An Update on Our Dog

3552 3552_ () 3552 3552 First off, (let’s launch right in shall we!) I realized in the course of my musings on our sweet Enzo, that there were some key pieces of information missing, assumptions left about the situation that if you inferred incorrectly, made me out to be kind of monsteresque.

For that, I am very sorry.

When I referred to a dog not being like a child (which I still stand behind one hundred percent) what I was NOT saying was a dog was like a bag of trash or some worthless object to be tossed aside. I did not mean that at all. I guess I wrongly assumed that you all could hear my sniffles through the keyboard and I guess I’m glad you could not. I spent pretty much all of the day on Wednesday crying. I was very very sad for a variety of reasons not the least of which was I had gotten myself and my family into this predicament of having to consider whether I could continue to manage having a puppy. Something I should have thought through long before I brought a puppy into our home.

I didn’t. I also didn’t consult my husband on bringing a puppy into our home and I also kept this information on the down-low from some of the friends in my life who I know would have talked some sense into me. I told my friend Susie today that I’ve learned my lesson: anytime I try to hide stuff from her, I should probably reconsider what I’m up to. (I did this one other time with a big life issue that all worked out well, but I made sure she didn’t catch wind of it which kind of makes me laugh. Maybe she’s my conscience?)

The last few months have been very hard around here (please, no eye-rolling, but you know, I started this conversation so I guess I need to end it too). I don’t really want this to be a woe is me essay, but again, I told you part of the tale so here goes the rest. Why am I sharing this? A writer writes. Always. Also, I started thinking about other women who might be in the same boat I got myself in, who did something they thought would be a good idea and then had to deal with the ramifications. And here, through my experience, is what I have to say to you.

So things have been hard, and if you had pointed out to me that the dog was a part of that I would have said, “well, sure. But how bad can a dog be?” Well, a dog is a very big deal. Dogs are sweet and wonderful and bring so much joy. They are also relentless and a lot of work. They are there every step of the way, which can be really quite beautiful in certain seasons of life.

I have a list of stressors in my life, things I could list here but I don’t really want to launch into it. The bottom line is things are moving at a fast pace, just like (I’m sure) just about every one of my readers. Life is fast. And it’s good. But some seasons are more of a challenge.

So recently I’d been noticing just an overwhelming sense of stress. I called Paul one day a few weeks ago and through tears told him I couldn’t handle my life. (Not in a suicidal way, in a stretched too thin way). I said this but with a few added words. This was about as taxed as I had ever felt, beyond the first few weeks of having a new baby. Those are uniquely and mystically challenging.

Without going into the thinking infrastructure of how it came to the forefront of my mind, I arrived at this knowledge early this week that a huge part of my issue was The Dog. That wonderful, sweet, cute creature that I went out and sought to bring into my home to care for and have with us until his old age.

And I realized (again) that I had made a mistake. A very big mistake. I messed up. That’s all I could tell Paul when I knew what we needed to do. I really messed up. I brought this dog in and we love him and here’s where it gets tricky and you’re just going to have to bear with me — he is like a part of the family but a part of the family that doesn’t necessarily have to stay with the family. When it’s all said and done he is a dog.

My neighbor Cathy came over after I wrote about my inner angst. She is so sweet. She has two little boutique dogs, white fluffballs that run around the backyard and put Enzo in his place. They were the pride and joy of Miss Charlotte, and watching them with those dogs was part of my learning exactly what God had in mind when he made pets. They bring something very special, God really does show his love through animals.

“Rachel,” said Cathy in her genteel Southern drawl, “I am willing to take two of the boys to go to obedience classes with Enzo.”

And I knew, when she said that, it was time for me to just cowboy up. The bottom line was I just couldn’t keep this dog. Even if he was well-trained. Even if all he wanted was to just wander around following me, to sit at my feet, to be a part of this family. This season in my life was making this beautiful wonderful smart and near-perfect dog feel like just another responsibility.

And Enzo deserved better.

