Monday, 7 July 2014

A Story of Two Dogs

Oscar Wilde once said, with his typical acerbic wit,
'To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.'
I wonder if  the same applies to dogs, because unbelievable as it may seem, we as a family, have lost two dogs in one short year.

The first was Arthur, a black cockapoo puppy, who confusingly for all involved was actually called Coburn first. Don't even ask why we had to change it, it's just too ridiculous, and as it happened, we needn't have bothered, because he had such a short little life anyway. He died instantly under a tractor one blustery October morning when he was only five months old.

The boys saw it happen and they took it very hard. We just hoped that in the long run, they would learn lessons about grief and dying and perhaps ultimately, living.
So four months later, and not wishing this sorry experience of dog ownership to be their sole and lasting one, we acquired Dora, a lovely white four year old Bichon frise cross, whose owner had just started college and with her parents working , this meant  Dora was alone for most of the day.

At first she seemed perfect- no horrid housetraining , no manky dog breath  (unlike Arthur- maybe its a boy thing?), very little shedding AND she kept herself very clean. Being four and past the puppy
stage, she wasn't completely mental either- she didn't obsessively steal shoes, chew everything in sight and roll ecstatically in slurry. It was all good.

But then gradually problems emerged. Despite putting her bed in a 'quiet'  utility room, our house must have been noisy and mad and strange to her.  Clearly unused to children,  she quickly developed a preference for Himself, and worryingly, occasionally growled when Luke petted/pulled/ tortured her.

Of course, this put my guard up immediately, especially after I googled growling, and learned that this usually happened when a dog felt threatened and worse, often preempted a bite.
After that, I  never left them alone together, just in case. I"m pretty sure I put my own bonding with Dora on hold at this point too.

There was the manic barking when anyone approached the house, which got old really fast, but it was when she snapped at two  neighbours' children, simply because she hated their bicycles that we made the tough decision that we had to let her go- there are some risks just not worth taking.

Thankfully her old owner was happy to take her back, and changed circumstances meant that Dora would no longer be left alone all day.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I suppose that looking back, we should have known that an adult dog would find it very difficult to adapt to a much noisy, busy household, especially after growing up in a quiet house, with no children. We should have known, and we didn't, but now we do.

So what now? Speaking for myself, I  feel a bit drained after trying to bond and adapt to two different dogs over the course of one year, and honestly, if it were up to me, I'd draw a big old line under the whole dog  thing and tick that box in my head.  You see, it feels as if we've had all the emotional investment, teething problems and settling in issues of getting a dog, TWICE, without ever reaching a plateau of calm predictability with either. If I'm honest I even feel a little cheated.

And yet our family dog experience won't end there, it just can't and I know this. The older four wept bitterly and railed against the difficult decision we had to make last week, cajoling and begging, unable to understand that really, there was no decision to make. It was very hard to say goodbye, aided only by the fact that deep down we all knew Dora would be more settled and happier for it, and really, she was going home.

 So now here we are, back to square one as a dog free household once more, except this time we're a little more experienced and a little less blasé about it all. The leads and the chew toys, the bowls and the dog bed have quietly been moved into an old cardboard box in the garage....at least for now.


  1. Hi Emma. Wow - that is tricky. We went through the same thing we thought about having a dog as my boys were now 12 and 8 and I remember all the good things about having a dog growing up but also forgot that I was a child and did not do all the boring horrible stuff like walking in the howling wind in November! Well, the boys finally persuaded us that it would be great, it was just what we needed so off we went to the Rescue Centre and found a gorgeous 8 month old Labrador (coincidentally was brought over from Donegal). Well, she seemed lovely, a bit scatty and I tried to ignore the fact that she had nipped the boys on a couple of occasions and put it down to the fact that she had an unsettled start and once she settled she would be OK. Well, two weeks in and she bit my youngest really aggressively and, like you, decided that she could not stay. The Rescue Centre agreed to take her back and told us that they had not read her notes properly and she should not be placed on her own or in a house with children!! Would have been nice if they had told us first! Anyway, the packing up of her stuff was one of the most heartbreaking times I can remember, we were all distraught but also knew that she could not stay. This is two years ago now and even though the decision still stings, ultimately it was the right one for us and hopefully for her and that she could have a better home with another dog and without children. My two boys still talk about her often and wonder how she is now often knowing that it loosens the purse strings when they want something!! Chin up honey. You have to do what is right for your family first. Big Hugs. Laura xxx

  2. God I thought she was gone gone...wise to let her go home. Get a puppy like max and he will be used to the noise of a big family x

  3. We got a wee miniature schnauser puppy & she's adorable. The fight for a dog was long & intense as I'm not a dog person, but wee Skylar has made it easy for us. Easily trained, loves kids, very sociable & wants to like you to death. What's not to love

  4. You did absolutely the right thing for both your family and Dora so don't be hard on yourself. Finding the right dog can be tricky, it is a huge investment in time and emotion having a dog around but also very rewarding.

    Don't say never, just say, not just now. When the time is right I hope you find the right dog for you all.

  5. Totally agree with the other posters Emma you did the right thing even though it must have been really hard. I'm sure you will find a dog just perfect for you all, if not get a rabbit ;) x

  6. ah that must have been tough for you all. I would only get a puppy for this exact reason. They have to grown up with the noise and interaction that they get from the kids. We also have a mini schnauzer, we got him when he was 8 weeks old and he has always known he is the bottom of the pack so to speak. He in unbelieveably patient with the kids especially the youngest and we were very quick to tell him off in the early days if he ever growled at them and now he just knows. Puppies will try it on but they are easy to teach and learn quickly. i think older dogs are harder and obviously they are bigger. hope it works out. xx

  7. Such a hard thing to do - we got a black mini schnauzer when she was 8 weeks old three years ago - my children are grown up but one is still at home - yes Poppy loves us all to death - she is so happy to see us even when we come back in from putting the rubbish out - she does unfortunately rule the roost though !!