Dog math: When three is not the magic number

Yesterday, I found myself in a position I never expected. I was standing at an animal shelter surrendering a dog. How many times had I wondered how someone could do something like that? Countless. Yet… there I was.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, our tiny herd is no longer a trio. Instead, it’s now a dynamic duo. (I will, however, still be referring to them as a tiny herd. Old habits – you know, all of two and a half weeks old – die hard.)

How did we end up here? Read on, my friend… though be warned, it’s a long one.

Well, a few weeks ago, I told you how one plus one became three. We tripled the number of dogs in our house one summer afternoon. I shared some videos of the boys playing bitey face, and then I confessed my bout of Post-Puppum Anxiety Disorder. However, even during my anxious period, I didn’t doubt that it would all be fine eventually. The knots in my stomach started to loosen, and I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel (as reflected in some early photos I posted on Facebook). However, you might have noticed that I wasn’t sharing much about the tiny herd after that initial set of posts.

Unfortunately, as the boys began to settle in, that’s when the real trouble began. Despite what Schoolhouse Rock had taught me, three was turning out to be anything but the magic number. Although Tavish and Roscoe had gotten along famously at the shelter, something changed. Roscoe began to get aggressive with Tavish, and fights broke out. (He got aggressive with Bella on occasion too, but his primary target was Tavish.) The fights weren’t just about food or toys (and we made sure to remove food or high-value toys from the equation). We tried to supervise them and prevent fights before they started, but it wasn’t easy. For many of them, we were unable to figure out the cause. I called the shelter’s behavior and advice line, and tried to implement those recommendations as well.

In spite of our best efforts, the fights increased in frequency rather than decreased, and some were a bit scary. As you can imagine, this was a rather stressful situation for everyone involved, dogs and humans alike. I can’t pretend to know what was going on in Roscoe’s head, but for some reason he was not adapting well to his new situation as one of three. He was never able to truly relax, and we were all on edge. In addition, Bella and Tavish were getting along well, often leaving Roscoe as the odd dog out.

To make a long story short, after a great deal of soul-searching and endless conversations (at times, it felt like “what do we do?” was our only topic), we made a very difficult decision.  For the safety and happiness of all three dogs, we felt it best to return Roscoe to the no-kill shelter where we adopted him. We did not come to this decision lightly. We agonized over it, wrestled with it, discussed it from every angle… it became all-consuming, honestly.

In addition to what was best for our family, I couldn’t help but wonder how the volunteers and staff at the shelter would react. (Not only did we adopt the boys there, but I also volunteer there myself.) I wondered what other people would think about our decision, and if they would think I was a horrible person. I wondered what you, my blog readers, would think of me. (It’s not as if I don’t wear my judgy pants from time to time, so I could hardly expect that everyone else would leave them in their closet.) I wondered if I would need to change my blog title to “I Apparently Wanted More Puppies Than I Could Handle” or “I Have a Sufficient Number of Puppies.” (Ah, gallows humor. Can’t beat it, right?)

Regardless, after many conversations with my husband (and with several others), it became clear that this was the decision that we needed to make. Once we finally made it on Monday night, I felt confident in it. I was sad, but resolute. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t shed several tears. Roscoe is a wonderful dog, but this was not the situation for him. I’m sure that his forever home is out there, and I desperately hope that he is able to find it sooner rather than later. (I will be featuring him this weekend as a very special adorable adoptable unless – fingers crossed – he gets an application before then.) He’s going to be a fantastic dog for a very lucky person.

So, that’s the story. We dropped Roscoe off yesterday morning – he trotted off with the shelter employee and didn’t even glance back at us. A part of me couldn’t help but be sad that our time together was over, but the rational part of me was relieved that he didn’t seem to be too upset. I hope that his first night back was okay.

I cried on the way home. Quite a bit. However, the afternoon and evening were the most peaceful we’ve had in three weeks. Tavish doesn’t seem fazed by Roscoe’s absence, and Bella seems content. The two of them even engaged in a game of tug – something I’ve never seen Bella do with another dog. (They’ve also been reenacting their own version of the Olive Theory from How I Met Your Mother – Bella loves toys that are meant to contain squeaky eggs, while Tavish is a big fan of the aforementioned eggs.) As I sat watching TV last night, accompanied by two snoozing pups, I felt at peace. I slept better last night than I have in three weeks.

On a positive note, there is a happy ending in addition to the sad one – had I not convinced my husband to adopt Roscoe, we would not have ended up adopting Tavish, our dear little Bonus Dog. He’s really the silver lining to this sad cloud – the hub and I can’t imagine our family without him.