So I cried. I admitted to Cathy that I just couldn’t do it. I felt so overwhelmed and I felt silly for feeling overwhelmed. Do you know how many people I know with dogs? People who have as much crazy in their life as I do in my life? People who deal with all that and then turn around and deal with their dogs — even when they proclaim how much their dog drives them nuts. But the difference is they say that and then still keep the dog. I was at a point where I just couldn’t say that. Not anymore.

And then Cathy, she is so sweet and compassionate and not willing to heap coals upon my head which was nice since there were already plenty there (so lovingly deposited by yours truly), she said something about my mom and the stress that might factor it.

“Your mama wasn’t sick when you got Enzo,” she said.

“But I’m not really caring for my mom,” I explained. I don’t want to play the cancer card to get rid of our dog.

Cathy just buried her mom not long ago, and she said it didn’t matter whether you are the primary caregiver or not. Her mom had round-the-clock care and it still took a toll. It’s hard to watch our loved ones suffer.

But even with that, I know the bottom line is with me. With all the other things going on, with my children and husband and my mom battling cancer, with all of things going on in my life — even with Enzo being a near perfect dog, because of whatever it is, the dog was the tipping point.

Several months ago, a family in our neighborhood had watched Enzo for us when we went out of town. They are “dog people” and so happily welcomed him into their home. (Our initial plan had been to just keep Enzo over here and they would come check on him and they ended up just bringing him to their home and falling in love with him). When we got back from our weekend away, the husband said Enzo was one of the best puppies he had ever seen.

“If you ever decide you can’t keep him,” he offered, “we’ll take him.”

I assured him this wouldn’t be the case but thanks for the offer.

So there, in the midst of all this, that thought popped into my head. I touched base with him and asked him what he thought. He checked with his wife (smart man!) and their entire family (of all big kids) was excited.

When Paul brought Enzo over there the other night, we were all emotional. Trust me when I say telling my boys that the dog had to go was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Save your agitation for me; I have enough all on my own. It was terrible and awful and so sad. For all the dog lovers out there who would never, ever do this to their children, I am very happy for you. I’m sincere. I hate that I did this to us, that I put my family in this position of feeling hurt. By me. Hurt by my desire to do something fun and good for our family that I then could not handle.

Now don’t think that it’s all “oh it got hard so you just threw in the towel.” There was so much more to my decision than that. But the bottom line is I did what needed to be done, for my sanity which in turn is for the well-being of my family. I know you might not let a sweet little puppy push you to the breaking point. But that is what was happening to me.

I’m sorry if I sound a little defensive. I try not to be that way in my writing. But I realize I’ve upset some folks with their perception of my attitude and I just want to say (one more time) that this was a very difficult decision. But Enzo really is in a better place. I got a text the next morning and he was having a blast — at a home now with a bunch of people who love dogs and with a bunch of other dogs. He has a new pack and he is going to love it there.

The best part is he’s right across the way and if we ever want to go visit or take him on our family hike, we just have to pop in and grab him.

Here’s my bottom line, the reason I’m writing this and putting myself out there: for people in a similar boat as me, you really do have to do what’s best for your sanity and for your family. It’s up to you to decide what the balance is there. The comments from the last post were filled with people who could finagle impish puppy behavior. But what I’ve learned from this is you have to do what you know YOU can do. I made the mistake of looking at other peoples’ situations — friends with dogs, etc. — to make a decision about what we would do. I thought about getting a dog and said “if [so and so] can handle it, surely I can handle it.”

Lesson learned. The very hard way.

p.s. we are doing fine now. I’m just making sure you all realize this was not an easy decision. But once it was made, it brought peace into our home that had been missing for a while now. 3552″> ? . ,



  1. rachel .. i have often felt guilty about not having a dog for my 3 boys to enjoy ..but i know it would be up to me to take care of it ..a dog is a huge responsiblity ..I think you definitely made the right to letting the dog go..your amazing for even considering getting a dog in the first place ..we all know our limits and what we can handle ..and keeping harmony in your home is a must ..I always tell my two older boys pets have a little brother ..

  2. I’ve been there. We had two dogs when we first got married. Then we had two boys and the oldest has some special needs. Between working full time and multiple therapy sessions per week for our son, something had to give. And the ‘easiest’/best solution (because it was not a easy decision to make) was to send the dogs to live my husband’s parents – who live near by and whom we see multiple times a week. The dogs get the attention they need/deserve and I have a ‘little’ breathing room.

