Friday, January 9, 2015

An open letter to my dog's former owner

Almost two years ago you made a choice-you made the choice to take the puppy you had owned for 4 whole months to the animal shelter and leave her there. I don't know what prompted the choice you made and your reasoning behind the decision. Maybe you felt that you were making the right choice and the best choice-and in a way you were. The dog you dumped was lucky-she found a home, a good, loving home unlike so many other dogs who end up in shelters. In a way I should be thanking you because if you hadn't made the choice you did I wouldn't have found my soulmate and my best friend.

According to the paperwork you filled out (which you allowed to be shared with me) you are a single mom with three kids. You already owned 2 dogs when you brought mine home-the timing tells me she was probably an ill thought out Christmas present. I imagine your life is pretty busy-what made you think you had time raise another living being on top of the five you were already raising? I struggle to raise just a dog at times-I can't imagine having your life.

We know she was mistreated and we know she's hand shy. We also know that one of the worst forms of mistreatment is the neglect you heaped on her. Puppies are A LOT of work-in order for them to grow up to be well behaved dogs they must be trained, socialized, taken to vet and they take time and money. She wasn't socialized and that led to anxiety about new situations and people. She wasn't taken to the vet. No wonder you had problems with her.

When you dumped her you stated that there was nothing that could happen that would make you want to keep the dog. You said she had accidents on the floor, ran away sometimes (so you tied her up outside) and chewed on things. Might I point out that she was a 6 month old puppy? 6 month old puppies tend to chew on thing (to relieve teething pain or to relieve boredom), they have small bladders and they physically can't hold it-they must be taught and trained. To a dog the rug is a perfectly appropriate place to go to the bathroom until they are taught differently. A dog that is bored and allowed outside with no restraint will run away (trust me I learned that through experience). You stated that she threw up in the car-when your only experience with the car is scary situations (like leaving your mom or going to the animal shelter) you would probably throw up to. Puppies tend to get sick just like kids-the sensation of being in a car is a new one and they have to get used to it. Essentially you didn't have time for her and when the problems became too great you left her. After all she's just a dog and you can always find another free dog on Craigslist. You took a chance that because she was young and cute she would get a home and you did happen to be right.

You got rid of your problem and I have spent the past 2 years working to fix the problems YOU created. I won't let you duck responsibility for your actions-YOU made these problems and YOU left a mess for someone else to clean up.

When she came to us she was 15 pounds underweight. The first thing I did was take her to the vet to update any vaccines she needed and get her checked out. Once she finally had a reliable source of food she started to gain the weight again. I spent months working on finishing her potty training and working with her accidents. I bought more Nature's Miracle and paper towels than I care to admit. When she was left alone she chewed on our door frames, walls, shoes and anything else she could get her teeth into. Once again I paid the vet bill to find out this was not normal puppy chewing-this was separation anxiety. Experts think that separation anxiety is partially genetic so you're off the hook for that one, but I'm not sure that the environment she was living in helped her to feel secure. I paid for the medicine and spent months working on a desensitizing program. We worked our way up to now-she can stay alone for 8-9 hours with no anti-anxiety medicine. It took us almost 2 years to get to this point-in the beginning it was only 30 seconds. We realized her accidents that you so bitterly complained about were a symptom of her disease rather than willful defiance. She was just so utterly thrilled that we returned that she just couldn't contain herself any longer. As her anxiety decreased (and she grew up and gained bladder control) her accidents became less and less. Now they are pretty much a distant memory-all it took was time and patience.

When she got sick from eating drywall it was me who paid the expensive vet bill. Sacrifices were made that month in order to pay it, but it was paid and she got better. It was me who took 2 days off work, 2 days I really didn't have time to take, to take care of her. I was the one who woke up every two hours to give her the medicine she needed. I was the one who cleaned up after her when she lost control of her bowels in the middle of the night. She still got hugs and kisses even though she had made a mess.

I spent months unable to go on a date with my husband or even go grocery shopping without coming home to destruction. We gave up our social life and did the errands in shifts so she wouldn't have to be alone unless it was absolutely necessary. Our times away from the house consisted of work (where I worried about her all day), obedience class and drives around the block to get her used to the car.

We put in the time with her and we have been richly rewarded. She's funny, silly, messy, smart and loyal. She is my best friend and without her a little piece of my heart would be missing. When DH travels I no longer come home to a cold, empty house. I come home to endless unconditional love and a dog who loves to snuggle. When it's 8 degrees outside I have a foot warmer and she never has to worry about spending a night alone in the cold. She loves rides in the car now and I don't think I've been on more random country drives in my life. It makes her happy to watch the scenery and smell the smells. I can go to work, go on a date and travel again-but when I leave her I feel like there is something missing.

Essentially I have what everyone wants when they adopt a dog-a best friend. I assume that is probably what you wanted when you answered that internet ad. If you had been willing to put in the time and energy that is what you would have received, instead you gave up. The dog you gave up is not going to give her love away for free-she has to trust you and you have to show her that you are worthy for her to love you. You didn't take the time to build that bond and you were the one who lost out on one of the best dogs I've ever met.

I think about you a lot and I wonder if I could ever make the decision that you made. I envision scenarios where DH and I are broke and living out of our car. I envision DH and I dying. Somehow in every worst case scenario I can come up with I can't come up with one that would require us to put her back into a shelter. If we're alive we will find a way to care for her-if I gave her up it would be like giving up a piece of me and I couldn't do that to her. If we die we've made arrangements for her to be cared for. There is no way she will ever find herself in another bad situation. I think a lot about the day that she passes away-I know it will come and it devastates me to think about it. However, I know when she does take her last breath we will be there with her. To the very end she will know she was loved and when that day does come it will break my heart. However, I will be able to take comfort in the fact that she will have had a good life and we will have done the best we can for her.

In a way I'm happy you made the decision that you made because you gave me the piece of me I didn't know was missing. Yet I can't help but to be angry with you for giving up on her and for not seeing the dog I see. I mourn for your children who had to experience that loss and the fact that they have now learned that animals are disposable and when you get in over your head it's okay to pass that problem off to someone else. I'm angry that we don't have laws in place that would prevent you from ever owning another animal-from creating the same problems again and again. I can only hope that you learned something from your experience and that the other animals left in your care are being treated better than mine was. I have to thank you for giving me the best gift I've ever received, but I realize I'm the one who did the work. I earned her love and respect-something you never could do.

She's happy and loved now-and for that you should be thankful. 


  1. Aww, poor thing. Separation anxiety is really rough. My first dog (and first love) has that too but I got her at 12 weeks so it's just a thing that her breed experiences, sadly. Unfortunately, more dogs are neglected and it takes a long time to heal form it. Luckily for your baby she has you :) And so funny- I also wrote the previous owners of Romeo a letter!!! -

    1. Separation anxiety is so rough! It's so interesting to me to look at the genetic components and the life experiences component-dog psychology is so fascinating. I LOVED your letter to Romeo's previous "owners" (he's adorable by the way-I just want to hug him!). It's really amazing how similar they are-it's a nice exercise to let out some of that frustration with them. Thanks for stopping by and for reading!