Years ago, some friends started an animal rights newspaper/organization/web site that I helped with. I wrote some of the articles and tried to help with the web site (not very well), and worked with other organizations to try and get some stuff done in the city to raise awareness.
One of the worst parts about the job (volunteer position) was that I would get the most awful emails from people about animal cruelty they witnessed, strays they picked up that had been abused, even animals that would lay on the side of the road, seriously injured. I hated getting those messages and the idea of all that abuse and suffering affected me deeply.
And of those messages, the ones I found most irritating were from people who were trying to get rid of their pets. Generally, it was a young couple who’d just had a baby and didn’t feel they could take care of their dog or cat any longer and wanted me to help them find another home. Those people really pissed me off. Put the kid in a stroller and walk your damn dog, I would say, only trying to be more polite.
Except now I find myself in a very similar situation. I don’t necessarily empathize with people who have money, own their home, have a great backyard, and just don’t want to mess with pets anymore. But I have come to terms with the fact that, since Bea came home from the hospital we have become the “wrong family” for our younger dog, Alvy.
He just turned 9 last month, and has been staying with my friend Liz since September, when we moved out of the moldy apartment into the second story place a little farther north. The first day we were in the new place, Liz, Bea, and I went out for a minute and didn’t take Alvy. After our return, maybe 10 minutes later, he had peeled the paneling off the back porch.
His behavior at the moldy apartment had been erratic, nervous, and weird, ever since Trinity passed away. He’d eaten the frame off the back door, and if we were going somewhere that we couldn’t take him, we were having to take extreme measures to try and keep him in one area without access to anything he could destroy.
It’s been as if, since I had the baby, he has gone slowly crazy, and, combined with two moves in three months (after five years in the same place), he’s gone even crazier. Trinity dying was sort of the last straw. He just lost his mind completely.
When I saw the paneling in the back room, I just started crying. Getting him up and down the stairs, wrestling with him and Bea, having to clean up after his messes all the time, had worn me out. I was just standing there, bawling, and Liz said, “Look, I’ll bring him home with me. I’ll see if I can find him some medication that’ll work. He needs to be around other dogs.”
That is, until her husband had enough of her rescuing dogs and helping other people. At one point a couple of weeks ago, she had Alvy, their two dogs, and three rescues she was keeping until she could find homes for them. Her husband put his foot down.
Upon our arrival in Indianapolis yesterday, Liz brought Alvy to the house where we’re staying with our friends Jill and Scott, and we traded him over next door, to a neighbor of Jill’s that thinks her dog is lonely and needs a friend.
That environment is going to be temporary, as well, though. Kristin and her boyfriend are putting their house on the market in February and hoping it will sell quickly. I don’t know what the chances of that happening actually are, but Kristin seems to think they’re pretty good. So she might only have Alvy for a couple, few months. At which point, we have to figure out something else.
If the last moves were hard on him, I cannot imagine how stressed he must be, being passed around from person to person. I feel guilty as hell, like such an asshole. This dog has been my responsibility, my family member, for nine years. Suddenly, because I don’t have time for him, I’m bouncing him around, trying to find a suitable place for him.
I have to tell myself, though, that it isn’t completely my fault. And it isn’t just about “time.” He does have special needs. He desperately needs someone who can give him a lot of attention, and he definitely needs a home without children.
There were times when Bea would try to play with him. I would watch her crawling on him, pulling on his ears (not hard), or just trying to hug him, and his ears would be straight back, his tail down, his eyes closed. It looked as if he was thinking JUST DON’T SNAP. JUST GET THROUGH THIS. And I would sometimes feel a little anxious, myself, like maybe he wants to turn around and chomp on her to get her to stop.
So I know it’s not that he isn’t our dog, not that we don’t want the best for him, not that I just want to give him away because having a pet is too complicated or something. I think he’s experienced so much trauma in his life, and been so stressed out, and has so many neuroses, that we aren’t the right people for him.
It’s still hard to accept, though, because I feel as if I’ve failed him, that I’ve becoming “one of those people” who just gives away a lifelong pet because he doesn’t fit into the new family structure.