Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy Trails, Zozo

Zoey and I took our last walk together this morning. It was bittersweet.

I can't get out of my head the thought that I'm cutting this relationship short, selling her short in a way. Giving up too soon. While she spent much of the time pulling on the leash, wanting with all her might to go chase some birds or say hello to the sheep, she also periodically would turn and look back at me as if to say, "You still with me?" She was good on this walk.

About two weeks ago, after I'd decided to let her go, she was awful on walks. She pulled and pulled, was totally distracted, disregarded everything I said to her. When I told her to sit she'd look away, as if to say, "Hmmm. I don't think so." And rather than calmly reinforce the command and require her to sit, I got totally overwhelmed with her disdain. It pushed my buttons so completely that I could feel my heart begin to race and my mood change. One thing I don't need in my life is one more person to disregard what I have to say. That happens a bit too much around here. Three boys, two horses, two mini-donkeys and two cats...that's plenty, thank you very much! Poor dog just didn't have a chance, especially since she's a terrier. It's her nature to be distracted and to come late to the obedience table.

Unfortunately, I couldn't help but hold it against her. I took her disdain so personally.

Last weekend, about a week after I'd formally told the foster guy I was done, I felt Oh So Done. More done than before. Every chewed up piece of plastic, every time she refused to listen to me, every time she went to eat her poo (oh, did I forget to mention that lovely habit?) I would get livid. And I moved away from her emotionally. Well, guess what? Her behaviors all got worse. More chewing. More ignoring. More poo-eating.

On Monday I called the foster guy and asked politely when he'd be able to take her back. (He'd told me he had a foster with him and was waiting to place him.) I told him how hard it was to be with her. He said, "Sort of like when you've decided to get a divorce but no one's moved out yet." That was it and I had to laugh.

Something changed, though, after that. I went back to her with my open heart and decided that I could give her the love and separate, too.

Surprise, surprise...this week went much better. She was able to be more mellow, because I was paying more attention to her. She didn't exactly obey me on our walk today, but she didn't pull too much and she did look back at me to check in. Improvements, right?

And so I am torn.

She's bonded to me, even if she doesn't listen to me. She's bonded to us all. When Mark comes home she's so excited. When Harry takes her on a run, she's delighted. She doesn't give me that happy dog smile, almost ever, but if I get up and leave a room, she gets up too. She follows me everywhere and needs to know exactly where I am.

I remember when Jill, the trainer we worked with at first, said that Zoey was a challenge for her to work with so she was going to be impossible for us. I remember when Steve, our family therapist, after hearing me list all the health issues I'm trying to work out, looked at me and said, "You can't keep her. You need to take care of you." (But then, how he called that night and said he really understood how hard it was to give her up, how special she was, how even he was considering taking her...*)

I feel so selfish, sending her out into the world again. I wish I could tell her why she won't be with me any more. I wish I could watch her through a one way mirror to make sure she is happy in her future. (Certainly, having read Black Beauty as a child does not help me now.)

If she was truly a family responsibility, it would work. And this week the kids have pitched in more. But, I'm certain that's because it's temporary. Harry had no problem taking her out for a few runs, but he knows it's short lived. Ben and Toby took her outside for a potty break numerous times, and hung out with me at the dog park, too, but that's because they know it's only for a few more days. If it were on-going--nay, forever--they'd be putting up a fuss. And I already didn't have the time to spare. So now...what makes me have more time for her?


And so in an hour Mark and Harry will pack her into the car crate and take her to meet up with the foster guy (who will be delivering her to another foster placement in the East Bay). I'm saying good bye at home and then turning to other pursuits. Mark's my prince and he's doing that princely thing. Saving me the tearful drive home after the drop off. I feel somewhat like a weakling, but I like feeling his support. Why put myself through it if I don't have to?

Happy Trails, my sweet scruffy girl. I'll miss ya.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

dog days

So the problem with allowing so many weeks to pass with no updates is that when I finally do sit down to write I have too much to tell you and I fear no one will bother to read all the way through to the bitter end.

Thus, I write nothing and that nothing looms larger and larger and larger as the days pass.

Suffice it to say, I have been swamped by this dog. Zoey.

She came to us a month ago and will one day soon be moving on again, hopefully to find her forever home...a place where people are dog savvy and have the time and energy to put into her what she needs.

It's such a long story. And I hesitate to bore you with the details. (But if you really want them, they are below, at the end of this post.)

The sum total is that I like to believe she came into my life to teach me a few things and here's what I've learned so far:
*Listen to that little voice that resides over behind your right ear. The one that mentions the niggling doubts. Listen to that voice next time it says, "Hmmm. I think this isn't such a great idea."
*Make yourself first on your list for once. It's time to take care of you.
*Don't let everyone walk all over you. When you get ignored and you let it pass, you can't be happy with the outcome.
*Looks ain't everything.