  3. Peace to you as you move forward!

  4. Hi Rachel, I am a long time reader (here and at Faith and Family), but I’ve never commented. You should never EVER feel like less of a person for making the right decision for your family. It’s often hard not to play the “others can handle it so why can’t I” game, but the fact is that everyone’s situation is different and just because something works for one family doesn’t mean it will work for others. Anyone who tells you that you are being cruel to the dog or not “waiting it out” long enough doesn’t know the situation. I admire you for your ability to handle what you already do, and you should give yourself more credit! Like you said, the doggy is very happy and with a great family. God bless you for all that you do! 🙂

  5. You never cease to amaze me with your awesomeness in opening your heart to us all. Do what is best for you and your family, ignore the criticism. Good advice I can’t follow, hence no blog for me! Anyway, if anyone keeps piling on, link them to all the dog mauling deaths in the news lately! :-p

  6. Rachel, I’m so sorry you received some judgement for your last post. I grew up with dogs and cats, and our house was ALWAYS hairy, and I hated it. And then I grew up and got married, and just couldn’t live without dogs and cats. We had 2 cats and then got a Great Dane. Now we have four kids, expecting #5, and I can’t stand the dog hair, and the litter box, and the fact that one cat throws up if we don’t feed her right when she’s expecting it, and the other cat yowls randomly in the middle of the night… Our mantra has become “no more pets after this.” I love my dog especially, and our older cat as well, so it seems cruel to say we’re waiting for them to die. I’ll miss the dog especially (and she’s going on 8, which is old for Great Danes). But I’m reaching the point where I just can’t care for one more living thing … except children. Children I can handle, but pets? No. Not even houseplants. All that to say that it sounds like your dog has gone to a wonderful home, and you did the right thing for your family, even if others don’t understand.

  7. Christine says:

    Also agreeing you shouldn’t feel bad for doing the right thing for your family. We are a dog-less family of nine. I think a dog would be harder than adding another child… Because a dog won’t ever get older or more responsible. It’s like adding a permanent toddler. We have lots of friends with dogs and the kids can enjoy them. I have no wish to add another entity to clean up after at this time!

  8. What is right for one family, is not right for another family. Only YOU know what is the best thing for YOUR family. Even the hard stuff. The fact that you found a good solution that makes things more peaceful inside and out, tells you that ultimately you did the right thing. My kids are all 7 and up, and we do have a dog, but even with that I sometimes feel like the dog is a bigger responsibility than I want. It is a lot. And I did the same thing – brought him into the family with good intentions, without really consulting my husband. He is actually trained pretty well, so I’m managing, but I can’t imagine with two small ones like you have. You did the right thing.

  9. Rachel,
    True wisdom begins with self-knowledge. I used to beat myself up for my mistakes and for not being able to handle things that other people seemed to breeze through. Your kids need a mom who is at peace with her life more than they need a puppy; you did the right thing.

    • PS – it is also not failure to admit when you have been mistaken and resolve the situation in a way that improves it. You gave them a good life lesson.

    • I completely agree with what kathyv has said above. GOOD FOR YOU for realizing you made a mistake, owning it, doing your best to resolve it, and pressing on. Thank you for sharing and for being real.

  10. This post really touched home with me because I always imagined that we would have a dog for my boys and one girl, but I can’t buck up enough to do it. I have had friends say that we are really withholding something wonderful back from our kids. I don’t doubt that, but these same kind-hearted folks have one or two kids, while we have five. I always joke and say, “When they ask for a dog, I always give them a sibling.”

    Reading your post has me in tears because I realize that a dog deserves better than he would get here. He would be well-loved, there is no doubt about it. But he would come after the care of all these little bodies, homeschooling, housekeepings, sports, and whatnot. You have giving me peace because I am now okay with the fact that a dog deserves better than he would get here. And when my kids ask for one again, and I sure a sibling won’t be far behind.

