Friday, June 24, 2016

The Tolling of the Bells - Better late than never, but fortunately not too late

Welcome back to the farm.  

     I’m really sorry it’s been so long since last time we visited.  But as the saying goes, better late than never, right?  I have had a crazy month.  Every day, morning to night, with the exception of a few rest days my husband demanded I take, I have been typing my fingers off on transcripts leaving me absolutely no time for extracurricular activities like blogging.  But, as of June 17th, fortunately and unfortunately, I have an entire month off.  I work for my sister-in-law, and she’s on vacation, which means so am I, whether I can afford it or not, alas.  But there is a ton around here that hasn’t been getting done because I just have not had the opportunity, so hopefully I’ll get off my butt and get some progress made on cleaning up the house and maybe completing some projects. 

     My sister-in-law and her family were actually supposed to be visiting us on their way across the country.  They live in Georgia, we live in Texas, and they were on their way RVing cross-country to visit family in Alaska.  We were penciled in on day two of their adventure, I think, which was all very scheduled and regimented.  X number of miles in Y hours, Z amount of time spent at locations A, B, and C, etc.  I don’t know if I could handle the pressure of that kind of road trip.  I love to plan, but over planning can often kill an outing, because you spend so much time stressing about keeping on schedule and on track that you miss out on the actual adventure and fun. 

     Also, over planning and micromanaging gives WAY more opportunity for things to go wrong.  Which they did, of course, before they ever even left home.  As far as I know everything was still a go.  There are only three of us here on the homestead, but my sister-in-law has 4 kids, plus the two adults so on top of my own household I was going to have to plan a dramatically larger meal than I am used to.  So I had mountains of food I’d been cooking all day in preparation for the following day’s dinner.  Then, around dinner time that day (which wound up being fast food ironically, because even though I’d been cooking all day long, it was all for the next day’s anticipated guests.) I get a text message that they’re not coming. 

     It turned out a part in their RV’s fridge was broken, they were waiting to try to get a replacement, and it was going to set them back in their schedule, so they had to cut us out of the trip.  We ate enchiladas for 3 days (even after I froze some for later), mexi-rice for 4, and we’re STILL eating black beans.  I think if I ever see another black bean again, it’ll be too soon.  I still have enough in the fridge to freeze for some unidentified time in the future when I can consider them again without feeling nauseous. 

     Father’s day, we went on an adventure to a local big cat sanctuary and ate at a little greasy spoon diner we’d never been to before.  The food was good, but the service was spectacular.  They’ll definitely be seeing more of us around The Black Kettle. I can’t remember our waitress’s name, and I really wish I could.  I’d call them up and tell the manager what a great job she did. 

     The rest of this week has been spent in both rest and something like mourning.  My husband and I finally made the decision to put our dog down a couple of days ago.  We’ve been back and forth about trying to rehome her, relinquish her to the pound, put her down, or keep giving her more chances for the past several years.  We’ve only had her since February of 2014.  We got her right after our son’s first birthday. My husband and I both felt like a little boy should definitely have a dog. 

     She was only about four months old when we got her, so her nips and mild hostilities were brushed off as untrained.  After she passed her first year, we thought she’d start to mellow out.  She would push aside our son in order to demand being the center of attention.  She nipped him on occasion and was constantly stealing his food.  She was smart, and she learned that there were things that she was not supposed to get caught doing, but she would not stop doing them, just get smarter about when and how she did them. 

     Disciplining her was a challenge, as was training, because the only time to successfully discipline a dog is in the moments after a deed has been done that is unacceptable.  So the sneakier she got, the let discipline she received, and we thought she was behaving, but she wasn’t.  Our little boy wasn’t scared of her, per se, but he was intimidated by her.  She would lunge and snap at us when we would try to physically discipline her, despite doing everything we could to instill in her a sense of dominance and pack hierarchy.  She never seemed to get the picture. 

     Our son was always very gentle with and considerate of her.  We are animal lovers and wouldn't let him be toddler mean to her.  We taught him to be calm and careful and gentle.  She has left bruises on him from bites and nips, and he would scream bloody murder whenever she would run toward him, because she had a habit of knocking him to the ground.  We were afraid that one day she’d do more than just bruise him or that one day she would actually manage to connect with one of us instead of just snapping her jaws on empty air.  We kept saying she deserved one more chance, though.  Just one more.  And one more, and one more.  Until finally, we realized we’ve been saying that for over a year.  She wasn’t getting better, she was just getting sneakier, faster, more daring, and slowly more aggressive. 

     We talked to the man at the animal shelter, and he agreed, we had done everything we could do to try to be good dog parents.  She just, as my dad would’ve said, had snakes in her head that reared up now and then.  She was unpredictable, and we finally couldn’t handle that around our child anymore.  We had tried to find her a new home, but I believe in full disclosure and didn’t want to give her to someone without them being fully aware of what they might be getting into.  In addition to being unpredictable and occasionally aggressive with people, she would chase and attack livestock that was smaller than her, so in our rural area of the world, livestock and small kids are kind of a given.  No one wanted her. 

     The shelter wouldn’t adopt her out, either. She would have been immediately marked for death.  So my husband did it himself.  He was heartbroken about it, and I’m not far behind him.  I think he hurts worse, because he had to look her in the eyes when she died, but I feel so responsible for her death.  I adopted her from the shelter.  I was the one responsible for her training.  I was the one she slept with at night, whose feet she laid at during the day.  I was the one she responded to, answered to, came running for.  Other than the idea that we adopted her to be our son’s, she was in every way my dog.  And now she’s gone.  And I feel like it is my fault. 

     I have dreamed about her for the past few nights.  I wake up looking for her at the foot of my bed.  I feel like the worst type of person who would just throw a life away because it didn’t \conform to a human sense of right and wrong that she didn’t fully understand.  But if she had hurt my little boy... that guilt would have been unbearable.  I can live with this.  It will pass.  But if something had happened to him, I never would have been able to forgive myself. 

     I keep coming back to that and reminding myself of that.  And also realizing that if we had given her away or lied about her aggression when we surrendered her to the pound, she could have been put in the path of someone else’s child.  How would I have felt if I had read the news that a local child had been maimed or killed by their dog and seen a picture of her? 

     We haven’t discussed another dog.  Maybe in a few years, after our son is older we might consider adopting another dog.  Maybe we’ll just pick out one of the rabbits to be a house bunny.  Maybe we’ll get a cat.  But maybe we’ll just wait a while and let our hearts heal a bit more.  I know we did the right thing, the best thing for our son, even though it cost our dog her life.  I know that she was a threat to him and even to myself and my husband when she had one of her spells.  But I don’t feel any less responsible or guilty even so.

     So with one thing and another, even with Father’s Day being so pleasant, this has been a disheartening week and a stressful past few weeks.  Here’s to the next couple of weeks being nice and mundane while we regather ourselves.

     Genie, I’m so sorry.  I wish I could have somehow fixed whatever was broken in your head and in your heart.  I did my best.  It just wasn't good enough.

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