Oh do I love this dog, but oooh boy this is not the right time to be care-giving for one more needy creature.

I am now facing some health issues that have been stubborn in leaving. The past four weeks with Zoey in residence I've not been able to care adequately for myself and barely for anyone else. A week ago I finally, finally realized that as much as I wanted to invest in this dog it was going to be at least a year before things calmed down and I don't have a year to put off the other important issues.

I will let you know more soon. I was just glad that I had a moment to write tonight.


Her name is Zoey and we brought her home four weeks ago.

As you can see, I haven't had a lot of free time on my hands to write, to think, to cook or clean or home"school" or even take a shower. It feels a lot like we adopted a toddler rather than a puppy. A toddler with sharp teeth.

She can not be left alone or she will destroy something.
She has the energy of ten men.
She is hands down the cutest dog at the dog park. She is very likely the cutest dog on the planet.
She is fast. No, I mean she is fast. In fact, when folks ask me what kind of dog she is I generally say, "She's part terrier, part speeding bullet." Yes, I say that.

And we're giving her back. Back she will go one of these days to Jon, the nice foster man who handed her over to us four weeks ago.

Our dog saga started on our lovely beach vacation in Cayucos when Ben declared that he wanted to get a dog. I told Mark, oh don't worry...this too shall pass. (Mark's not really a dog person, you see.) Ben and I got on the computer right away though, his passion for this concept running hot, and we read about dogs and watched dog videos. (An excellent homeschool research project.) We made a list of pros and cons and what kind of dog we were looking for (fully grown, not too big, sweet, mellow). At a certain point, I think it was when we got home and Ben's XBox started to look more interesting than dog books, I started to get more excited about the dog venture than Ben.

I went a few different places with my dreaming. Forgive me, but I was thinking of this dog, Ben's dog, as a way. A way out. A way of healing a boy who's had more than his fair share of pain and suffering. A way back to the boy he once was, the one who was so animal-sensitive and so physical, so in his own body. I was thinking, get this boy a dog and he will heal from all the nightmares and painful moments. So I started to push the dog concept a bit too much.

A voice in my head was definitely saying, Whoaaaaa. Hold on. Notice the boy at the XBox. Notice he is less interested than you, Mama. But I kept checking in with him and he kept telling me, Yeah, I do want a dog.

I knew better. I knew I was already maxed out with two horses, two mini-donkeys, two cats, and three boys. Oh and my wonderful, patient, forgiving, and ever-wise husband. Maxed. Out.

And yet.

I pushed on.

And we came home with this adorable terrier. The opposite of most of the qualities on our list. [Terriorists is what they call them at the dog park. And now I know why. She is so much a terrier. Rather than look up at me and ask with her brown eyes, What, o wonderous mistress, can I do to please you? She looks away from me and wonders (I can just see the wheels turning), Hmmm, how can I get this lady to do what I want?]

And just 24 hours after she came home Ben declared that he had changed his mind and he did not want this dog. He did not want any dog. He did not want the responsibility of a dog. (We talked about cold feet, new parents, etc. Didn't help.)

That was rough. All the rest of us had fallen for her, including Harry who is an avowed non-dog person. And Ben was turning his back on the whole thing.

I struggled with how to respond. After all, it was his idea. She was supposed to be his dog. He named her Zoey. What would happen if I just said no to his no? What would it mean if I said yes? And what about my hopes and dreams for them, this boy and this dog?

Well, I said no. I said, we all want this dog, maybe you don't but now the rest of us do. We started working with a trainer...that didn't go so well. My sister Mara came up and worked with me. That was wonderful...wonderful for me and Mara and wonderful results with Zoey.

But it the end it isn't enough. The reality of it all is that I don't have it in me to do this on my own. And on my own is the key. I'm the mom, so it falls to me. When Zoey became the family dog, rather than Ben's dog, the responsibility fell to me. Susie's dog. All my mama-friends with dogs have the same story at their homes. The dog is theirs.

It's hard to explain why this isn't working out. I have some health issues that have been plaguing me for months, things I've been working on correcting and have not made much headway on. Having this dog, this incredible time and energy suck of a dog (and I say that lovingly, but it just is so true) I have had to put my own stuff aside.

That is not the right choice. It can't be the right choice because my health is the key to the rest of the family's well being.

She loves us, we love her. That isn't the problem. It's really more a matter of timing.

I'm trying not to beat myself up about it. But it's hard to let her go...