  11. Franchelle says:

    I’ve read your blog for so long that it would be a lie for me to say that this is first time you’ve made me cry. Boys, babies, and now this. . .You write so close to my heart. I feel it a mercy to have read this as I am CONSTANTLY feeling pressure to “get those boys a dog.” Bravo, brave sister!

  12. It’s just like you “carried” Enzo for awhile and then gave him up for adoption. You put him in a better situation than you could provide for him.

  13. I think you are incredibly smart and courageous to know you couldn’t handle a dog. Self-knowlegde is a wonderful thing. A a mother of seven boys, I find myself often resenting a super sweet three year old Great Dane. I pretty much felt like I had a grip on things until the dog came into my life without warning. I’d like to to get a list going of things one doesn’t think of until one has a dog: 1, dogs vomit. 2, it’s much harder to keep your house clean with a dog coming in and out. 3, they get in the trash. 4, they embaressingly sniff visitors…please add more while Enzo’s stay with you is still fresh in your mind. I think you should congratulate yourself every day for being strong enough to do the right thing for your family.

  14. Holly anguil says:

    Oh Rachel,

    I really should “know” you. As I type this, I cannot even express the relief I have just having dropped off my dog at the kennel for the weekend! 5 boys, a kitchen renovation and living at my husbands parents house until the floors dry, the dog was and is my biggest issue!! Every other day I consider finding a rescue home for him. The guilt I have for not following through with training is crazy!:) I never had my boys in daycare, but my dog goes twice\week.. You are my hero!! I really love the dog, but feel like he really is just a dog! Does this make me a bad person?? I think not. Happy Friday!

  15. Don’t feel bad – not one bit – about your decision. I am what you would call “dog people” and even I know that you have to make the decisions that are best for your family. And I think you did a wonderful thing! We have our sweet dog because friends got in over their heads by getting her as a puppy. We were so blessed by their responsible – and difficult – decision to give up the dog. Both families – and the dog – are better off with the way everything worked out. Now, 11 years later, we still thank them for the best gift ever!

  16. Hugs to you and thanks for your honesty. I know my children would adore a dog, my youngest in particular. But our dear friends have two, and all the talk of throwing up and medications and, well, the dog poop has just let me know it is beyond what I can handle. If something is going to poop around here, especially if I’ll have to clean it up, it is going to be a human.

  17. Rachel, I’ve never commented here before, but this post moved me. I was in the exact situation last year and I completely understand your position. I loved my dogs, and my 11 year old son and I cried and cried when we found a wonderful new home for them. Bottom line was, people come first. My littles were afraid and our yard and activities were limited by the dogs. I loved them so much, but I love my people more. It was heartbreaking, though. You now have a great new home for your dog and you can be at peace in your home.

  18. You did what was right for you and your family, and that’s ALWAYS the best decision. Plus, you found a warm and loving home for Enzo. Perhaps you were used as the vessel to get him to where HE needed to be, huh?! xoxo

  19. This post tells a lot about community without outright stating it. That you had more than one concerned neighbor trying to help shoulder some of your burden is really inspiring. You did the right thing.

  20. Hi Rach, I’m glad you found a home for Enzo. When Karen texted Char and asked if we could take him I was sorely tempted, but we finally decided we couldn’t do it. I miss my Sophie but with all that goes on with us it would have been impossible for us to take care of him as we should. I have read your blog. I know it was a hard decision for you especially since two of the boys loved the pooch so much. but is seems God has provided a solution for you that works for everyone.
    God Bless

  21. You made your mess your message! That’s an old saying, and it rings true. Kudos to you for acknowledging a mistake, and then exerting loving kindness and wisdom to work through it. And I will reiterate … I respect you, your honesty, and the love that you share so willingly with the world, not just here on your blog but in real life with everyone around you.

    Your ultimate decision, while so very, very difficult to make (on many levels, because it’s hard to admit mistakes in the first place especially mistakes that impact your kids) was done out of love for both your family as well as little Enzo. It sounds like Enzo is in a happy pack, and the spirit of peace has been restored in your home and in your heart. Thank you for being so transparent with your readers, and helping us grow through your example.

    I’d be happy to contribute to your .. “you know you’re a hard-core dog lover when” list. Just email me – I have dozens of examples!

