Friday, November 11, 2011

Guilt, Greed and Good Intentions

I am in the process of trying to find a new(er) home for my yellow lab puppy Eowyn. I have wanted a dog since I can remember. For years it was impossible because of my city digs and erratic schedule. Then, once I started working regular hours, my landlord wouldn't allow it. Now, with a place in the country and the passing of our ancient cat, I thought "this is the time."

I filled out an application with the local humane society. I was approved and they began to work with me to try to find a dog that would be a good match. The biggest obstacle was that I am away for 10 hours a day, which is a lot for a dog. Mrs. Beckett, a teacher, works longer hours than me, leaving earlier, returning later.

Then a coworker showed me a pic on her cell phone of a gorgeous little yellow lab pup. My coworker's friend's god daughter was trying to find someone to adopt her. I was all over it. Perfect! Labs are good-tempered, smart, good with children, good with animals, considered far and wide one of the best family dog breeds.

Mrs. Beckett was cool to the idea. She has never owned a dog and was worried about the effect on our cat. But I knew also that she loved dogs when she got a chance to be with them and that she would probably melt when she saw a pic. Indeed, she did give in to me. We picked up the puppy last saturday. She was scared and low key that day, not all that rambunctious.

My plan for the pup was to let her roam the lower level of the house while we were at work, leaving wee-wee pads for her until her bladder was developed enough to handle the day. It wasn't much of a plan, but I had faith I'd figure it out. That night, she fell asleep and I carried her up to her crate in our bedroom.

Sunday was the Eowyn show. I tried to give her as much attention as possible, knowing that I would be leaving her all day Monday.

Monday I woke up an hour earlier than I normally do to take her out and give her some play time. She went out for a pee and was back asleep in short order. When I got home all was well, she had used the pads and had destroyed nothing.

Tuesday (which state workers get off), I took her to the vet. He asked if I was crating her and I told him that I couldn't do it during the day because of the amount of time she was left alone. He didn't like this at all and asked why I would get a puppy and, ashamed, I said "I didn't think it through." He suggested I remove the partition in the crate that only allows her room to lie down to give her the ability to sleep on one end and mess on the other.

"Isn't that cruel?" I asked? "What's cruel?" he said, "you decided to get a puppy when you wouldn't be home."

So I started looking for someone to come in during the day. I contacted a pro who would cost 360 a month to come for an hour once a day. I put an ad on craigslist. Then I talked to a neighbor who agreed to come once a day for $150 a month.

Problem solved! Except Eowyn has been wearing me out. I cannot keep up with her needs. Part of the deal with Mrs. Beckett is that I am responsible for the dog, not her, and we've already had some friction with me needing her to watch her while I do something else. Yesterday, Eowyn was up and very active from when I got home at 5:20 to around 11:00. She rested for about an hour in the middle. This has got to be because she is getting too little stimulation during the day. She just does not have enough activity while I am gone, even with the efforts of my neighbor, who took her out twice yesterday.

I talked to a trainer who said the current arrangement will not meet Eowyn's needs. She said if I got someone to come 2x a day, say once at 11 and once at 2, for 45 minutes or an hour each, this would be doing right by the pup.

Indeed, she is already showing signs of separation anxiety. Yesterday, when I tried to put her in the crate for a few minutes so I could make dinner, she went ballistic, which is out of character for her. And she can't tolerate me being out of her sight. To make matters worse, I find myself unreasonably angry with her. Tire out already, will you! I want to spend some time with my wife! Why would you pee on the floor?!! Again?!! Of course, she's a puppy, and she's acting like one.

You might be thinking, "well what did you think having a puppy would be like?" and all I can say is that (1) my heart sometimes moves faster than my head, and (2) contemplated labor is never as difficult as actually doing the work. I am exhausted and both Mrs. B and I are emotionally worn out. I can't spend four or five hours a night with this dog.

And she is a lovely lady. She came to us knowing "sit," and it did not take her long to learn "down." I've also been working with her on "give it." She loves to fetch and shake the life out of her toys. She loves a good tummy rub. She likes best to sleep next to me on the couch, as she is right now. She sleeps through the night in her crate and will not come out until I get her, even though I leave the door open at night. When we first got her she hated the leash and collar and would not walk. Now she will happily walk far and wide.

I feel like a monster. I try to tell myself we've been good foster parents, that another situation will be better for her. She needs more attention than I can give her. I always looked on people who didn't train their pets properly or gave them up with condescension and disdain. "Don't get a dog if you can't handle one. Sure a puppy's cute, but that wears off once you have to take care of it. Morons. I would never get a dog unless I was prepared to take care of it properly." Maybe others aren't as inept and I am not as masterful as I like to whisper to myself.

Mrs. B burst into tears this morning at the thought of giving Eowyn up. I keep second guessing myself. Even now that the word has gone out and it's a matter of time before someone comes forward to care for this little lady, I think, this can work. It will get better. We can do this, right Eowyn? If I change my mind again, Mrs. B. might just(ifiably?) kill me for building this rollercoaster and strapping us all into it.