- CRITTER TALK
- NEWS I FIND INTERESTING
by Olivia Williams
The dog in question was a gorgeous purebred short-haired black and tan standard dachshund who had arrived as a present when I finished law school. Shortly after picking him up from the airport and bringing him home, it became apparent that he was, as my grandfather used to put it, “not quite right.” At six months old, he refused to walk on a leash or leave our apartment. Our attempts to crate train him were abandoned after we discovered that he could in fact bark all night without tiring and that our neighbors weren’t particularly keen on listening.
“Fear dandruff” was apparently a thing. The puppy would compulsively lick all the fur off his chest and belly if left alone for more than 15 minutes. “Fear poop” also became a common phrase in our house after we discovered that he could quite literally be scared into pooping by something as non-threatening as a friend stopping by, or an unusually large cat passing by the window. Eventually we were forced to give him anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication after our attempts to fix the problem with obedience school and dog behaviorists, herbal remedies, acupuncture, thunder shirts, and doggie massage were all resounding failures.
This was a dog who was absolutely terrified of bird song and the sound of children playing, so when I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I assumed the baby would scare the poor thing. To our surprise, he was incredibly attached to the baby and would loyally follow him around. His desire to protect the kid led him to occasionally venture onto the porch to protect him, fear poop, and compulsively bark at passersby.
But as our son got older, the dog became a bigger and bigger annoyance. After hours of rocking, lulling, and cajoling the baby to sleep, I’d finally be settling him down in the crib when the dog would begin barking at something outside. Any item that had come in contact with breastmilk was eaten and then pooped inside the house. One night, he ate an entire baby bottle full of milk and then threw up in the bed around 3 a.m., creating a horrifying tangle of bedsheets, breastmilk, baby bottle, and dog bile that had to be cleaned and sanitized while the baby screamed and screamed.
When our son started walking, the dog was no longer able to evade him and would be grabbed, pulled, kicked, and body slammed by a relentless toddler with no concept of how a dachshund’s body type is both contrary to all the laws of nature and extremely susceptible to injury. I began researching dachshund back trusses, terrified that my son was going to paralyze him. And as our son got bigger and more mobile it became increasingly difficult to keep baby toys, utensils, and food away from the dog. I’d cook a healthy dinner for my son only to turn long enough to grab a sippy cup and return to find all the food eaten and the expensive plastic baby bib demolished.
We were unable to walk the dog and work out his nervous energy because he would slip out of his collar, terrified, and try to run home. I’d chased him through the woods six months pregnant and carrying a toddler for 20 minutes before corralling him and getting him back inside. He’d broken gentle leaders and pulled so hard on choke collars that his neck would be covered in scabs.
Most appallingly, nobody in our house was sleeping. More often than not, my son’s naps would be interrupted by the dog barking. Every time a parent got up to soothe the baby during the night, the dog was up and running around the bedroom, convinced that we desperately wanted to feed him right now and probably got up to play. After my daughter was born, as we became more sleep deprived and the dog’s behavior got worse, I realized we needed a change.
And this made me feel like the worst person on the planet. I really, truly believe that when you adopt an animal, it’s for life. But the more I thought about the dog, the more I realized that nobody in our house was happy. My son wasn’t having his needs met because he was unable to sleep and was constantly surrounded by nervous, anxious energy. I had a newborn to care for and was totally overextended. The poor dog was in a chaotic, noisy household where our pace was significantly more than he could handle.
So we rehomed the dog with a couple that lived outside the large metro area we call home. A couple that had other dachshunds, a large fenced-in backyard, and no need to nap during the day. Within a month of moving in with them, the dog had been weaned off his medicine and maneuvered himself into their bed at night.
When the dog was gone, it was like we were living in a totally different house. My son could nap and there was nobody running around our bedroom imitating the Indianapolis 500 every time we got up with the newborn. A huge sense of relief and peace and calm descended on our home, and everyone who walked through our door noticed it.
I still sometimes wake up feeling guilty about rehoming my pet, but in the end, I realized we did what was best for everyone. When you make a commitment to give an animal a home, you commit to giving them the best home possible. And for us, that meant finding a new home for a very loving, very loyal, very neurotic little dachshund.