Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Melancholy Much More Than I Supposed

“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.” Anna Sewell, Black Beauty 

Do you remember reading Black Beauty as a kid--that classic tale of animal life told from the perspective of the horse?  How he starts life happy and loved and then is shuffled and sold from place to place, sometimes loved, sometimes abused, until he ends up back home again in the end?

I am living one of the middle chapters of Black Beauty.

Yesterday I had to take our Roxy to a new home.

We rescued Roxy from a boxer shelter on April 3, 2008.  When she came to us, she was skinny and afraid and young. Ben wanted a dog more than anything else for his twelfth birthday, and I had finally convinced Brad it was a good idea.

We had our struggles with her, to be sure, as I documented in this post. When a dog is rescued, the years prior to their arrival in your home bring unknown scars and baggage, kind of like humans, right?  Roxy never could get along with other dogs--what had happened in her puppyhood, I will never know, but the presence of other dogs forced her tolerant, patient personality to the back and an entirely different dog came out.

If this previously posted run-in a year ago had been our only problem with her, then that would be the end of the story.  She would have lived out her days surrounded by her family, chasing dragonflies and dashing through the irrigation and swimming in the pool and stealing meaty treasures off the counter. As she got older, however, this aggressive behavior intensified. In October, she got out again and caused problems with the neighbor's dogs, this time resulting in minor injury.  Brad patched up the situation with the neighbor, and we vowed to teach our kids to keep the doors and gates closed in an effort to prevent anything from happening again.

Right before I left for Idaho two weeks ago, there was a knock on our door.  An unfamiliar man was there, and he explained that (while I had been gone running kids around), Roxy had yet again escaped our yard, but this time she had attacked his dog so badly that he was taking her to the emergency vet.  I was horrified, embarrassed, and sickened all at once.  After expressing my apologies and my desire to pay the vet bills, I returned to the house to find out the story.  Same story.  Different day.

Open gate.  Dog escaped.

Two problems in less than two months.  As she had gotten older, her aggression towards other dogs was escalating, and I knew right then that her time with our family needed to end.

I held little hope of finding her a home.  I held back the feeling in the pit of my heart that we would end up taking her to the pound where she would go crazy surrounded by all those other animals, only to be put down days later.  Luckily, that nightmare was never realized.  We found a home, but the only problem was that he had no way to come get her--Could we bring her all the way to north Phoenix?

I was happy to do it--until yesterday morning.

I rounded up all of her stuff--beds, treats, leashes, kennel--and loaded it all in the Suburban.  She was curious and suspicious.  She never rode in the car unless she was going to the vet, so when I put her in the kennel in the car, she got nervous.  All the way to Phoenix, she whined and cried, and when I let her out of the kennel, she was shaking.

My heart broke as I unloaded all of her stuff--beds, treats, leashes, kennel--and placed them all in the unfamiliar apartment.  Her new owner seemed like a nice guy who knows dogs and has been wanting one for a while. I offered her a final treat after she obediently sat and stayed for me, then rubbed her head and walked out the door with unexpected tears in my eyes.

The kids were sad, but not as heartbroken as I had anticipated.  Ben was sober but realistic--he was just glad she didn't have to take that condemned walk into the pound. She had been good for him these last four years.  She had taught him responsibility and love in a way I don't think I could have.

I have never thought of myself as a dog lover.  I have often characterized myself as a person who had stewardship over a dog.  Yesterday made me understand myself a little bit better.

As much as I've never thought I was a dog person, I loved her.  She was my companion every day when the kids were at school. She was my doorbell when anyone approached the house.  She was a constant thought in my mind ("Don't leave that in the trash/on the counter/on the floor or Roxy will get it").  She was pillow and playmate and companion.

As much as I was annoyed by her habits, I will miss her lounging in the entry way every winter in her favorite puddle of sunlight.  I will miss her scratch on the door to be let in or lying on the rug by the door to be let out. I will miss checking her kennel every time I leave the house or return home. I will miss the constant jingle of her collar, letting me know she was there.

As much as I tried to convince others that she was Ben's dog--the kids' dog--yesterday brought a new perspective to me. The UPS man came, and I didn't know he was here until the bell rang.  I put leftovers in the trash and didn't take them outside immediately.  I walked through the mudroom and felt so much room between the bench and the kennel--oh yes.  The kennel is gone.

I am the one who will miss her most.  I am the one who really loved her.

Good-bye, Roxy-dog. 


  1. Jen I can totally relate to your feelings...we have a black lab, Kota. We got her as a puppy in 2009 and as much as I SAY we got her for my 13 yr old, and as much as I SAY I wouldn't miss her (for many of the same reasons your Roxy drove you nuts, but Kota's a lover not a fighter), I am the one who worries about her, makes sure she is fed and walked and washed and all that. I too, love having a 'barking doorbell' and the company she provides while the yahoos are at school. Thank you for your perspective--it gives light to my own. I'm sorry Roxy's fears were beyond your ability to heal...let's hope the new owner has that ability.

  2. It's a hard one. We still have the gouge marks in the door frame from a rescue dog that lived here for a while. As happy as I was to find him a new home, I was very sad to say goodbye.

  3. i'm not a dog person...i know ppl are and should be...in fact we have a dog b/c 5 yrs ago i begged for us to get one...we got him at 10 weeks and i was happy for the first yr...then he grew up and then i realized why we never had dogs growing up..i'm not a dog person.
    he got out one day and i was in a panic. freaking out like it was my child ..was he scared...hungry...cold...etc...i found within 30 mins. i was happy he was home bc no one would care for him or know him (and all his weirdness)like we do.

    Although i missed him...i'm still not a fan....

    as for you...sorry about roxy! :o(
    i had a giggle about not knowing the ups man was there until he rang bell...i have the dog with dog ears too that alert us to everything!!

  4. We just sold our 1 year old Scotty. I was a little bit sad but mostly relieved. Lots less stress! He was a fabulous dog without a mean bone in his body. We just don't have the time that he deserves. I am so glad that we found a good home for him to be spoiled and that Roxy found one too.

  5. I've been where you are and it's a hard and tough decision. But you made the effort to find her a suitable home where she'll be well treated and understood. You couldn't have done more, as it was impossible to keep her under the circumstances. But you still miss them and feel bad. I STILL sometimes dream about dogs we've had in the past, and I feel that we'll be connected to them in some way in the next life. At least I hope I'll be able to see my favorite pets again, and be glad that I always tried to do right by them.

  6. It is a sad day...Roxy is a good dog, so patient and kind to children - too bad she is so angry at other dogs. Your family will miss her and so will I. Who will slobber on me?

    But it is what it is and I cannot think of anything more you could have done. Hopefully the new owner will be able to keep her safe, happy and other dogs safe.

    If you need a fix, Zara will volunteer.

    Loved the Birthday Present - I think that was the best present I have ever gotten!
    Lots of slobbery love,

  7. Poor Roxy girl...even if she was a slobbery spazz. :) She was fun. But I'm glad she didn't have to end up in the pound.

  8. Between last week's posts and this one I may have to give up reading your blog for a while....I keep ending up in tears. So sad.

  9. Such a sad story, Jen. I'm not even a dog person, and it totally got to me this morning.

    I hope she has a wonderful home with this new guy. But I know you will miss her.


  10. So sorry. I am getting all teary just reading about getting rid of her. Pets are a part of the family.