The whole process really started a few years ago when the kids began bugging us for a dog. Back then the answer was easy… “I’m NOT potty training a dog until all my kids are potty trained.”. I still had one in diapers and one on the way so this seemed like a safe statement to me.
Unfortunately, what I saw as a good excuse my children took as a promise. This spring/summer marked a glorious new, diaper free chapter in our lives and I lived in blissful contentment…and then the begging started.
The “NO” came easily enough at first. I’ve had dogs, I know how much work they are. I’m not ready to deal with another creature’s poo yet.
Then I’d have days where my heart was a little softer but my husband would give the firm NO. Or he’d have a soft-hearted day but I was firm. Then both of our hearts started to soften at the same time.
We’d go into the city and see the pet stores or the pet supply aisles and sigh a little. Then we’d wander in a little and just look around.
You can imagine what happened next. Yep – we went to the SPCA and met the sweetest, cutest, cuddliest little pup! He snuggled up into my neck and I was jelly. I caught myself rocking and bouncing him like a tiny baby. We paid the deposit but had to wait two more weeks to take him home as he needed another vaccine and to be neutered.
Those weeks were spent puppy proofing the house, teaching the kids that they couldn’t leave all their tiny toys laying around. We bought a bed, a kennel, some toys, food and treats. We told everyone we saw about our exciting news. We. Were. Pumped.
As the X’s on the calendar began to consume the blank spaces, moments of “what are we thinking” began to worm their way into my head, though, I gave them no heed. I simply chalked it up to the fact that I was just being realistic about what my next long while will be like with training and not romanticizing the experience.
Then FINALLY Monday came. We all woke up excited and happy. The plan was to pick the kids up at daycare after work, drive to the SPCA and live happily ever after.
I got a call asking me to come two hours later than I had planned and I found myself oddly relieved.
3:00 came and I piled the kids in the van and off we went. We spent the whole drive trying to agree on a name, to no avail. We walked into the building and the kids all started calling him Rusty as I filled out the remaining paperwork and paid the balance.
The drive home was bliss as everything that Rusty did brought sheer joy to my children.
Rusty was just as sweet as we expected him to be. He didn’t bark unless he needed to go outside. He already knew to do his business outside! He was well behaved and loved to cuddle and play.
I felt uncomfortable emotions rising up in me and I quickly stuffed them deep, deep down.
My husband came home from work and commented, “Yep, it smells like dog in here.” and I was instantly upset with him. How dare he disrespect our new little bundle of joy?!
The evening went on and the emotions kept creeping up my spine. We played, we trained, we oohed and we ahhed. Then – my oldest daughter said the one sentence that brought me crashing down.
“So, mom, what do we do if Rusty gets sick?”
It was an innocent and thoughtful question – and it sent my emotions spiralling out of control.
“We take him to the vet.” I answered.
My husband looked at me and recognized the fear in my eyes and my inner struggle to hold myself together. It’s a look he hadn’t seen since I’d been able to get all the depression and anxiety under control.
The worst part was that neither of us knew why.
The evening went on and the kids went to bed. Rusty continued to be an ideal little pup. He slept through the night. I didn’t.
What little sleep I had was fitful and troubled. For some reason I was afraid of this puppy. But more than that, I was terrified of the fear.
Morning came far too quickly and my husband got up for work. He took Rusty outside, fed him and bonded. When he left, Rusty gave the slightest of whimpers. I got out of bed and spent time playing and cuddling with Rusty.
Okay, he’s still a sweet little thing. Just focus on the positive.
I was determined to keep my self-talk positive and grounded in reality. I did okay…for a while. The children awoke and doted on Rusty. We played outside, we played inside. We took him for a walk to the town office to get a dog licence.
Rusty continued to be perfect. I continued to lose my mind.
I was texting with my mom and sisters, who I’m so grateful for! I love that in these times I can be honest with them without fear of judgement.
I tried all the grounding exercises. I tried to enjoy watching my kids love on this little mutt. The anxiety just kept building.
I called my mom. I think it was about an hour long conversation. My mom loves me and advised me to take Rusty back to the SPCA for the sake of my sanity.
I called my little sister who has a dog and could understand my feelings. My sister loves me (and sometimes she likes me, too) and she advised me to just give it a little longer and maybe Rusty would prove to be a great asset to our family.
I called my big sister who can talk me down from pretty much anything. She loves me too and advised me to put my emotional well-being ahead of my guilt.
I called a very dear friend who always makes time for me and my family and is like family to us. This friend loves me and advised me to give it a few more days and do my best to restore my bond with Rusty.
I texted my husband to ask how his allergies were. I’ll admit that I was angry that he wasn’t sick from having a dog in the house. I wanted him to say that it was unbearable and we had to get rid of Rusty. That’s an easy and logical decision.
Throughout this day and these phone calls I became more and more of a wreck. I couldn’t hold in the tears any longer. I found myself trying to hide from Rusty. Rusty kept finding me and giving me this look that begged me to love him.
I even called my husband at work and I NEVER call him at work.
I had to be on the phone. I had to be talking to people because left alone with my thoughts was NOT a good place to be.
On top of all this irrational and so very unexpected anxiety was a load of guilt too heavy to bear. I went from Best Mom Ever to Worst Mom Ever in less than 24 hours.
I did this. I said yes to getting a dog. And now I knew in my heart of hearts that I had to say no. I got my kids’ hopes up and now I was going to dash them against some very jagged rocks. I was being mean and selfish.
In the fog of guilt, however, was the lighthouse of truth. My kids would get over it. Both my husband and I had dogs growing up and both dogs met untimely deaths. We both coped and moved on. My kids would too.
By the time my husband had come home from work I had resolved in my heart that Rusty needed a better home than I could give him. I was perking up. As an added twist to the saga, my eyes began swelling shut and hurting in a way I had never experienced. Apparently now I’m allergic to dogs too.
This story has a happy ending. Rusty now goes by a new name and has the perfect home with my daughter’s best friend. He has some four legged friends there too and my kids get to visit him regularly. There were tears and questions, but within two days my children had basically forgotten that they even had a pet and I have had no anxiety since the new family told me they were keeping him.
I’ve had many theories as to why I reacted the way I did to Rusty, but the truth is that I just don’t know. God doesn’t always answer the question, “why”, but that’s okay. I trust Him anyway.