  22. Oh dear. I am so sorry that people may have misjudged (or outright judged – I don’t know) when you wrote your original post. Pets are HARD work. We have 2 cats – and yes, I know cats are super easy and whatever – but we got them as kittens and kittens are little monsters packaged in this super cute little puffball with a teensy meow. More than I’d bargained for at the time, I will say that. We kept them and we love them, but I can also say I was lucky to be in a season of life where the extra work fit in to properly train them (yes, you can train a cat agains bad behaviors….even if they do them when we are asleep and can’t see them). The point is, we all have different seasons of life and it’s really okay when we are able to step back and realize we might need to step back and reassess what we can offer a pet. You blessed Enzo with a family that can totally enjoy him and he can enjoy them! In my little opinion, you did the right thing. XOXO

  23. The thing is, you really don’t know the time, effort, care and stress that goes in to having a puppy until you actually have one. You can imagine all sorts of cozy, heartwarming “boy and his dog” scenarios, but those are rarely the reality. I applaud you for making the heart wrenching, yet seemingly right, decision for your family. There is no shame in admitting you were wrong and then fixing it.

  24. Michelle says:

    The dog issue is a predicament indeed. I would love to have a dog, my son would LOVE to have a dog, but neither our home (small town home w/small yard) nor our lifestyle (full time working mom and very busy teenager), plus limited income (that would make visits to the vet and kennels when we go out of town) would make it an all around wrong decision. So, every time we ask the question, we get the same answer: no, we cannot have a dog. It stinks. But as you said, we need to be honest with ourselves and know where we are. For you all the relief is that you have found a loving home for him, and surely one where your boys will be able to stop by and see their beloved pet once in a while.

  25. Christina says:

    My husband and children love dogs. I know they would love to have one and as much as I would love to make them happy I’ve been hesitant for years. I grew up with dogs and love being around them but with small children in our house I`ve always felt having a dog would push me past what I`m able to deal with at this point in time. Your honesty has helped me to realize that I need to do what works for our family and having a dog doesn`t work for our family right now as much as I would like to think I could handle it. Thank you for being so honest – you may have saved another family from the same difficult decision.

  26. Kelly Kopp says:

    Just so you know…you.are.not.alone. I am a self proclaimed “dog lover” and insisted that having a dog would be the greatest decision of all time. I wanted a dog…scratch that…I NEEDED a dog. Well its been 3 years since we got our Wheaten Terrier puppy and I think it was day 5 when I realized I made a huge mistake. Mind you…I love dogs. My husband and I know more about various breeds than I care to admit but for some reason I’m just not hardwired to actually own one. No matter what this 30 pound non-shedding dog does, good or bad…she just BUGS me to no end. We now have an adorable 8 month year old son and I do love how much he adores her and I love that he is so comfortable around dogs but it still doesn’t overshadow how much work, time and money having a dog demands. You made the right decision for your family and that’s most important. I unfortunately was not brave enough and we decided to keep her. I was too wrapped up in thinking about what other people would think because as you know, people get a weeee bit sensitive when it comes to dogs. I commend you for your decision.

    Kelly a.k.a. “Dog Lover who shouldn’t own a dog…sigh”

  27. Even after that heartfelt explanation, and even after all the “I feel ya, sister” replies….he’s a dog.
    “People first, then pets.”
    These were the words my dh used to jolt me back into the world of sanity when I had similar decisions to make about our pets and our family’s needs.
    So clarifying.

  28. Rachel, I think I am a lot like you. I have really definite limits for noise, chaos and personal space, and my kids (while given nearly unconditional access as babies) have grown to understand those… but pets! I didn’t even like when we had a lizard in a tank watching my every move 🙂 The animals we have fostered or pet-sat always seem so needy and they wear me out. Maybe some of us do best loving animals from a little distance, at least for now, and it’s good for me to see how you are figuring out your boundaries there. It reminds me to really pay attention to what works considering each person in our family, including me, and to find ways to meet those needs in ways that allow everyone to thrive. I am so happy that you found a good solution for your lil’ doggie and that life is more peaceful now. I really understand.

    So, anyone have advice about keeping a few chickens as laying hens? I am on the fence! 🙂