The hardest decision we’ve ever made

We have been looking into rehoming Zoey, with the intent to find her a fantastic new family.

I can’t believe I am writing this, it’s so surreal.

Please understand this hasn’t been an easy decision, at all, and we don’t take it lightly. We thoroughly believe a dog is for life, and we made that commitment to her when we foster failed her as a puppy.

We love this dog as much as we love anything, she is so important to us…but we are just not coping.

Everything we ever do revolves around our dogs – we see my parents every few months, but only spend five hours with them so we don’t leave the dogs too long. When I ask for gifts off my family for Christmas / birthdays, they’re things for the dogs. We spend hours every day walking, training and playing with our dogs.

But my illness has gotten worse, and Zoey has developed something that is a real struggle to work with

→ Zoey has discovered she can break out of crates / pens, because we accidentally left the door unlocked once. She has since bent bars, pulled bars off and escaped from everything we’ve put her in

→ This means we can’t leave Zoey alone, as she could seriously injure herself, or destroy our house

→ The fact Zoey can’t be left (either alone, or to rest in a crate) creates issues:

  1. It’s much harder to spend one-on-one time with our other dogs, and Zoey is too stressed out to be able to focus around Rey. I’m spending hardly any time with him.
  2. I have needed to go the Dr / hospital several times, but can’t because we can’t leave Zoey on her own
  3. My partner has been told to stay with me 24/7, for safety reasons, but obviously this isn’t possible when our other dogs need walks, we need shopping etc.
  4. Because Zoey is stressed, we are stressed, which stresses Zoey out more, which stresses us out a lot more! Raiden can’t be out whilst Zoey is as she’s too stressed to be able to focus when asked, and in general Zoey is anxious and miserable most the time

We’ve tried quite a few things to help her feel comfortable being left. First we reinforced the pen we were using, to try make it hold up to her jaws.

Then we shaped the pen around our couch, so she could have somewhere that she really loves to relax whilst we left her. We also bought a DAP diffuser.

We started leaving her for a minute a day, after a walk, with chew toys and a stuffed Kong. She was fine.

Every few days we would increase the amount of time we left her…but when we got to four minutes she didn’t touch her Kong whilst we were out, and when we came in she was stood at the pen door and began whining when we entered the house 😦

We started really tiring her out before leaving her. We’ve always made sure to give her a walk just before leaving her, but now we started to run her ragged! We took her out for over an hour, and started letting her off lead.

Didn’t work.

So we got rid of the pen altogether and spent a few hours dog proofing the living room to the best of our ability; tidying everything, shuffling furniture etc. We started giving her a Buster Cube full of kibble and two Kongs to keep her busy, several chew toys AND even some squeaky toys.

We stopped leaving the house and instead went upstairs together, so we were still in the house but not with her, to get her used to being left alone.

This went pretty well; most times when we came down she was emptying her puzzle feeders or sleeping on a chair. Sometimes she would be sat doing nothing, and would begin whining when we came down, but not every time.

Obviously the training needed to progress slowly, and it would help even more if we could get to the vet and talk about anti-anxiety medication…but I’m not well enough to cope with this 😦

I feel like shit for saying that, but it’s true. I’m not well enough, and I’m not going to be able to help myself get better until I can get out the house and meet professionals, sort out medication etc.

I’ve spent the last few weeks in the house with Zoey, spending all my time with her. My partner has been walking our other dogs, worrying about me all the time, and everything is so stressful.

We DO NOT want to rehome Zoey, she’s such a huge part of our lives…but I think rehoming her might be the best for everyone involved. Zoey has never been an easy dog, but we have overcome so many issues with her and she is fantastic…she’s the sweetest dog I know.

But we can’t do this.

I spoke to my parents about this. They are not dog owners, they know nothing about dogs, but they know my dogs mean the world to me.

They told md that I shouldn’t have dogs (or pets)  because I have a mental illness…WTF?!

So…

I’ve had dogs for almost five years, and I’ve put my all into them. I’ve tried so hard, I’ve learned so much and I’ve loved them. But we can’t keep Zoey now – in part because, yes okay, I am ill.

But mainly because we can’t safely leave Zoey alone; this is causing everybody stress, our other dogs are missing out and suffering because of it and, I admit it, I’m not well enough to deal with this now.

I’ve raised Zoey for three years, and I’ve put so much love and work into her. We had no way of knowing she was going to develop this issue…we can (and have) overcome a lot of behavioural problems with our dogs, but right now this is tough.

To my parents (who also said we should not have brought Rey into the family), the whole idea behind Rey was that we would have a smaller dog, who was socialised with people, well trained and confident, so could come on days out with us. With Rey I could be more independent. He has been all those things and more.

Okay, if things were as bad then as they were now, in terms of my health, we wouldn’t have added a third dog to the family…but they weren’t. There was no way I could have predicted that I’d develop psychotic symptoms every day, and this would obviously have an affect on my mood.

It’s easy to say ‘have you tried this or done that’ when you haven’t had a dog. My dad’s suggestion was to lock Zoey in a pen and just leave her, that surely she would realise eventually there was no point trying to get out, that she’d either hurt herself and stop or just get tired…uh, no.

That’s not the way it works, it’s not helpful to Zoey, and it could result in her hurting herself or swallowing something that could possibly even kill her.

Everything my parents said to me, they only said because I have a mental illness and not a physical one. If I told them I had been diagnosed with cancer, and was having to rehome Zoey, they would not have said the things they did.

I am very sad right now. I am probably going to be letting go of someone I love in the hopes that she will have a better life, so that my other dogs can be more included, and so that I can get help…I so want to be better.

