(Originally written Monday, August 10, 2009 at 10:44 p.m.)
The most difficult decision I’ve had lately hasn’t had anything to do with my alcoholism or my retirement! I’ve been thinking about this almost since day one, but I’ve actually decided to give up Candy.
I bet that came as a shock to most of you, especially the ones who didn’t already know.
Ever since I got her on December 19, 2007 I’ve debated whether I made the right decision. She’s extremely high strung, very whiny, skittish, and fearful. We went through a difficult adjustment period. She was a puppy that wasn’t housebroken, and I was an adult who hadn’t had a pet for over 30 years. I think she was abused by her original owners, and I think she has abandonment issues. I had a difficult time adjusting to her issues, and made a really strong effort to make things as normal as possible for both of us. You have to admit, working on it for almost two years makes for a serious effort.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love her and I am attached to her, but things just aren’t working out. As I said, it’s been almost two years now and she still has all the nagging things about her that annoy me. She whines almost constantly and is still hyper. She’s extremely needy and I get tired of her constantly circling and begging and crying.
I think the real clincher is the fact that I have lost my temper with her too many times. When she has messed in the floor a few times, long after she was housebroken, it has usually been because I gave her something too rich for her diet, so I was understanding and compassionate. But there have been several times she has messed in the floor because she didn’t get taken out soon enough. My fault to be sure, but if I was drunk at the time and didn’t notice, I would blame her and spank her for messing in the floor. I would swat her on the butt, but sometimes too hard and for too long. She would never yelp or run away, but just lay there and take it, looking up at me with soulful, hurt eyes, until the anger would drain out of me.
Of course I would feel horrible afterward, thinking I had hurt her terribly (which I hadn’t, but you can’t help how you feel). Granted, it hasn’t been a problem since I stopped drinking, until a couple of weeks ago.
I came home from work one day and Candy had messed in her cage, I mean really messed it up good. Diarrhea big time. I scolded her, but didn’t punish her since she couldn’t help it, and I put her on the patio while I cleaned up the cage. Then I took her to PetSmart to get her bathed. After I brought her home, she messed again, this time on the carpet in front of Jason’s door and bathroom door. I was furious. Jason and I cleaned up the mess.
The carpet wasn’t even dry and we had barely turned our backs when she messed again, in the exact same spot! This time I lost my temper and spanked her butt, once again too hard and too long, feeling angry and guilty at the same time.
Later that evening I was walking her across the street and my friend the veterinarian, Dr. Mike drove by and I told him about her problem. He came by to see her later and said she probably had colitis. He gave her a shot and gave me two types of antibiotics to give her twice a day for a week. He also told me to give her Imodium to stop the diarrhea, which I did. I made sure to take her out every couple of hours for the next 18 hours or so until the diarrhea stopped, and she gradually got better.
Of course, once I realized she was actually sick and not just “acting out” because Jason and his dog Cody had moved in (which had been my original thought since she kept messing in front of their bedroom door), the guilt was overwhelming. It made me feel even more like I wasn’t the right owner for a dog with her type of personality and needs. I just don’t have the patience. She is extremely high maintenance, especially with what I call her “nervous condition,” which I’ve even tried to treat with medication recommended by the vet, to no avail.
I’ve never thought of myself as a violent person. And I think if someone else saw how I spanked her you wouldn’t say I was being cruel necessarily, but in my mind I was being too harsh and I don’t like the way it feels. I also don’t like that she can bring it out in me.
While my friend Brian was living here for several months, Candy and he bonded and became extremely attached to each other. So much so that he asked me at one point, that should anything ever happen to me would I make sure that he got to keep Candy. I’ve seen they way they dote on each other, so of course I said yes. They really do cherish each other.
Brian moved out in early May, but still comes over to see us frequently, and Candy always loves to spend time with him. He hadn’t been over in probably three weeks when he came by last Thursday to pick up some computer parts he’d left behind. Candy and I were outside for her potty break when he came up, and she about wet herself because she was so excited to see him! And I thought Brian was going to cry, he was so happy to see her.
I had told him a week or so earlier I was thinking about giving her up. After his visit last Thursday, he sent me a text message on Friday asking if he could have her. He said he didn’t know if he missed her more, or if she missed him, but after seeing her the day before he really felt like she would be better off living with him than for me to give her to a stranger.
It’s sad to say, but I have to agree.
So, on Saturday this past weekend (August 8, 2009) while I was at the movies, Brian came by, picked her up, and took her home with him for a “trial period.” He’s been keeping me updated on her progress. She’s got her own bed and toys he took with her. She has a back yard to play in, and she can go out through a doggie door whenever she wants. There is another, older, dog in the house and they get along very well. Candy doesn’t exhibit any of the jealous behavior toward Brian with the other dog that she did with me when she was here and Cody tried to play. I imagine that’s because this was her territory and she was protecting it (and me), whereas over there, she’s the newcomer.
Brian says she’s settling in very well. He sends me photos of her now and then to let me know how she’s doing. In a few days we’ll talk again and see how they are doing, and how I am doing without her.
So how am I doing without her? Well, okay I guess. I miss her, of course. When it’s just the two of us here, she’s relaxed and very affectionate, although still timid and skittish whenever I’m on my feet. But whenever Brian is visiting, she’s always at his feet or sitting by him with her head in his lap, and he never gets tired of her company. He has far more patience with her than I do, and I think they are good for each other.
When I think ahead to my retirement and the plans I want to make in the few months extending into it, having a pet doesn’t fit well. I want to make several driving trips over the next year, and I can tell you already Candy does not travel well! There’s no way she would do well on long car trips, and I know I would not have the patience it would take to have her with me.
She’s an outdoor dog, and knowing she has a back yard now where she can play anytime she wants really makes me feel glad for her. I think I’m adjusting to the idea of her being gone already, but only because she’s with Brian. I know he loves her and will take good care of her. I think he’d take better care of her than he would of his own kids if he had any.