When Pet Adoption Seems To Go All Wrong

Oh, life. It has a funny way of putting you in the shoes of others you’ve judged from a high and lofty perch.

Take, in this instance, pet adoption. I’ve known and heard of people who adopt a pet, then re-home them shortly after discovering they aren’t the right “fit” for their family.

OH PLEASE, I say to myself, HOW COULD A PET NOT BE THE RIGHT ‘FIT?’ YOU JUST DIDN’T TRY HARD ENOUGH, my inner judgmental voice declares. We’ve adopted several different pets over the years, and no it’s not always easy making them a part of your family, but GROW UP, YOU’VE MADE A COMMITMENT. You just deal. Right?

{note: Let there be no doubt that I recognize how ugly this sounds. I am not proud. And I am especially humbled in light of what I am about to tell you.}

Oh, life. You got me this time.

When Pet Adoption Seems To Go All Wrong

We brought Chewbacca home 9 weeks ago. At just 5 1/2 weeks, he was really too young to be taken from his litter, but because of some mis-communication with his owners, we didn’t know just how little he was. We were worried about his young age, but we were hopeful, too.

He did reasonably well adjusting to his crate, was even housebroken pretty quickly. He *seems* to be calming down just a little with our two cats. He is growing strong and healthy, and at a startling rate. These are pluses.

But the burdens seem to grow.

Our older dog, Lucy, has a submissive personality. We had hoped having another dog would bring her out of her shell a little, but instead, Chewie has taken the chance to absolutely dominate her. They’ve had a few sweet moments together, but ultimately he is so aggressive with her, and she seems miserable. The aggressive/submissive chaos between the two of them in our house is exhausting.

Chewie is also extremely vocal, and has been since his first night with us. Part of it is breed (his mother is full-blood hound), part of it is puppy, and part of it is just personality. Lucy is a silent dog – it seems we lucked out with her. But Chewie barks and bays and howls and whines…all the time. Our 5yo son has sensitivity issues with sound, and he goes into full meltdown mode when Chewie gets barking, which is often. Eli will cry, yell, plead for the dog to stop, even kick at or hit him out of frustration. And, of course, I’m in the middle of it all, trying to intercede, trying to comfort Eli (and discipline him for kicking at the dog) while being consistent with trying to train Chewie out of his barking. It’s nerve-wracking, and leaves me very frazzled.

One thing Chewie needs a lot of is stimulation and exercise, but it has been difficult to get him accustomed to a leash. Basically, he freaks out with it, and walks started out as a nightmare. We finally bought a harness system for walking him, and it seems to have helped. But the idea of getting him outside to burn off some energy has proven more challenging, and just another catch-22.

Finally, Chewbacca is not consistently sleeping through the night. Which just leaves us all exhausted to face another long day of conflict with him in the home.

He’s cute. He’s not bitten anyone (although his barking and growling can be very unsettling). He has moments when he can be sweet. He deserves a good home.

And I am home. All the time, every day. For the past two months, I’ve been 100% focused and dedicated to acclimating him to our home and training him on basic behavior and commands.

But the truth is, I have spent many weary hours wondering if Chewie is just not the right fit for our family. I think of how much less stress we would have here, how much quieter it would be, how much more freedom I, Eli, and Lucy would have. I feel like such a jerk for even thinking it, which – to be honest – just adds another pinch of resentment.

Another truth is that I misjudged my mental and emotional ability at this stage of life to focus on raising a puppy. Our family is so busy already, and with my husband traveling as often as he does, so much already rests on my single set of shoulders. I am looking forward to my last child going off to school in the fall and me trying to increase and improve the amount of professional work I do from home. Struggles with a puppy have thrown a wrench into everything.

How will this all end? At our last visit with the vet, he expressed concern over Chewie’s poor behavior (this after Chewie totally freaked out on his way into – and even once in – the vet’s office). “You don’t want a 100 pound dog you can’t control,” he warned. I left feeling so discouraged. But also realizing that we’ll need some formal training intervention – and soon. We’ll also be getting Chewie fixed as soon as we can (the vet says 5-6 months old) to help quell any of his more active/anxious/aggressive tendencies. Finally – and this might sound silly if this isn’t your thing – I’m just going to keep praying for patience and guidance, and I’m going to keep being consistent with what we’re working on at home.

I highly doubt we will re-home Chewbacca, but right now, I’m really struggling with him. It’s given me more compassion and understanding for others who find themselves in similar situations.

*Please note: please be better than me and hold your judgement. If you have any tips, suggestions, advice, or just a note of encouragement, I would appreciate them, but please know that I understand the weight and importance of pet adoption and all the complications it entails. As I mentioned, we’ve adopted several pets over the years and have successfully made them members of our family. I’ve just been really thrown for a loop this time.