Tomorrow we ring up rehoming charities, to ask about the procedure.

I have written out a seven page information sheet about Zoey. This includes her behaviour, energy level, age, weight, health status, training, behaviour issues and personality. I have been brutally honest, saying on the one hand how fantastic she is, and on the other that she does have her issues.

We would like Zoey to live with us for as long as we can cope; hopefully until a home is found, or a foster home.

I really don’t want her going into kennels…I really don’t want to let her go. It doesn’t feel real. Things are such a mess.

So there you go. I’ve let Zoey down. The end.

*edited to add*

4:15am. I can’t let her go, I love her too much…

Phoning the vet tomorrow and will try see if a Dr / psychiatrist could visit me at home rather than needing me to travel to them…we’ll still phone around rescue centres and ask about rehoming procedure, but I don’t know if I can do this….

This should be one of those times where I really put my health first, but I just can’t.

I don’t know what’s going to happen…we really can’t cope with this.

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12 thoughts on “The hardest decision we’ve ever made

  1. I think for your sake and Zoey’s, it would be better if you could rehome her. You haven’t failed her. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and it takes courage to recognise that. Love. Maureen

    • Thanks Maureen. Our vet (that we really trust) is on holiday until Monday at the moment, so we had a long phone consult with the vet who is temping for her (who also sounded awesome.)

      She said Zoey does not sound anxious or panicked enough to need a strong medication, but recommended we try some over-the-counter meds. We’re trying to pick some up today.

      We’re taking one day at a time. I can’t commit to keeping or rehoming her, I keep flitting between…we’re still phoning up rescue centres, and we’re still trying to work with Zoey…I have no idea how this will end, but I appreciate your comment and love, thank you xxx

  2. How about bringing a dog trainer into the home? Some come to the house even if you are not there. Maybe you could schedule an hour or 2 for someone to come in while you step out. Zoey wouldn’t know they are coming, and maybe they can work with her and find different ways to keep her in her crate. Hopefully there’s something that can be done so you can make the best decision!

    • Thank you. Unfortunately it’s not that we’re missing the knowledge to tackle the problem, it’s more that we’re not able to deal with it right now…because I’m ill at the moment, I won’t get better until we’re able to go to several appointments and find a medication that works. This would probably take months, and we would need to leave Zoey alone in order to do this, which we can’t do.

      It would help if we had someone who could come watch her for us, but we don’t know anybody who is either a) doggy savvy or b) could cope with Zoey’s behaviour / excitement / would deal with her as we wanted them to. She is an incredibly hard dog to manage when you are new or exciting to her, and I don’t think even most professional dog walkers / sitters would devote the time or effort needed, and I wouldn’t trust them to follow our instructions.

  3. My heart breaks as I read this! What a difficult choice you have to make. Is there any way that someone could temporarily foster Zoey until you could bring her back? Would one of the agencies be able to set something like that up? I hope your doctor appointments go well and that you soon feel better.

    • Thank you so much, you have no idea how much this comment means to me.

      We contacted several rescues and asked if we could be put on a list for either foster-to-rehome placements, or just if someone could foster her for a while. About half the centres turned us down (the the one we have volunteered at for the past seven years turned us down because “she’s a Staffy”). The other half said the waiting list for a foster home would be between 3 – 9 months. One did say they would put her info on their site, and we also posted an advert with an essay on a private rehoming site…but I doubt anybody will have the drive to read through it all!

      Several of the rescue centres we contacted told us that, whatever we did, DO NOT hand her over to the RSPCA as they will just euthanise her…

      Although I’m still struggling with psychotic symptoms, the crushing depression has lifted and as of right now we are coping better than we were…we’re still doing everything we can to help Zoey’s anxiety, whilst at the same time taking a step back and saying the rest of us can’t suffer just to avoid making her anxious at all.

      Oddly enough since doing this Zoey’s stress levels have lowered dramatically, at least whilst we are in the house, and again that has made things feel more manageable.

      At this point we are cautiously hopeful we can live like this; I am getting to leave the house for an hour or two a day and I’m getting to walk Raiden, which I was really missing. Zoey’s much happier, and she’s more confident being left in the kitchen whilst we have Raiden in the living room…this means we get to have one-on-one time with him. I’m still really hoping, over time, Zoey will improve some more when being left alone too.

      Things are a long way from okay, but we have made some progress and we still have our little white block dog…a few weeks back I couldn’t imagine life feeling this good ever again 🙂

  4. Have you considered getting a dog-sitter? Just as parents hire baby sitters for when they go out, would a dog-sitter work? You definitely need me time, partner time and other dog time to be a healthy and happy human. A dog-sitter could be a professional, a friend or family member. Just a thought. But I’m praying for the right decision to come to you.

    • I don’t think we could afford a dog sitter for every time we’d need to leave the house…we literally can’t leave Zoey alone for twenty minutes so we’d need someone to watch her EVERY time we left…this would include Kasper and Raiden’s walks (4x a day total), day trips, any time we went shopping, medical appointments etc.

      The other issue with having people come to our house is that Kasper wasn’t treated well before he came to us, and is fearful of strangers. Even when he knows someone and has met them several times, he gets very over-excited around them. It’s no problem at all when we are there to manage and redirect him but having someone come into the house when we weren’t there wouldn’t be nice for him.

      Zoey’s a hard dog to take places so it’s not even like she can come with us to places and wait outside. We don’t have any friends or family members nearby that could care for her, my family lives several hours drive away 😦

      Thanks for the comment and the positive thoughts.

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