A sadness that I wear like a coat

That’s what I have today. It’s not a new feeling; I’ve had it before, and I’m sure I’ll have it again. But the circumstances for this sadness are new to me. I don’t know what to do with this sadness, except let it be and learn from it. The lesson I learned today is that sometimes, you have to feel like a shitheel before you feel better.

As most of you know, we took in a little dog last week. She’s a Rat Terrier who came from the Seal Beach Animal Care shelter (which is no-kill). You can find the backstory on my Facebook page, because honestly, it’s too exhausting for me to relive in the retelling.

Yesterday I had to return Spider to the rescue. Wait. That’s not right: I decided to return her. If you’re thinking bad things about me, no worries: they can’t be any worse than I think of myself today.

She’s a wonderful dog. She’s already house-trained, and despite the nearly crippling fear she had in the shelter, she adapted within less than a week to having a home and loved laying by the fire at night. A few times she even crept up to sit on my lap. She let me pick her up (something she would never allow at the shelter) and give her kisses.

But she didn’t fit with my guys. There was fighting. I’ve seen dog fights; hell, there have been plenty in my house. But this was scary fighting because it terrified T and Jack.

You know the story of T and Jack right. I didn’t just rescue them. They rescued me. After my third dog in less than a year, my mija, my Gracie, died, I came upon these two and brought them home “for company” till I felt better. (That’s what my rescue friend said when she helped pile them into my car.) I didn’t want them. I didn’t like them. Their histories were unbearably sad (T was three when I got him and I was his first home. Jack was SIX. He spent the first 3 years of his life breeding in a puppy mill and then spent another three in the rescue circuit. Jack was SIX before he had a permanent home. And it was me.

To say I love them, to say we’ve bonded, is a vast and ridiculous understatement. Every day, everything I do for them is out of a love and a desire to make those bad years disappear. But there are still signs; lingering fears that pop up now and then that even after all this smothering love, they can’t shake.

I am always clear that my guys come first. When I started to fall for the little one, I felt a smidge guilty. But when the fights started, I was crushed. When I saw T run away and pee himself, I knew what I had to do. I had to return her.

Please don’t take away from this that Spider is a bad dog. She’s a great dog. Maybe here, with some time and training everyone could be made to get along. But, and I’m sure many will find this to be selfish, I feel that I owe my dogs more than “getting along.” It took us over four years to develop a routine in which they felt safe and secure, where they could be as happy as they could be. I should have known that another dog would break that routine, but we’ve fostered before, for short periods, and didn’t have fights. So Spider was probably the boss in her house. T and Jack have never been the boss anywhere but here. In fact, they’ve been the opposite. Would a trainer have worked? Maybe. But here’s my question (and it’s a toughie): how much do I frighten my dog before he’s ok? How many times does he have to run to the back room, or wet himself, because he’s frightened, in his home? To me, the answer is “not one.”

Ok, I’m rambling. I’m making excuses. I’m rationalizing. These are the things I tell myself when I wake up in the morning and put on this coat of sadness. Guilt. Regret. Whatever you want to call it, it’s raw and it’s shitty.

Here’s a picture of Spider. She is a great dog and will give you lots of love if you give her a little space, time and patience. If you know someone who’s thinking of getting a dog, tell them to go see her. And remember too that what you see in the shelter isn’t a dog’s true personality. So if she appears distant or skittish it’s because she’s frightened.

She’s at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center, 1700 Adolfo Lopez Dr., Seal Beach CA 90740. Telephone: 562-430-4993. Email: [email protected]



share on Facebook|Tweet this!|Pin this!|Link|Email link
  • February 8, 2013 - 3:18 pm

    Cynthia Zulla - hugs to you smalldogs 🙁 I know this wasn’t an easy decision and my heart breaks for you. I know this is futile to say to you, but don’t beat yourself up…you have done such amazing work with J & T…I remember those early days with them.ReplyCancel

  • February 8, 2013 - 3:37 pm

    louize - So sorry to hear things didn’t work out, but you know deep down you did the right thing… our boys are too old and too traumatised to take new dogs into their spaces, and hard as it can be (there isn’t a day when I wouldn’t love to rescue someone else) I think we have to accept that that next rescue will have to wait until later… a huge hug, and I am sure the exposure you have given sweet spider will help her find a forever home xxxReplyCancel

  • February 8, 2013 - 4:13 pm

    Marina - You’re a good person. You took in those first two dogs and you are being a good pet parent by caring for them. Maybe a rescue can take him in. You did what you could. You did more than most do.ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 2:48 pm

    Linda - Don’t fret although I know you will, it means you are a good person with a great heart. I know how hard and tramatic that must have been. At least you tried, which is so much more than some people are willing to do.

    My daughter and I have had a horrible year concerning rescues. We feel so defeated and sad. There is nothing to do but march along and learn anything that will help. The evil in the world just seems to pile up so much as to be overwhelming to me anyway.ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 10:32 pm

    susan sabo - Aw, thanks guys. Your kind words mean a lot to me; I really appreciate you all.

    Linda, I’m sorry to hear that. Rescue work is the hardest work I’ve ever been involved in. It can be completely defeating at times, and it can also make you lost faith in people. Then I read a happy story and it helps raise my hopes a little. I hope things get better for you and your daughter.ReplyCancel

  • February 12, 2013 - 3:51 pm

    Jodi - I don’t think it’s rationalizing or excuses. You made the hard, right decision that you had to make for you and your pack. Hugs to you.ReplyCancel

  • February 12, 2013 - 10:41 pm

    susan sabo - Thanks Jodi, that’s very sweet of you to say. I happily accept your hugs and send a few of my own right back.ReplyCancel

  • March 23, 2013 - 6:26 pm

    Kim - Susan – the exact thing happened to me last year. We brought Amber home after a very successful meet and greet with our dog Zoe. As the afternoon progressed the fighting got more aggressive and serious. By the evening everyone had their separate corners and Zoe was a very unhappy girl. We kept pulling them apart throughout the next day and finally by Monday we knew that this wasn’t going to work out. Amber was/is a fantastic dog and was so sweet and just wanted to be loved. But she wasn’t going to allow Zoe to push her around and Zoe wasn’t about to have anything to do with Amber. We were in fits for days. In the end, it was the right thing to do for Amber. It took a few weeks but she ended up being adopted and is now very active in agility training. She is living a great doggy life.

    It is so difficult to see the needy dogs (in my case weekly) and not become attached to them. You are not a bad person, you are doing so much good for all the animals that you photograph. You too did the right thing. It will work out the way it is suppose to. Just know that you gave Spider the much needed chance to be out of the shelter for a little bit of time. She is a better dog because of it, I am sure.ReplyCancel

  • March 23, 2013 - 7:53 pm

    susan sabo - Hey Kim, Thanks so much for sharing your story. I still feel so sad about how this went down. Though I’m sure you’re right, I really wish it didn’t end this way for Spider and us.ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *