Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I Gave our Dog Away

Kelly on Sanibel
It's true. I gave away our dog Kelly.

I did it knowing it's one of the worst things a parent can do to their young adult kids. College students often miss their pets more than parents or siblings. And who can blame them? Nothing means home more than a sweet warm pooch snuggling up with you on the sofa or dancing in spasms of delight when you walk in the door. And Kelly is the best dog!

But here's the thing:  Liam and I are terrible dog owners now that we're empty nesters. We travel all the time and are rarely home. Well, we are often home, but we have two homes now - one in Sioux City, IA where Liam works and our new condo in Chicago. We love our two different abodes (more on that in another post) but they are 500 miles apart and it's not easy to get a dog back and forth between them.

We made it work as best we could at first, but Kelly wasn't happy about it. She threw a few destructive temper tantrums to let us know she wasn't a fan of the new living arrangements. In January we rented a house on Sanibel Island near where my mother and her husband live - taking Kelly with us - and before we headed up north, we came up with a temporary solution.

We decided to have Kelly stay with Mom and Dan in Ft. Myers for the rest of the winter. They have an adorable Westie of their own (inspired by Kelly) and had plenty of time and affection for a second doggie. It all worked beautifully. Liam and I could travel for business and to see our kids in Ann Arbor and do our back and forth thing, while Kelly enjoyed warm weather and the best care of her life - a predictable schedule, frequent walks, regular grooming, and constant canine and human companionship. We thought it would just give us a break over the cold winter, but gradually, it made sense to make the pet-sitting situation permanent.

My kids were pretty devastated. I definitely felt like the worst mom ever. I hated letting them down and I felt like a failure for not being able to take good care of our beloved family dog. Also, I missed Kelly's cheerful presence in my life more than anyone. But I kept thinking about how she needs routine and affection and how she freaks out when she's left alone, especially in a new place. I thought of our expensive new rug.

So Kelly is staying in Florida, thanks to Jane and Dan, who have happily absorbed her into their little family. I tell them she's 100% returnable and we're definitely paying all the vet bills. But given the fact that they all sleep in the same bed together at night, I don't think it's likely she's coming back. Look at how cute Kelly and Shelby are together.

Shelby (left) with Kelly at Mom and Dan's house.

In a year of many changes this was a rough one, but now that it's decided I'm relieved. Kelly is happy. She makes my parents happy. My kids don't hate me. My rugs are undamaged. And, I gotta confess, after 24 years of pet ownership and parenting, it's pretty liberating to come and go as I please.


amkovacs said...

I support you in this difficult decision. As empty nesters ourselves, and now in an apartment without the luxury of a doggie door, we find our travels and adventures or simple days out to be very confined because of our dog. We adore him and fawn over him. He is over 12 years old and has entrusted us to take care of him for all these years. That sense of responsibility is what is forcing us to make is work (re: lots of $$ on dog sitting) until the end. We are definitely not getting another dog after this one goes. We will cherish him in the meantime, but I get it. I really, really get it.

Marjie Killeen said...

AMK - You do have an adorable dog! If my mom hadn't been willing to step in, we would be doing what you are doing. Lots of pet sitters and dog walkers for Kelly and curtailed activity and many bracing city walks for me. Ironically, there are so many people with dogs in our new building. I'm sure if Kelly were here I'd know everyone in no time. And every time I see a Westie, my heart lurches!