Letting Go of the Family Pet

Our love story started at a dog park, over 10 years ago. It is where we first met, surrounded by barks and jumping dogs.

Fast forward to today.

We had two young active school aged girls, my husband’s advancing career and pursuing advanced schooling, my growing business that I built from the ground up, and … the family dog.

petWe were trying to juggle all the balls in the air, from sun up to sun down in all areas of life, just like everyone else. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday, making sure you are staying on top of all the things that absolutely need to be done in raising children and maintaining our careers and household. And at the very end of the day, which usually means well into the evening for most, and all energy has been exhausted, it was the family dog looking up to say “Hi.” And we had nothing left to give.

It did not start like that.

We thought we would always just be dog parents; we used to take them on vacation and buy them fancy treats and outfits and even snuggies for those chilly winters. There may have even been a dog birthday party complete with dog friendly cake … But I think that anyone can say that their love for their pet changed even just a bit when children come into the picture. Your growing family becomes your priority, and while your four legged kid is still part of that too, your attention tends to shift. I know ours did. It does not make one a bad person; it’s just the truth. Children change everything.

He was a good dog and just wanted love.

My husband and my oldest were both indifferent to him. Our little one loved him dearly though. Not old enough to be responsible for his daily care (that, of course, was the one more thing on my plate), but she loved him with all her heart just the same. He was getting older though, and her little girl love was sometimes a little too much for his older age. And he was beginning to get snippy with all of us.

The decision to re-home him was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I felt like I was a failure, that I should be able to take care of a pet I had committed to all those years ago. I also knew it would break my daughter’s heart and no parent ever wants to do that. Making that decision racked me with guilt, but I truly felt (and still feel) we were making the best decision for our DOG. Not for our own personal reasons, but for the very simple fact that he deserved more love and attention than we all had in us to give. It would have been selfish to keep him really, as he was not flourishing in our home.

I struggled with telling our kids.

At five and six, I was not sure they would understand why this truly was the best for our dog. I contemplated doing it while they were gone and just claiming he ran away. But that felt dirty and unfair to them, so in the end it was my husband who suggested we go with honesty. We sat them down and had a long talk about responsibility and his well-being, and that if the family dog could not be at the top of ours, then he deserved better. We laid out the facts, discussed all the points, and asked their honest opinions of what they thought was in the best interest of our pet. They agreed that the kindest thing that we could do would be to to give him a better home. They took it incredibly well, much to my surprise, and were very understanding of the fact that he deserved a better home. I let them say goodbye and meet his new owners. It was a very sad day.

This is the first that I have not had a dog ever, but I really felt bad for my youngest. However, we were truly lucky that we were able to find a really wonderful home for him where he is living with multiple dogs of his same breed, and his new owners have said that it is as if he was always theirs. They send us pictures, and we can see that he is thriving and happy.

I know that not everyone will feel the same, but this was the best decision for our family. Our little one still asks for a dog from time to time and that leads to lots of talks about pet ownership and responsibility. We all agree that our family is not at a stage to take that back on at this time.

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