all has been mostly well in our home for children and pets. until last month, when jude fell off a chair and onto a sleeping charley, who snapped with the instinctive reaction of an alpha dog who is frightened, nicking jude on the cheek–too damn close to her eye. to be fair: charley did not bite my child in the face; my child’s face happened to be where charley’s snapping mouth was. the bite didn’t break the skin. jude did not think it was a big deal.
it was an accident. but it was a last straw.
what if charley had snapped at someone else’s kid? what if she’d gotten jude in the eye? and, despite the YEARS of training, what if this is the best charley is ever going to be with children? she is always on guard, always nervous, and now she is outnumbered by my kids. i may love my dog, she may even be my soul-dog, but i have to protect my babies.
and so. i began in earnest to look for a new home for charley: craigslist, petfinder, facebook, twitter, etc. a month into the search, the only responses i received were from people with children who didn’t read my ad specifying the need for a kid-free home, and from scammers. in the meantime, we subtly kept charley and jude separate. jude didn’t really notice; charley simply was where she wasn’t. the whole situation broke my heart.
one night, when charley and i were alone together, i told her what was going on. i explained that when her teeth made contact with jude’s face, she’d crossed an irreversible line. i told her that i loved her very much, and that i hated how the story of our lives together was ending. i had always assumed that charley and i would be together her whole life. i couldn’t even fathom the reality of a final separation like this. she stared unblinkingly into my eyes as i spoke. she understood me. i fully believe she understood everything i said.
two weeks ago, i once again reposted the craigslist ad. and omg! a response! immediately! no kids! no desire to sell my dog to a pharmaceutical company! just a kidless couple, new to town, who desired a dog–a dog like mine. i told them about every weird issue that charley has, and they still wanted to meet her.
two weekends ago, this couple–m&r–came to our home and spent a whole afternoon with charley. she warmed to them immediately. they walked her, cuddled her, and she fell for them immediately. within minutes, she lay between them under our diningroom table. yes, yes, we want her, they said.
this past saturday, i gave charley a bath, trimmed her nails, forced heartworm meds down her gullet, and brushed her shedding coat. i took her on a final walk, just the two of us. and then i packed her up in my car–she got to ride shotgun–and i took her to her new family. [m&r, incidentally, have become our fast friends, and promise to keep me posted on how charley is doing.] as i drove, i rested my hand on her back and she leaned into it like she’s always done. i didn’t need to use words then. my calm hand thanked her for seven years of companionship, healing and protection. i told her how much i love her by rubbing her ears and patting her head. she looked straight ahead the whole time, anticipating.
and then we arrived. walked up three flights of stairs, and entered her new home. i stayed awhile, chatted with the delightful m&r, and said my goodbye. and then i went home.
i am grieving. i feel like something is missing, wrong. i am weepy. but i am also relieved. for years, our lives have been structured in such a way as to prevent fights between lucy and charley, to keep jude from doing something to scare charley, to keep charley safe at home when we travel, etc. suddenly, i am free of my worry for everyone’s safety. my body feels shaky with such an exhale. i know i did right by my dog. i am at peace with the end of our story.