My Children Or My Dog

As some of you already know, we don’t have Sally Dog anymore. We love her very much and yesterday morning, I thought that we reached a turning point with her and our children. She seemed genuinely relaxed and comfortable around them. I had an email ready to go about how we’ve worked passed our problems — complete with cute pictures of my son and Sally!

E and Sallydog making friends. Or so I hoped.

(Our problems recapped: A few weeks ago, she nipped my kids three times. She has also growled at each of them here and there. We hired a dog trainer and implemented every suggestion. But I made myself a promise that if she nipped or snapped again, we would not keep her. I love animals but my children’s well-being and our family feeling safe are paramount.)

However, two hours after our BREAKTHROUGH and with no provocation, she snapped at my son. In his face. My son was terrified. (I would’ve been, too.) I held E and was grateful he was not hurt. But I began to quietly cry. Because I knew that Sally had to go.

It is not fair to my children to have a dog who is not safe for them to love. Nor is it fair to Sally to be in a home where she feels uncomfortable.

On our way to soccer, we saw an SPCA billboard.
E: Look! A cat!
Me: Do you like cats?
E: Yes! And dogs. But I deserve a dog that doesn’t bite me.
Me: Yes, you do.

The veterinary office, from where we adopted Sally, took her back at 6 p.m.. The vet tech, who I thought hated us for adopting Sally, hugged me as I stood in the busy lobby sobbing. And while she may have hugged me for failing, she did say: I hope you don’t give up on dogs. Y’all are a great family and will make a dog very happy. It just didn’t work out with Sally.

Our own vet echoed this weeks ago when he became aware of the problems between her and our children.

He promised that there is a dog for us.

One that actually LIKES my kids.

And although I feel like a failure in choosing the wrong dog. In not MAKING it work. In having to say good-bye to Sally. We are keeping our hearts open to the probability of another dog. Because much to my surprise, I really love having a dog. And i usually don’t have a lot of love for those who randomly frighten my children.

I miss her already, but I am very grateful that she inspired us to open our home to a dog.

Thank you, Sally. I hope that you find the home you deserve.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

28 thoughts to “My Children Or My Dog”

  1. Oh how sad. I don’t think I’m a dog-lover, but we may one day get one anyway because we have so much to learn from them. I just have to mentally prepare for the work involved. You obviously made the right choice to give her back, but how heart-wrenching.

  2. Well, as the mother of a little fuzzy dog, I will tell you that I am thankful every single day that the two homes she was placed in prior to ours, did not work out. She was abandoned, and blind…and now she’s mine.
    There are homes and pets that work, and there are many that don’t. You’ll find a dog that works with yours.
    Don’t give up, and don’t be too hard on yourself. You definitely did the right thing…for you and for Sally.

    1. What a great perspective! Two of the cats that we’ve owned where from homes that did not work out. But they were perfect for us! And I can TOTALLY remember to be grateful for that. And for the home that Sally DOES find.
      Thanks.

  3. Poor Sally dog!I wonder what made her so uncomfortable 🙁 I hope the kids aren’t hurt,sigh.I’m sure you did your best,but sometimes it just doesn’t turn out the way you expect it to be.I have a living example at my house…my dog-who would willingly go to the guillotine for me just WOULDN’T allow ANYONE else to pat her,even if they are being super nice.the cuddling,cleaning,feeding,poop-scooping privilages are all mine..not because nobody else wanted to but because he wouldn’t let ’em 🙁 I feel it,yes. But I sure hope you get a bounding lick-happy pooch soon 🙂

  4. I’m so sorry that it’s been a struggle! You were a loving and kind home for Sally, i can tell just from how you write about her. Some dogs are just not meant for kids. My grandma had a dog before kids who turned on them all after the second baby arrived. It was just too much. And she was a good dog before. I hope you find the right dog, when the time is right.

  5. You made the best decision for everyone. Although it was a really hard one for you to make, you also really helped Sally Dog. Unfortunately your home was just not the right one for her but she will find a good home and hopefully you guys will find a good dog. If you decide to look for one again I’d like to suggest AARF. We just adopted Sully, a beautiful 3 y/o german shepherd and he’s been fantastic. They said he was cat friendly, gnome (child) friendly and boy were they right! He lets my daughter do whatever and has never, ever snapped at her. They let us have him in our home for about a month before we adopted him because we weren’t sure if he’d ever stop chasing our cats. He did, without formal training and things have been great. In fact our adoption was just final 2 weeks ago. Anyway – just a thought and I applaud you for making such a difficult decision.

    1. I just sent an email to AARF. They are really helpful because they seem to know that dogs very well. I actually explained the whole situation (I probably should’ve just linked to this post) so now I’m consumed with fear that they will see us as unfit dog-parents.
      Congrats on your new dog! He sounds fabulous.

        1. I’m so glad you contacted AARF! I just sent my contact an update on Sully and mentioned you guys too. The woman who helped us was Debra Allan. I swear she has super powers with dog matching. My husband really liked this other dog (whose name I can’t remember) and when we told them that we had cats and a toddler she was like “oh no, he likes to eat cats but let me show you who would be perfect for you guys…” and sure enough. Sully is! 🙂

          AARF has a dog adoption “setup/stand” at the PetSmart at Libbie every Saturday until about 3 I think. Might be worth stopping by. 🙂 Good luck!!!!

