|Simon and Riley watch the boys leave for school, 2009|
We wanted to get a dog while our kids were small, so they could enjoy the benefits of having a pet to love and care fore and consider, and because little boys and doggy pets are nearly synonymous. Our first dog Meelu lasted exactly 3 days. She arrived when Riley was 2 weeks old, which was just the way it worked out although we had planned to adopt her months earlier, in time to adjust before our third baby arrived. She needed surgery and medical care for her leg and it just drew out the adoption process that much longer, and when she did come, it was just terrible timing. So we let her go to the next family on the adoption list (she was a purebred Beagle who happened to come through the rescue agency so she was in demand). A year later, we tried again, and got Simon.
He was an 8 week old puppy, black lab/basset cross (a funny cross, which sometimes results in short, long dogs but in this case resulted in a weird but cute looking lab), and pretty sweet. From day one, he walked to and from the kids' school with us, and lived in our townhouse with plenty of walks, water, treats, and love.
Because he grew up around small kids, we just assumed he would be fine with them. I have a long history of family dogs in my childhood, and so does Brent, and never were any of them a problem around kids. But last spring Brent's brother's family came over for the afternoon and Simon bared his teeth and growled at their 20 month old (my nephew Ruben). I was shocked. Simon was eating popcorn, which was all over the yard, and there were kids everywhere, so I scolded him and put him in the garage (where his food and water and a bed are) with the dog door closed so he couldn't get back into the yard when all the kids were playing in it, but I kind of thought it might be understandable dog behaviour, given the food, the yard full of kids, and the fact that Ruben was tugging on his fur when it happened. I didn't think it was acceptable but I did think it was understandable.
A few days later, we went to Brent's parents place with the same group and brought Simon along to tear around their two acre farm with their dog Jasper. Brent and Ruben were walking back towards the house from the shop and Simon was jogging along with them, when Brent heard a surprised, "WUF!" and Ruben started screaming. Brent picked him up and his eyelid was torn really deeply. Nobody knows exactly what happened because Ruben and Simon were right behind Brent, but the best we can figure is that either Ruben tripped and Simon tripped over him, scratching his eye with his paw in the process, or Simon swiped Ruben with his paw and caught his eye. We called an ambulance and Brent, Ruben, and my sister in law Billie went to the hospital. Ruben was transported to Children's Hospital for surgery to repair his tear duct and the eyelid, and he required a drain to be put in, monitored, and finally removed at the beginning of this month. Later on that same day of this incident, Brent and I discussed the possibility of putting Simon down. Everyone in our extended family who was there that day strongly discouraged this, pointing out correctly that no one knew if it was an accident or not, and that dogs are trainable so perhaps even if it was intentional, he just needed some obedience school. They also pointed out that in the ten weeks prior to this, we had moved to a new house and brought home a new baby, so perhaps an adjustment grace was merited.
We decided to keep an eye on him, and think about it for a week or so, before we decided what to do.
A week later, my cousin Sara came to visit with her two small boys. Her youngest was 2 at the time, and has a dog himself who looks very much like Simon and puts up with all kinds of wrestling and toddler boy antics (in fact, she loves it). Ryen was toddling behind Simon as Simon walked towards his bed, and with no warning or indication that he was frustrated, Simon reached back and snapped at him. He is a big dog with big teeth and a scary snarl, and Sara and I were within three to five feet of them when it happened, so we all freaked out. I was totally taken aback. But it sealed the deal. Simon couldn't stay with us. We have four small kids, at that time a baby who would soon be toddling, a busy extended family with tons of small kids, a substantial circle of Nerdy friends with tons of small kids, and just no room for a dog who cannot handle toddlers. We didn't think his behaviour quite justified being put down but could not keep him so we decided to find him a new home. Of course we would give FULL disclosure to a new owner/family so they would know what they were getting into, but I figured if there are people out there willing to adopt all the pit bulls and rotties on the SPCA list, there had to be someone who would take a sweet basset/lab who can't handle toddlers, right?
We didn't really have the money for obedience school, although we would have scratched up enough for it had we decided to keep him. We put the word out, and there were a few leads but nothing panned out. Eventually we had 3 near launches: three separate times our kids said goodbye to their doggy, and the adopting person didn't show up or changed their minds at the last minute. So frustrating. Brent tried to contact the rescue organization we adopted him from but discovered that they were closed down because of (!!) fraud (!!) of all things! So we couldn't enlist their help to find Simon another home. I contacted LAPS, which is the Langley version of the SPCA (Canadian equivalent of the Humane Society) but although their adoption board is filled with freaky breeds who are known to be dangerous (always "ONLY BECAUSE OF THE OWNERS AND NEVER BECAUSE OF THE DOG," which if you ask me is bullshit; people have ornery personalities or disorders that lead to behavioural problems sometimes, so why not dogs? Early experiences shape this personality but some are ornery and don't like chaos or noise or kids, period, you can't blame parents for EVERYTHING), I got an email back that said, "Sorry, but we do not adopt out dogs who are known to be aggressive."
I feel trapped. Now that Amarys is toddling, they cannot be in the same room together. So Simon spends his days between the yard and garage, and only comes inside at night while Amarys is sleeping. He rarely goes on walks anymore because whenever I walk anywhere (a) I have to take my kids, and (b) we always go to kid friendly destinations like playgrounds and parks, or the school, where kids and toddlers are bound to be. Whenever Brent is home from his long work hours, he wants to spend time with us so the same problem ensues.
|Simon at Christmastime|
This morning, despite me being very diligent, Simon and Amarys happened to be in the kitchen at the same time for a short period. He snarled and snapped at her, and scared us all. I'm done. I'm so, so done. This damn dog is my ball and chain and I feel sorry for him that he has to stay outdoors so much, but he literally cannot handle Amarys' presence. He's a nice dog! Months will go by with no incidents! But toddlers make him nervous and instead of slinking away like most dogs would, he gets snarly. He does it way more when Brent is not around, and I try to show him that I'm in charge (kindly but firmly), but it doesn't settle his nerves.
After this morning I'm ready to consider the needle. If there is no single person or childless couple out there who would like a dog and is willing to take on ours, who needs so little to be happy (but one of those things is a toddler free environment), it might need to be considered.
Of course, we cannot afford it. Euthanizing a dog is expensive. This month in particular is very dry, financially, and the only way we could put him down would be to bounce our mortgage payment. Borrowing money for it would be a difficult solution because at this point, I'm considering borrowing money from family to pay for groceries, but paying it back is a near impossibility because we live so close to the line and have so many needs. As you can see, more and more the dog is a ball and chain. As spring arrives we will be wanting to use the backyard more, and it will be even harder to keep Simon away from Amarys, and this whole pressure cooker situation is just going to get worse. I'm crying. This is awful. How did we get here? How much of it is our fault? What can I do?
It has been a year. We've been trying to find Simon a new home for a YEAR. I have an aggressive towards toddlers dog in my house and we have a toddler. How did this even happen?