I have a confession to make, and this one is hard.
Skippy is no longer with me.
This is painful. I feel like a failure, especially since I spend so much time talking about responsibility and how a pet is a lifetime commitment. I still believe that, which is why I also think you should be really careful about the hows and whens of bringing a new pet into the home, and that is where I really screwed up.
I knew after Mulan died that I would eventually want another dog, and I had a specific kind of dog in mind. Skippy was not that kind of dog, but he was kind of in the right range, and he needed a home. His owner came to my house to check it out and give Skippy a chance to meet everyone. I went over my ‘deal breaker’ questions, specifically, Is he housetrained, and Does he bark, and was given the answers yes, and no. He seemed to get along with everyone. I was planning on thinking it over for a couple of days, until the owner told me she was moving the next day and was really hoping he could stay, if I thought I was going to keep him.
And me being me, I said OK. The things she mentioned as issues- separation anxiety, and cat chasing, I was prepared for, and really were OK to handle. But. butbutbut.
It only took one day to realize he wasn’t housetrained. Not even close. Worse, he was a closet pooper, so he’d go run far away where no one could see him or correct him, and hide a treat. OK, I said, I’ll have to crate him. No problem.
The next day, I found out he was a barker, and not a little bit, but the worst kind of offender- yippy, hysterical, and to top it off he’d pee all over the place when he got excited. I was a bit miffed at this point, but still ready to try and figure it out.
On the third day, I realized he could squeeze through the bars on my fence and go running around the neighborhood, more specifically, into the neighbor’s yard with 4 large dogs. And because he hadn’t had any sort of training to respond to come or other commands, once he was gone, it was a wild chase. That is when I really started to panic. We spend a lot of time running around in our yard.
On the fourth day, I spent hours retrofitting the fencing with chicken wire.
On the fifth day, he dug right under it.
By necessity, Skippy now spent the entirety of his time attached to a lead. He was either in a crate, tied to a table, or tied to me. He couldn’t be trusted inside, where he’d either run off to take a poop or eat cat poop; he couldn’t be trusted outside, where he would run away. I consulted a trainer and a behaviorist to get some suggestions about what I would have to do to mold him into a model citizen, and the answer was, to put it mildly, daunting. And would probably involve methods far more intensive and aggressive than those I have ever used in the past.
His old owner was by now unreachable, of course, and wouldn’t have been able to help anyway. I spent the next two weeks conducting doggy boot camp, which worked as long as he was under constant surveillance, but he really didn’t have much desire to please so any slip of the guard, and off he would go to wreak havoc. One bright and sunny Saturday morning was spent trespassing through my entire neighborhood after my son accidentally let him dart through his legs. Off he went, through one fence and under the next, boom-boom-boom throughout the whole development, me in pajama bottoms and wild morning hair, waving a salmon strip at him, calling, “Oh Skip-py!” in my cheeriest voice since of course we can’t let him know we are fuming since he won’t come if you are, but it didn’t matter since he didn’t come anyway. I had to ambush him under a blackberry bush. I spent the next two hours pulling foxtails out of my hair, wondering how many neighbors saw me and how many knew what I supposedly did for a living.
My friends, my co-workers, everyone who knows me and how I am mentioned to me at some point or another that this was not the ideal match. I knew it, but I had made a commitment, and damnit, I wasn’t going to give up. I can’t give up. I made this decision to give him a home and I should abide by it. I seemed to be the only one who felt this way.
A couple of days later, a family friend came over, and I pre-emptively apologized for what she was about to endure. “Oh, it’s no problem,” she said over Skippy’s high pitched screeching. She picked him up and cuddled him while he peed on her. “I love poodles.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she said as he licked her with his cat-litter breath. “I had one who passed away a few years ago.”
“Well, I really am sorry,” I said as he sunk his teeth into her pants leg and started to hump her. “I’m trying to make him better.”
“Oh, that’s just how they are,” she said and petted him affectionately. “He’s just young.” She looked at me intently. “If you don’t want him, I would love to give him a home. My chihuahua would love a friend.”
I said we were working on things, but I would for sure let her know. Another long week passed.
As I stood there, Emmett by my side hiding from Skippy’s aggressive ministrations, it hit me. Skippy was not, and would never be, the right dog for me. The words of my trainer friend echoed in my ear: “He really just needs someone who doesn’t care about all that crap.” I wasn’t so determined to make this work out of a deep bond and love for Skippy, but out of a sense of obligation. And was it fair to him to keep him with me because I didn’t want to seem like a bad pet owner for giving him away, to in essence save face, when there was someone right in front of me who would offer him a better life? My friend would love him as he was. I would not. I would be like that woman in Cosmo they always warn you not to be, trying to fix her man, dress him up, teach him some manners, when all he wants is to sit in a wifebeater with a Coors in one hand and his junk in the other.
I called my friend and asked her if she was still serious about Skippy. “Yes, absolutely,” she said. I told her very bluntly why I was willing/mandated to give him up, and all the issues he was bringing to the table. She said yes, she knew this, and was still ok with it.
Skippy went home with her on Wednesday. The first thing he did when she came in the door was take a poop right in front of her- a final sendoff to me, I suppose, and she laughed and cleaned it up. “Let me know if it doesn’t work out,” I said. “I have contacts in rescue.”
“Oh, I’m keeping him,” she smiled, poop bag in one hand, dog in the other. “Let’s go, Skippy.”
I guess I can tell myself that everything happens for a reason. I still feel like a failure.