Sometimes we all do things that we don’t want to do out of love for another. This story has nothing to do with a child—but does involve an animal I love ‘like’ a child. For you animal lovers out there, you know what I mean.
Lexi was supposed to be Amanda’s dog and to an extent she was—but she and I also bonded very close. When we decided to go to the local animal shelter, we were looking for a small dog to bring into our family. As we walked down the rows of cages housing those who had been abandoned, abused or neglected, my heart broke for all the pups and old-timers whining for attention. We asked to spent contact time with one dog but once we had her outside, we didn’t really feel a connection.
The shelter volunteer had led us by a glass window that looked into a small room with a couch in it. In front of that couch was a beautiful yellow lab, with deep brown eyes that were a window to the hurt she had been through. We asked about her and were told that ‘you don’t want her, she has a lot of problems’. The volunteer told us that she had been abused. That did it for us and we adamantly asked to see her. We were led into the room and upon seeing us, the dog peed a huge puddle in the floor and shaking from snout to tail, she leapt up on the couch and buried her head in the corner. It reminded me of those games we play with our babies where they believe if they can’t see us–we can’t see them.
The dog was terrified but we were determined to see how she would react outside of the building. We asked for contact time and as the volunteer led her down past all the barking and howling dogs, she did the ‘army crawl’ as close to the floor as she could with her tail between her legs.
To make a long story short, we took Lexi home that day. It took us weeks to get her to accept a leash (we think she had been beaten with one because producing it prompted terror-stricken antics). Our first 20 or so times walking around the neighborhood was a challenge in patience, as Lexi would not lift her head or eyes and walked hunched over with her tail between her legs. But we didn’t give up trying to boost her confidence and trust.
After we smothered her with love for a few months, Lexi became the best dog I have ever known. She did not bark, chew on anything that wasn’t hers, climb on the furniture or have bathroom issues—she was the most loving creature I had ever met. She would come over to me and lay her snout on my leg and just look up at me like I was the most wonderful person on earth. (which believe me, I am a long way from..)
For two years I obsessed about Lexi and how much ‘outside’ time she was getting as well as personal family time. I and the rest of the family were gone 12 hours a day, but I spent many, many lunch hours driving down the interstate at breakneck speeds to just walk her for 10 minutes and rush back to work. On days I couldn’t get away, I’d call a neighbor and knowing it was a huge imposition, would ask her to let Lexi out. (however, it was tricky for her because Lexi would only go out if she ‘knew’ for sure she could immediately come back in and we had to use pychology on her) Though her care while we were away was a challenge, my concern was for her. She didn’t like to be left outside, was afraid of storms and was just happier in the house but definitely needed a bathroom break at least once during the work day.
Just before we moved to Georgia, we decided that we were doing an injustice by not allowing Lexi to be with a family who were home more and were also able to give her the exercise a labrador needs. So we began a search. We were put in contact with a few people, who I declined, but finally were connected with a man who had been searching for a lab to replace one he had loved years before and lost. We asked him to come meet Lexi and us. It was a good connection and we decided to let her go for a visit. One of the perks for her was the mom of the house was home earlier than I was each day, and it was a 2-child household meaning playtime for Lexi, AND….the dad wanted a dog he could take when he went exploring, hunting, fishing, etc. It sounded like a dream for Lexi.
She went for that visit and he called to ask if they could just keep her, that she was the perfect dog I had described. After hard discussions, we agreed. However, that night both my daughter and I were completely inconsolable. We cried. And cried. And cried some more.
But we did it for her. To give her a life where she wasn’t sitting in a big, empty house everyday waiting on her family to come home.
I miss her. I have (a million times) even considered calling her new family and begging, pleading, bribing for them to give her back. But I cannot bring myself to do that to Lexi. I am still living a frantic-paced life with not a lot of time left over. I am not home many hours each day. How would I feel taking her from a life of constant family interaction to a life of only-sometimes-when-we-can-fit-it-in interaction?
I was at a festival last weekend and an animal shelter had a booth open taking donations. They had with them a gorgeous brown-eyed dog named Bruce. He was standing there patiently while a stranger’s 2-year-old hugged him, pulled his ears and slobbered all over him. I was mesmerized. I wanted to bring him home—but I knew better and hoped a much better equipped family would come along. Unfortunately, the volunteer said that Bruce had been in their shelter for almost 5 years! I couldn’t imagine why, he seemed so docile and sweet.
So anyway, there really is no point to this post other than to share a tiny piece of my life with you and to tell you that sometimes we do things that break our hearts–for the love of another.
PS. If you are a family who have the time and space available to take on an animal, please consider a shelter dog. I promise you, I have had many dogs in my life but never one like Lexi, who may have not been adopted if we had not come along.
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