Welcome to the Family(?)


This past weekend, we had an addition to our family.  No, we didn’t have another child (we figured we did so good with the first one, why not stop while we were ahead?).

Instead, we got a dog.

Now, I realize many people have dogs, but for us, this was a moment years in the making.  We’ve always been cat people, but Norma really wanted a dog for company and to take for walks.  She bought books, watched TV shows, researched breeds…she was all set to be a doggy mama.  Only problem was, we lived in an apartment and while they were willing to let us have one, it was going to cost an extra $500.

We had a choice:  I could sell my comic book collection and save up the remaining $490 or we could wait until we moved.  Unfortunately, it would be a few years before we could manage that.  In the meantime, Norma continued to dream and plan.

Those dreams finally were able to come to fruition when we moved last November.  A friend/co-worker, bought a duplex and let us rent the other half.  Before we agreed to it,  I checked to see if it’d be okay to get a dog.  My friend/landlord said yes and it was a go.

But having plans and setting them into motion are two very different things.  We worried over what breed to get, how Natalie would respond to having a dog, how the neighbor’s kids would deal with a dog being next door, if the cats would ever forgive us…anyone who knows us, knows we know how to worry.

We fostered a Malamute named Sitka, who was about as well-trained as a dog could be.  She was beautiful, obedient, didn’t care about the cats, didn’t beg (much) for food.  Just about the perfect dog.  She was also a little over protective, intense and well, unhappy.  Surprisingly, it was Norma who said we should consider giving her back to the man who was fostering her before us.  After having her a week, she went back to her previous owner, who was as happy to see her and she was to see him.

Next, we fostered a Malamute named Shiloh.  He was a bit of a wildcard.  His previous owner didn’t really want him and was threatening to bring him to a shelter, so we took him in with very little information.  He turned out to be rather old and in bad shape.  In the two weeks we had him, we racked up about $250 worth of vet bills, just to find out what other work he would need done.  Turned out to be quite a lot, certainly beyond our means.  We asked the rescue if they could help us with the medical bills, but they couldn’t.  We considered keeping him anyway, as he was really gentle with Natalie and just an all around good dog, but he could barely even get up our back steps to go in and out.  He also barked whenever he saw our cats and lunged at them, although he was too old to get very far.  Ultimately, he made the long journey back to Cle Elum, where he was adopted by some kind soul.

A few months later, we find ourselves with Chance,  a full-blood Collie.  Instead of being from a rescue, he’s a retired show dog, a fact that gnaws away at Norma.  She was so determined to have a rescue dog (and a Malamute at that), it’s been hard for her to reconcile her feelings.  Our test meeting with Chance went beautifully, but he was confined to the backyard because he had issues with fleas.  Unfortunately, that meant we didn’t get the opportunity to test his house manners.

He’s very food driven–very–to the point where we have trouble eating dinner at night without him trying to stick his snout in our plate.  The first day he came over, he snatched a Chicken McNugget out of Natalie’s hand, and she’s been a little wary of him since.  He was de-barked (something we would never do, I assure you), so his barking at the cats isn’t very loud, but he’s run after them a few times.  What he would do if he caught one, I’m not sure, but we were told he was good with cats.  He woke me up at 4 am the first morning asking to go out and last night, he woke me up first at 1:30, then two hours later.  Fortunately, I function well on little sleep (and if you find any typos within this post, that lack of sleep is my excuse).  He also has trouble getting up the stairs, but for completely different reasons than Shiloh did (I suspect he’s far-sighted as he tends to run into things a lot, or perhaps it’s just a Collie trait).  Norma and I have both taken him for walks, and even though he tends to try to herd us a bit, he makes for a good walking partner.

So, here we are again.  Just having a dog in the house takes getting used to.  We have three cats: one who is very affectionate all the time, one we barely ever see and one who comes up for snuggles at night.  Not seeing them has been odd, but not nearly as big of an adjustment as having a gassy (did I mention he takes some yeast product that makes his flatulence smell like garlic?), food pushy, no-sleep-respecting, non-obeying dog in the house.

We seem to be trapped in a cyclical pattern, where we’re constantly examining the choice we made and if we should back out (we have two weeks to make up our mind).   We’re seeing a lot of the same problems we had with Shiloh starting to manifest, minus the health concerns, but plus the behavioral issues.  And the thing that may be the final nail in the coffin is the fact they emphasized he would love to be an only dog.  At the moment, that’s no problem, but we want to get other dogs (A Malamute and a Boston Terrier, please!) and we do have to share our affections with Natalie and the cats.

As of now, the decision is in the air.  There are a lot of pluses and minuses for Chance (and I love the fact that, when coupled with my cat, Kharma, I have two animals who share names of my characters), but we’ll have to see how it goes.  I hate to keep trying dogs out and bringing them back.  It’s hard on Natalie, I think, and it’s hard on Norma and I.  But we have to do what’s best for our family dynamic, and right now, I’m not sure if Chance fits the bill.

On the other hand, it’s rather nice when he tries to sit on my lap while we’re watching TV at night.  I could get used to that (depending, of course, on how gassy he is at the moment).

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