me a few times, her head went to my lap as she was seeing me as source of comfort. Instantly I felt a rush of love for her.
Before going home we stopped off to to buy her a few essentials to get us started. One thing in particular we were told to keep our eye on was training her to go to the bathroom. Accidents will happen, we've all heard people say. But the lady at the shelter recommended we take her out every half hour until we had a groove down. Now in theory, this sounded easy enough, especially since my husband works from home, but getting up every half hour to stand outsid God knows how long is easier said than done. Plus we would take her outside to do her business and sometimes she'd go and sometimes she wouldn't. Regardless of the outcome, sometimes she'd go yet again...when she came back inside. So now it became an issue of not only taking her out, but cleaning up after her.
It is true when they say puppies are like babies because that's exactly what they are. It wasn't our fault she didn't know when or where to go to the bathroom, it was our job to show her this, as it was our job to patiently introduce her to crate training. It was apparent she was smart and would ultimately be a quick learner, but learning would take time and guidance and maybe even some expertise.
A very short time after having her my husband came to me saying that he thought we made a mistake. He regurgitated all the reasons I listed above as to why he was apprehensive about owning a puppy. He said that since I was at work during the day, the majority of the burden would fall on him and it would be hard to do alone and get work done, too. At first I wanted to be mad at him for not trying, but then I thought better of it because it wasn't my burden as much as it would be his, at least not initially. Plus he was only being honest I just wished that the honesty he was giving me didn't have to be the truth.
So that night, the only night we were to have her, we decided it would be best to return her to the shelter the next day. This way we wouldn't get too attached and she could be adopted by a new family sooner rather than later. I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do, but that didn't stop me from being devastated at the idea of doing it.
That night, as it would have been if we had decided to keep her or not, we decided to keep her enclosed in one room so that she didn't have free reign of the house. The only problem was she was only a baby in a strange house and she didn't understand. As a result, as soon as she was left alone, she started to cry and bark. I had to go to work in the morning and I knew puppies could do this to test anyway so I begrudgingly tried to ignore her. But it was just that she was so loud, I didn't know how I was going to be able to do that.
Suddenly, the noises stopped. Ultimately I drifted off to sleep, only to be awoken about an hour or so later by the cries all over again. So instead of dragging myself out of bed, I called my husband on the phone and asked if he had checked on her at all. Our schedules are completely different, so he was still up doing work downstairs. He told me that the reason she had stopped crying for awhile is because he took her and calmed her down. He got her to fall asleep and then he carefully carried her back into the room again. It wasn't until she woke up and realized that she was by herself that everything started all over again.
After hours of her crying on just would not subside, my husband decided to have her sleep with him since it would only be for that night anyway. It was a bad habit to get into, but it was a decision of survival (and the avoidance of sleep deprivation). What killed me was that was all she wanted. Somehow she didn't cry anymore, nor did she have any accidents the entire time she slept with him. When I heard this the next morning, I thought for sure that there was hope. But my husband said that as soon as he did wake up and went to go to work, she was alone again and ultimately, started clamoring for attention once more.
By the time I got home that evening, she was gone. He gave her back like you might handle ripping of a Band-Aid. It stings more at first, but the goal is that it will hurt less in the long run. Only problem was in the back of my mind, although there was no perfect solution, I kept hoping for a happy movie ending where I'd get home and he'd surprise me and she'd still be there. But when I walked in my house, it was almost as if it never happened. Any trace of her had been removed, as if it had all been just a dream.
I know it might sound silly since we weren't even dog owners for a twenty-four hour period, but when I think about giving her up, even as I type this, I still get sad. I can't even imagine what people do who have dogs for much longer and have to give them up or lose them to death or for some other reason beyond their control. I know I could have been anybody and she would have grown attached, but I'd like to believe I would have been the somebody she would have grown attached, too.
In an effort to appease me, my husband says it just wasn't the right time and place to have her. He says we can try again with an older dog and maybe in the summer when I have a few months to get a routine down with the dog before returning to work. So now the waiting game begins again. I'd like to think that it's true that it was the wrong time and place, but that she will ultimately end up with a good home (if she hasn't already) and that we too, will be able to give a dog that same unconditional love one day.
I don't dream a lot, but this is one dream, doggone it, I have to hold onto.