Last week I returned our family dog, Athena, to the pound from where I’d adopted her about a year ago. I only learned the phrase “owner surrender” last week when I had to do one. I can put up with a lot, but I draw the line at violence. She was an angel with humans…well, it’s more accurate to say that with humans she eagerly leapt into their/our laps like a frisky terrier. But with dogs, we had one too many incidents. I thought she was getting better…
As I wrote in my loooong letter to the Berkeley Animal Shelter, I’ve never seen any other dog approach every dog with the three traits Athena displays: deliberation (she MUST make contact), apparent aggression (her ears prick up, her butt wiggles while her head stays still), and terror (her back hairs stand up). I spent a year and dog-class-money trying to train these traits out of her, despite the fact that many dogs just let Athena sniff their butt and everyone walks away. But the combination of the three traits is awful because it agitates some dogs (and/or their owners), and if these dogs react by barking, Athena responds with angry barking and generally refusing to back down. To the tune of casualties and four-figure vet bills.
People have asked, can’t you just keep her on leash? First, if any dog needs off-leash time, it’s Athena. She pulls with mighty puppy energy and runs like FloJo for an hour after being let off leash. But okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say I throw away my healthy arm and keep her on leash. We still can’t really go anywhere. If we come around a corner and encounter a dog, she could attack. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t get her off of dog victims (with or without me holding her leash) as quickly as I need to. I speculated to a neighbor that in a worst-case scenario, she could kill another dog. He replied that’s not the worst-case scenario. He postulated, what if a child got caught between Athena and an antagonizing dog? Right.
Many times in the past year, my now-six-year-old would say, can we just return Athena to the pound? I would laugh and tell him, “She’s a member of the family. We don’t do that to family members.” Except…when we do. When it’s an issue of violence. When it’s been one too many times. I really didn’t want to send R any message that any family member is disposable because…you know. Readers know. But I think I sent the wrong message in spite of myself. Wifey isn’t worried because R isn’t worried. And yet, he and his brother have lost two dogs in their little lifetimes. That’s not good.
This was hard on me on a lot of levels. Frankly it was hard merely watching her smile as she stepped out of the car in the shelter’s parking lot. New adventure! She seemed to think. Maybe it was. While I filled out a form, some kind of intern took her leash and I said, “Is this goodbye?” He was like uhh… If I hadn’t asked, I’d never have had the chance! I put my mouth on hers. I hadn’t planned anything. I just wound up saying “I wish we could have made this work.” She licked my mouth, looked at me with love, and was taken happily away. I’ll never see her again.
It’s hard to admit I’ve thrown away a lot of time and money at/on something. And I miss her. What will now happen to Athena? I don’t know. I told Berkeley Animal Shelter that she could make a great guard dog; aren’t there people who want that? The pound gave me a code number to check on her, but I haven’t had the heart to use it.
I know dogs aren’t people and I know Dar’s fate won’t resemble Athena’s. But…there may be traces of some of the same feelings. You can’t talk me out of that possibility.
In other news, my father is moving in with us this weekend.
We have known about Dad for some time. Did that have something to do with the decision to surrender Athena? Maybe. It’s true that if I were smart, I would limit my number of dependents. It’s also true that I had looked forward to taking dog walks with Dad. Oh well, Dad and I will probably take daily walks anyway. Think I can train Dad to chase the ball?
Why are we moving my Dad from his retirement home in Fairfield into our in-law unit? Well, the short version is that the “Pros” list has come to severely outweigh the “Cons” list. Without getting into every entry on both lists, the slightly longer version is that despite our best efforts, Dad almost never leaves his room in assisted living. Basically, Dad’s dementia is continuing to worsen, so it’s time to try something new…something Dad said he always wanted (to live in Berkeley). Also on the list: selfish role-modeling for Dar’s brother. I mean, do I want him to put me in a retirement home when I’m older? I like to think that it’s a good sign that both R and Dad keep asking when the date is coming. It’s September 9, awight?
Dad told a friend on the phone (who told me) that Dad is looking forward to moving in with me and my Mom. My Mom has been dead for 13 years. Perhaps living at Mom’s old house will help that fact sink in to my father’s brain.
Maybe Dad’s dementia would have deteriorated this far in any event…I hate not having a control in this experiment. Loyal readers know that I’ve said something similar about Dar. I do NOT like being in the sandwich generation. Every moment I spend on taking care of Dad and Dar is a moment deferred on other dreams, which include a less Trumpian country. In July, I was lucky to drive to Comrade Devin Nunes’ district (near Fresno) to campaign against him for an hour or so…hard to carve out that kind of time when you’ve got this many dependents.
Anyway, I’ll have more to say about all this at some point. Today I’m missing the dog, managing the Dad, and musing on how it all relates to the Dar. That’s enough for one blog post.