  6. What a sad sad moment. But i agree there is a dog out there that is just right for your kids that will love them with out biting them.

    Love the photos, they are too cute.

  7. Oh, this is so sad. I’m all teared up after reading about it. You obviously did the right thing. I’m sure your family will find a pet that everyone loves and he/she will love everyone. And Sally will find a home where she is happy and loved too. It just wasn’t the right fit, and that happens. Our children come first, there’s no doubt about that. Good luck!

  8. We had a dog like that. We sent her back, too. Dogs are not safe pets if they don’t have the proper mentality.

    That said, sometimes all they need is some retraining. Dogs in situations with small kids often don’t understand that the kids are alphas. A good trainer can make an enormous difference in that case.

  9. I’m so sorry things didn’t work out! You just never know — chemistry is unpredictable stuff (despite what they taught you in med school!). We’ve got two dogs who are amazing with our little girls, but we worked with them both since they were puppies to try to make that happen. The only time in four years they’ve snapped at either girl was when Loki (the dog) was completely & totally asleep & Maddie (baby #2) crawled over & literally poked him as hard as she could in his butt (oh yes, right there. Just like a bullseye to a 10 month old apparently.) He leaped up & snapped in the air. Maddie was completely unfazed, I jumped out of my skin & I think Loki was a little afraid when he realized who he’d snapped at! Poor guy had no idea what was going on since he hadn’t seen it coming. Neither had I. She’d just started crawling & I had no clue she was that fast. Or that she would find his butt that interesting. My bad.

    Anywho, I think there’s something to be said for working with a dog from puppyhood, but boy are puppies work! I will say that they will let our girls do anything to them. Loki’s let them stand on his head to get something they wanted (not good for anyone!) & Grady has let them sleep on his side (& he would NEVER let me do that!). We did start tormenting them as pups though — taking their food away when they were eating, lightly tugging their tails, all per our vet’s advice to get them used to the behaviors that kids do. This isn’t to say that we let our kids torment our dogs nor that we let them hang out unsupervised, but kids will be kids & it’s important to know how your dog will behave in those instances.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the right dog comes into your lives. (And if you decide on a puppy, wait awhile. They are WORK! Like infants. And I know how you feel about infants… 😉 )

  10. Oh my gosh, Alex. I actually got teary-eyed reading this. I’m sorry it didn’t work out with Sally, but I’m so glad you have an open heart about dogs because she was in your life!

  11. I’m so sorry to hear that it didn’t work out with Sally, but I’m glad to hear that you haven’t given up on doggies. I’ve found that relationships with pets are like relationships with people; sometimes there’s a “fit” and sometimes there’s not, but it’s not anyone’s fault if the relationship doesn’t go as planned. People and animals just are who they are, and we’re bound to fit better with some than with others. My guess is that Sally was in your life for a reason and that you all were in her life for a reason, even if things didn’t go exactly as you had expected. I also think that, probably, all of you (including Sally) are wiser, more spiritually evolved beings as the result of this experience. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I’m so sorry. A dog becomes part of the family, like another kid. When I was growing up, we acquired a toy poodle. It would constantly growl and nip at anyone who passed, except my mom. We were all quite afraid of it, this little tiny poodle, and that’s not the way to be. You shouldn’t have to be afraid in your own home. You made the right choice. Sally will find a family that’s right for her and you’ll find a pet that is right for you.

  13. You know you’re doing a great job of parenting when your kid says, “I deserve a dog that doesn’t bite me.” Precious.

    Sorry Sally didn’t work out, and hope the dog for you shows up soon.

  14. I’m so sorry to hear that it didn’t work out. Reading your post gave me a little insight into what my Mom must have gone through when my family tried (unsuccessfully) to bring a new puppy home after the passing of the dog who’d been around for much for my childhood. It just wasn’t a good fit, but it’s a heart-wrenching situation. There’s not a doubt in my mind that your vet’s right, there’s another dog out there just waiting for you that will be a better fit for your family. Kudos to you for having the courage to make the right choice for your family and also being brave enough to share about it with all of us!!

  15. That’s scary, I’m glad you decided to let her find a new home that works for everyone. I do hope that you find a new dog when the time is right for you.

  16. You did the right thing, sad as it is. Your children come first and this dog needs a home where she can be comfortable, I suspect one without children. I believe you originally said she lived with an elderly person in which case having had no previous exposure to children it might just all have been too much for her and too big of a change to make in a timeframe that you would be comfortable with i.e. that meant your children were not at risk of an outburst.

  17. Sorry that it didn’t work out 🙁 I’m sad for you because I could tell just by your words how attached you all had got to her in such a short time!

  18. Oh no! I didn’t know all this was going on. I feel so bad, since I was insulting dogs and everything. I didn’t actually think you’d have issues.

    You will find a good dog. Maybe you just need to start with a puppy?

  19. You totally made the right choice, and I know you know that. I just wish sometimes the right choices felt better. But YES! There IS a dog out there for you guys. Woof! Sampson says to hang in there and he is always ready for a cuddle if Emerson needs one.

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