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.

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  • (((Stacey))) I feel yah, I really do. We’ve had our puppy since February and oh my goodness, I was not expecting it to be this hard. Theta, our puppy is now a little over six months old and while she is totally insane at times she is part of us and as much as I threaten to get rid of her as she’s drinking out of the toilet (gag) or dumping the trash, digging holes in the backyard or chasing my kids I just couldn’t do it. I love the little turd lol

    In the end you have to do what is right for you and your family. I know they say that for females they calm down a bit after getting fixed, maybe the same rings true for males?

    • Thank you, Shana! Yes, we will definitely be getting him fixed. The vet says that should help, but we can’t do it until he’s about 5 months old. That gives us another 5 weeks or so (not that I’m counting). 😉

  • Oh Stacey …. I will certainly pray for you! What a weight to have on your shoulders, especially when I know how much joy animals can bring. Here’s hoping that someone who has a wealth of knowledge on this topic or the breed happens upon your post!

  • We had that too, and I was totally the kind of person that thought I could home any dog. We got a shelter dog and he was a runner – constantly breaking out of the yard or off the leash and just RUNNING. Then he got aggressive with my husband, and when he snapped at my daughter, we knew we had to make a hard decision and take him back to the shelter. He was rehomed, but we got calls for a while when he ran because they never took our tag off. The calls stop, and I’m afraid I fear the worst; runners get hit by cars all too often. 🙁 I think you know what’s best for your family. In happier news, we got a different shelter dog and she’s been with us three years and is a great dog. 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Cecily. Even though I think we’ll eventually push through all this, I feel like such a jerk for even considering any alternatives. But you’re right – doing what’s best for the *whole* family is priority #1. I appreciate your comment!

  • Muddyfeet

    It can be very hard to deal with a high-energy animal. It’s equally difficult to deal with very spirited children (and there are plenty of people out there making judgments about that too!) I think it is very important to recognize your family limitations. You are not responsible for the pet “for better or for worse”, not the same way we’re responsible for our kids. I firmly believe it’s not only okay, but sometimes in everyone’s best interest to re-home an animal if it’s not working out. Dogs are sensitive to emotions, and he may be feeling just as bad as you. The responsibility you bear is not to “make it fit come hell or high water.” It’s to do your best that the pet goes into a better situation than the one he’s leaving if he’s not right for your family.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I was just thinking last night (after a very difficult day with him) that we’re probably in some vicious cycle right now – we’re stressed, which makes him more stressed, which makes us more stressed, etc. So today, I’m working on a clear head and I hope that helps to change the atmosphere a little. I appreciate your understanding and perspective!

  • Becca

    I understand to some extent. I am 29 and have adopted 3 dogs total in my life. The first two were close to perfect. They came fairly well trained, they responded well to the little we had to teach them, they rarely barked, were good with everyone, etc. We had them together and they both passed a few years ago. So after a year of looking, we adopted Hunter. He is soooo adorable! But he is an absolute nightmare. We basically just work with him as much as we can. We have trained him to not jump on top of the kitchen table. He still runs away, barks at everything, tries to bite tall people, etc. My mom has always said that God gave him to us because no one else could handle him. He has cancer now and she just keeps saying the same thing. He is only four years old so we are going to just enjoy him for as long as we have him, focusing on his good qualities. My only suggestion if you do decide your new puppy just isn’t working is to look for people to re-home him to instead of giving him to a shelter. Good luck!

    • Thanks for your comment, Becca! I appreciate you sharing your own experiences, and I like what you say about focusing on the good qualities. Our puppy definitely has them, and there has been improvement in *some* areas. I need to see through my own stress to appreciate those. 🙂 Thanks again!

  • Jenn_FiveDollarShake

    Stacey, you are not alone and in no way a jerk for considering he might not be “the” pet for your family. Before Roxy, we had a lab mix, he was the sweetest thing, but just couldn’t tolerate young children. He was perfect in every other way. Even though we took him to classes, hire private training, and did everything “right”, he still grew to hate Allison, who was only five at the time. He was tiny when we got him, but he eventually grew to just over 100 pounds and it just wasn’t safe. He would growl when she walked into the room, and eventually snapped and broke skin on her. It was heart breaking for me! But, I found him a home with a second lab, and a few acres to run on, and most importantly no young kids. The family sent updated emails and photos for a while. It was such a perfect fit. It was the right thing for him, and for Allison.