Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

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Why we Gave away a Dog we love is a complicated story. Today we said goodbye to Simba the dog. It was a bittersweet farewell, but ultimately we feel the best for our family, and for him.

Why we Gave away a Dog we LoveWhy we Gave away a Dog we love has a lot to do with fear for our safety. This cute little guy doesn’t look so scary, does he? Well, he had his moments…every night. We’ve had Simba in our home for exactly a year and a half, since the last day of November 2015, and here we are the last day of May 2017. We inherited him after my mom passed away. I guess I say inherited because that’s how we explain it to people, but we actually stepped up to volunteer when everyone else was turning their head looking around for someone else to do it. I feel I want to give the story of Simba his due details, so I’ll share them in brief here.  {I shared my version of the WHY of the story in the video at the end if you just want to see that, a snippet of his angry, and highlights of the good times}

It all started with my youngest brother, Kirk. They got Simba from a friend 7 ish years ago. After a year, and they got pregnant with their first child, they decided a dog wasn’t in the cards, so my mom scooped him up. She’d wanted a dog of her own for a while, and it just seemed perfect. In November 2012 when they were called on a mission, she wanted to make arrangements for Simba to come, too. Though it’s often not recommended to bring pets on a mission, my mom spoke to someone who gave her the slightest degree of allowance, and she ran with it. In August 2013 when they were to fly to Ghana, they thought they had all the paperwork and shots all ready for Simba, but they got stopped at security in Salt Lake City, and after our family already said our tearful goodbye’s to my parents, my brother had to race to the airport to get the dog.

Now what? We all looked around at each other. That time I was the one looking away. My entire family knew that our home was not a pet home. We’d tried with a few animals, but we just don’t do pets well, and my husband and I were firm and united that we were not interested in the commitment of a dog. Simba went to hang out with my older brother for a while, they had another dog smaller in size.

6 weeks later, my cousin Lisa flew to Ghana (ironically they’d been in the adoption process there for several years) and was able to walk straight through security with Simba, no one checking his papers as they did before. He made is transcontinental journey in September 2013. He chilled in Ghana with my parents for 2 years.

When my mom unexpectedly died in November 2015, my dad flew home to the US for the funeral, but would go back to Ghana for 6 weeks before coming home for good. We all decided then that Simba would come with him that first trip. Since each of my brothers had a dog or cat, somehow it seemed logical to everyone else that Simba should go with me “temporarily” until my dad got settled. I stepped up to the plate with a large reluctancy on my husbands behalf. We had both had traumatic dog experiences in our youth, and felt satisfied never being a dog owner. Our kids would occasionally ask about a dog, but never begging, so we just never really explored the option.

I figured we could take Simba in temporarily and feel like we could give our kids that opportunity to have a dog–you know, the good ‘ole American experience.

November 30th 2015, he came home with us.

Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

At first, the boys thought it would be fun to put his bed up in their room. We found out quickly that we needed to shut their door at night, or he’d wander the house. With wandering came marking his territory all over the house.

After a while, he was waking them up too much with his shaking and climbing into bed with them, so we moved his bed downstairs.

After a few months, and conversations with other dog owners (remember, we are CLUELESS) we’d heard that dogs actually prefer a crate, a place to call their own away from the commotion of family chaos. He’d pretty much done whatever he wanted when he wanted for 6 months, and we had some frustrations. Almost from the beginning, he’d try to bite us if we picked him up when he didn’t feel like getting up.

Last May 2016, my husband was to the end of his rope with frustration, mainly because he didn’t like  how unsafe he felt and being the papa bear that he is, the safety of the kids and me.

You see, Simba is adorable and cute and sweet a good 80-90% of the time but that 10% can be vicious. Scary. Fearful.

The one time he actually did successfully bite me was when he’d jumped into the car when we were about to go somewhere and would. NOT.get out. When I tried to grab him, he went for the bite and LUCKILY, his sharp tooth just hit my fingernail. But it.hurt.for.days. No broken skin, but pain.

Maybe some people thinking that biting is normal, but we were not ok with it.

Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

So I compromised with my husband to keep him for a bit while we got him some proper training. Simba had no training. No “sit” not “come” and there was nothing off limits to him.

So doing some research, we started to try to teach him this stuff. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? We found that yes…to an extent…when he wanted to…on his terms.

I worked with a trainer for a month. He came once a week for a few hours, and he was able to help us teach him the sit, down, come, etc. Lots of treat re-enforcement. He taught me that I needed to be in charge, tell HIM what to do, but with that, I needed to be more in control, more commanding, less passive as I’d been because I just had never done dogs before and I was kinda afraid.

The trainer laughed at me for my timidness. I didn’t appreciate that. He was a bit condescending, but I powered through.

We introduced the crate, and he showed me how I was to just PUT him in there. He also gave us a pinch collar, where I was supposed to work with him for the next few months to train him or he’d get pinched. Well, that collar was hard to get off and on, and I was worried about him biting me when I did so, so that didn’t last very long. We also got a dog training egg that let off a high pitch sound, but it made him stressed out, shake uncontrollably, and eventually more agitated.

Last August, I met a friend of my SIL who gave me some great articles, told me I should set certain rooms as “off limits” and train with cheap hot dogs. {My husband and I often joked that if we have to give a treat or hot dog for everything we want to do, who is trained here? The owner or the dog? The owner.} All of this to teach him that WE are in charge, and then hopefully the commands we call (go home to crate) would work. He actually responded well to having rooms off  limits after he was able to roam free for so long.

He used to sit at my feet in my office, but then would go into a corner there and hide at night when he knew it was time to go in his crate.  So I made my office off limits. This was my view after a while, he did like to be near me.

Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

Upstairs also became off limits, and so did our master bedroom (because he seemed to like to pee there). He did good when I’d say, “uh uh” loud enough, and he’d turn around.

We saw progress. It was feeling hopeful.

But still we were scared. He didn’t want to go on walks, and never to his crate at night.

We always had to trick him, which would work, then he’d figure it out, and become oblivious to that trick, and we’d have to think of something new.

Like when he first came, if anyone rang the doorbell, he’d go running.

We tricked him by ringing the doorbell at night when it was time to go to bed, but he knew better. He would not run to the door at night, because he knew what we were doing.Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

The last few months, he took to hiding (slinking as we called it) under the couch when he knew it was bedtime, and we’d have to keep trying to get him out.

I’d often get a big pillow and push him out, then someone would have to grab him. All the while, he was responding angrily, biting at the pillow, etc.

My husband purchased $100 raptor gloves meant for falcons to protect the arms of the person going to pick him up.

We got a grabber pole to try to reach for his collar to guide him into his crate, that didn’t work so well, he was too fast to move.

All this time, the bulk of the night time routine fell into the hands of myself, my oldest son, and my husband. My husband would get all fired up when Simba got vicious, and then couldn’t sleep for hours, so I just asked him to go to bed and we’d take care of it.

We found if we tried to crate him at 7pm instead of 9/10pm when we went to bed, that it was easier because he wasn’t expecting it. We had to catch him when he wasn’t expecting it. He loved his treats during the day, during “training” time, but he DID NOT CARE about them one lick in the evening as we tried to get him to bed.

It became a frustrating game.

Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

The past 6 months, my husband was fed up, and I kept fighting for the dog. Not so much because I wanted him, or felt attached because it was my moms dog, but for my kids.

I actually met a girl a few months ago that told me her husband has a dog re-training service up in Dallas, and I looked one up here and it was $3,000 for 3 weeks. As much as I wanted this to work and felt it was our last ditch effort, it was just more than I felt we wanted to put into this, with no real guarantee’s.

It wasn’t until my oldest, my partner in the nighttime routine, the one he kept helping me think of solutions for him to stay, when he finally said “enough is enough, I’m ok to give him to another family” that I gave my husband to go-ahead to put the word out. My son has become more afraid, too, and thats enough for me.

Funny enough, my other 3 kids loved to watch him, pet him, but my oldest daughter has always been fearful that she’s never even picked him up. My youngest is obsessed with him, but Simba growls at her almost every time she comes near. She didn’t get his boundaries as well, and he’s annoyed by her. He’s nipped (warning pre-bite) at her countless times.

For me, everyone said that I’d love having a dog around, and I’d be surprised how much I enjoyed the company at home now that the kids are all in school. My quote from the beginning and even now is, “I don’t dislike him as much as I thought I would.”

Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

Yes, Simba has grown on me. Yes, I love him racing up to me when I come home, and jumping up to me until I scratch his head. Yes, it’s adorable to watch my kids laugh at him when the run and throw him a toy.

I love all of that, but not enough to be fearful in my own home.

I believe our home should be a haven, and as a mom, I want to do everything I can to make it that way. Tip-toeing around the dog just wasn’t working for me anymore, and though I might have tried longer, my husband led up this one, and I let him.

I was relating this to a friend through tears this morning, as I feel extremely guilty and that we are “giving up.” I said…it feels like an abusive relationship. We all KNOW that if a man beats a woman, it’s time to get out. Even if he only does it once a month, that’s TOO MUCH. But the woman stays because of the 29 other days that he’s kind and sweet and loving. We all know that’s not ok. Divorce is excruciating for kids, but for their safety, it’s for the best.

Why we Gave away a Dog we Love

I’m pretty worried that I’ll get some angry messages about this, the dog-lovers that would never do this, and I get where they are coming from. But we didn’t sign up for this.

My kids feel bad for Simba. That he has to go to a new home, feel displaced, and they are concerned about that. My husband reminded them…he’s going to a place that doesn’t care about the crate. An older woman that actually WANTS the dog to sleep in the bed with her, and in the long run HE will be happier. She also has another small dog that will be a great playmate for Simba. He’s always loved meeting up with other dogs to play.

So that’s our Goodbye to Simba the Dog story. It’s a bummer. But for the most part, I feel good about it, that’s it’s the right decision, but that lingering feeling of…”what if there was something more we could do” may always be there, and I hate it.

See ya Sim-Sim, sim card, pup-a-lup-a-gus, pup-pup, doggy-doggy.

My kids got a piece of their childhood I thought they’d never experience, but now I’m not so sure that it will be remembered fondly…is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I believe so, when it comes to un-tainted love, but now this one is tainted. They are already asking if we can get a “nicer” dog, but how does one guarantee? I loved that he didn’t chew stuff, didn’t shed, was small and easy to tote around. I guess time will tell.

I did a quick Google search on “giving away a dog” or “rehoming your dog” and read some good stuff. I liked this quote: “Re-homed and adopted dogs adjust quickly to their new environments. Dogs adapt because they live in the moment, and they’re survivors. Rehoming a dog is more painful for dog owners than the dogs themselves.” {Guilt after Rehoming}

I wanted to end with a video I put together. The first part is me speaking about some of the above, with a small clip of his angry moment. If you think I’m a mean, mean person still after reading, maybe seeing my face and hearing me tell the story will help? At the end of the talking is some video highlights of fun times with Simba. As always, I do love to hear your thoughts, and you don’t have to agree with me, but kindness is always preferred.

YouTube video

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