What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Reality Check

No dog after all. Not yet.

You remember when you had your first baby? When you were pregnant, and people kept telling you how it would change your life, and you nod your head, but don't really believe it? It's only when you hold that baby in your hands and have been through your first sleepless night that it begins to dawn on you?

People told me having a dog is like having a baby. I said yes. And thought, sure, I can take another kid. And then Kenny came home.

At first all went well. The kids loved having him here (although in all honesty, Boo Boo wasn't too impressed). Then ran around with him on the leash, playing happily. Kenny was happy to play too. Dinner was ok. Kid's bedtime was not good. Charlie bird moves to Beavers' room when he goes to bed, and suddenly Charlie was within reach of Kenny. Who thought that chasing a bird was fun - can't blame his, he's a terrier cross. Well, Charlie didn't see the funny side, and Beaver totally freaked out that the dog was trying to kill his bird. Hmm. We'd had some funny moments during the play when Beaver frightened Kenny who growled and tried to nip at Beaver. Clearly the poor dog has had some bad experiences - I'd say he'd been hit - and suffered some trauma from that. We got a sense that a rescue dog might not be as easy as we had hoped.

And with the kids in bed, Kenny was restless. We tried to feed him, but he was not interested. So I took him for a nice long walk. We sniffed and weed at every second tree, did the big business, and an exhausted little dog came home. He finally drank some water and then fell asleep in front of me in front of the TV. All good. But then it was time to go to bed.

Well, Kenny wasn't having any of that. He just wanted to go home. The playing and walking was fun. But sleeping in our house? No way.

So he started barking. Loudly. And tried to bite me.

Hubby noticed the little dog was shaking, so he picked him up, held him tight and stroked him. That helped. Doggie calmed down. It's just that an hour later, Hubby was still sitting on the side of the bed caressing a frightened dog. He'd put him down, and instantly Kenny would bark again. He would not let me hold him but barked at me and tried to bite me. So Hubby sat there most of the night with Kenny in his arms, until the poor thing was so tired that he fell into an exhausted sleep. And snored. And not just a little bit!

It was one of those nights where I came face to face with my limitations. At about four a clock in the morning I realised that we had made a mistake. As much as I want to do this, now is not really the time. We have so many other things going on - Beaver's anxiety, which will of course not miraculously go away from having a dog, Possum's insecurities about his place in the world, and Boo Boo about to start preschool next month. Hubby's business facing potentially funny times. And my wildlife work and disability advocacy work I am about to take on at the end of this month. I realised Kenny needs a lot of time and a lot of love to settle into our house. He's a very sweet and smart little dog, and he is a perfect fit for our family. I could see how in six months time we would have a happy little dog that would be a real joy to have around. But staring those next six months into the eye that night in bed, I realised that I just can't do it. It's not Kenny's fault. It's just that I can't cope with giving him what he needs and deserves right now. And the reality is that much of the work will need to be done by me, and I can't.

So we agreed that the best thing to do was to take him back that very morning, before we all got too attached to him and he settled into our house and family. The kids were disappointed, mostly so Possum, who had really formed a bond with Kenny. Beaver was happy with the decision after Kenny had another growl at him and tried to catch Charlie again. Boo Boo couldn't care less. Beaver did shed some tears over his worries whether Kenny would find a loving home, since clearly his life had been troubled - we had to explain to the kids that the dog had been mistreated by his previous owners so that they understood that Kenny wasn't being mean or nasty but just scared. He does have a gentle heart, that boy.

I bawled my eyes out when I took him back. Kenny however was happy to be home. He sniffed excitedly when he came out of the car and realised were we were. He went straight in to play with his doggie mates, and never looked back. Probably just wondered why those doggie walkers wanted him to sleep in their strange house that evening.

I do not feel proud about this. I do feel like I deserted a loving and well-deserving dog. And I do feel like a total goose for not having listened more carefully to people's warnings. And sure, I feel ashamed for giving up so quickly.

But I know it was the right decision.

There will be a time that we bring home a rescue dog to add to our family. Just not quite yet.

We've had a few big talks over the last two days. This year will be one of consolidation. Getting the kids settled at school and preschool. Starting the advocacy work, slowly but steadily. And getting Hubby's business on a sound footing. And in three or four years, when Boo Boo is at school and Beaver is mature enough to understand the difficulties of settling in a dog, we will go back to the doggie rescue place. And do it properly, knowing what lies ahead. And we will only go when we know we are ready.

I still feel sad about it.

I am sorry Kenny. You are a good boy and deserve better. Hope you find a loving home soon.


anita said...

Och wie schade! Kenny wird sicher ein gutes Zuhause finden. Aber auch noch ein Hundepsychologe, das ist zu viel.
Tante Anita

Sharon said...

Oh don't feel bad. I think you did the right thing. It does sound like he had a troubled life before reaching the shelter, he may even have been socialised too little, to drag up my limited knowledge of dogs.

We got a dog last June. I considered getting a rescue dog but our nearest organisation wouldn't let me have one saying that as a home-educator I wouldn't have the time to care for it. That was silly but that particular centre are renowned for being super fussy.

I opted then to buy a miniature schnauzer puppy. Pippi is 8 months old now and is a darling. I didn't think it was anything like as hard as raising a baby, but it does take time to train them. But starting from scratch meant she's growing up used to us and our loud house and peculiar ways.

You can think about it all again when you're ready. One thing I appreciated was getting the pup in early summer so it was warmer and light when I had to be outside with her while she house trained.

Brendan said...

You already do an AMAZING amount of things, and have already achieved so much more than most people.
Everyone has their limits, and thats ok! It's just not something that you can deal with at that moment. You should feel proud of what you have achieved, and what you do achieve on a daily basis. Don't feel bad because you couldn't take on something else! :)

Shannon said...

Aww, Heike...
It must break your heart to make a choice like this. You have such a huge heart and care for so many. Someone else will care for the little (finger nipping bird eater) sweet thing ; ) In all seriousness, when you are ready you will make the best family a dog could ask for. Don’t be too hard on yourself for knowing when to say when.

Fiona said...

We went down the same track a few years ago with a rescue dog and I made exactly the same difficult decision. I cried more over giving up on the dog than Mr S brain injury diagnosis. It's tough but someone has to make the right decisions for everyone - and that's your job. That's what leaders do. Try again in 2 years.

Dianne said...

Oh, what a rollercoaster for you!!!

It's a shame it didn't work out, but I think you definitely made the right choice to take him back 'home'.

Another dog, another time, I bet it will be great.