I’d like to say a special thank you to a few people in the dog blogging community who provided advice, a set of willing ears, and moral support as I struggled with this decision: Peggy from Peggy’s Pet Place and Roxanne from Champion of My Heart. You two really helped me through this tough time. (An additional thank you goes to Laurie from Smart Dog and Eryka from Kahuna’s K9s for allowing me to pick their brilliant dog training brains free of charge. I am pretty sure that I owe them a really nice lunch, complete with several cocktails, as payment.)

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51 thoughts on “Dog math: When three is not the magic number

  1. Just saw your FB post, so followed the link. My heart breaks for you. No judgy pants here. I applaud you putting yourself out here on the ‘net and feel certain that your experience will help many others. Not all adoptions work, unfortunately, and you went well above and beyond what the average person would in a situation like this. Some things are not meant to be… but, as you so eloquently said, the silver lining is Tavish. You did good, Pup Fan. Yes, you did and in your heart you know it. Sending hugs your way.
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted..Dog Swims – St Louis Missouri Area

    • Thanks, Sue. I really appreciate your kind words and the hugs. It’s been tough, but I think that things are working out as they were meant to – had we not gone down this road, we wouldn’t have our sweet little Bonus Dog.

  2. AJ, you absolutely did the right thing for your animals – all of them. When we open our homes to these gentle beings, we offer them safety and, when trying new things, sometimes that safety comes into question for various individuals of the pack – not to mention sanity. If nobody is happy, stress leads to danger and the downward spiral continues.

    We nearly came to this point with Emmett when he displayed some truly unsettling behaviors. He was lucky his behavior was a reaction to hallucination inducing medication. If it wasn’t, his outcome would have been worse than going to a no-kill shelter. We were fostering this dog who had been returned three times for bad behavior and, according to the rescue, we were his last chance. THere were plenty of times, as we worked things out, that we wondered how much we were ruining our other dog’s life. Taking one day at a time was the only thing that provided an answer and there were days it wasn’t looking good. Those days were filled with tears – but we got lucky.

    I have no doubt you’ll help your third wheel find the perfect home, because you have a better grip on what that might look like now than even the shelter had. A single dog home with providers of kind but vigilant guidance will surely do the trick. They are out there. Our rescue is homing 5 dogs this week!

    Looking forward to new updates of the tiny herd.
    -K

    • Thank you, Kim. You’re so right about the stress/danger issue. We were definitely starting a downward spiral. I’m so glad that Emmett’s issue was related to medication and that all worked out for the best. I can relate 100% to how you must have felt during that time. It truly is agonizing.

      Thanks again for the words of encouragement and understanding. It really means a lot. (And yay for homing 5 dogs this week – you are really doing amazing things!)

  3. No judging! No one could doubt that you, of all people, would have tried everything possible before making the decision you did. Sadly, not every dog works in every home. Focus on the positive, which is that Tavish has an awesome new home and Bella loves her new friend! Can’t wait to see more pics of the dynamic duo!

  4. Well, I will admit it. When I first read that you were taking him back I was a little judgy pants. I am sorry. Then I read the rest, thought about it, and now completely understand. I will also admit that I would have been forced to make the same decision as my two current dogs are the highlight of my every day and if there was anything in our home not making them happy- it would have to be given back. They always come first. I am so sorry you had to make this decision. I understand that it must have been very hard on your heart as it would have been on mine. I also have to add that I am so glad it is a no kill shelter. In good ol’ SC those are few and far between, so that was part of my judgy pants is that I thought (assumed- and you know what they say about assuming) that the shelter was a kill shelter. I am sorry for being judgy pants and I am happy that you are now able to have two peaceful doggies in your home. I, like you, always say I want more puppies. If I weren’t married to “Mr. NO We Are Not Getting Any More Dogs” I’d probably have 10 (ok maybe not 10). The honest truth is, though, that my dogs love each other. They are litter mates and all they know is each other. They don’t do well with other dogs (at ALL) and I know there will be no more doggies in our home while they are living. That’s ok, though. It’s been a hard pill for me to swallow, but I love my girls more than life itself and I just want them to be happy, which I am sure went into your thought process as well. Again, I am so happy that things have turned out for the best! 🙂
    ~Maggie
    milshelbmom.blogpost.com

    • Maggie, I totally understand, so no need to apologize for wearing the judgy pants today! (Perhaps I should have mentioned that up front – I adopted Roscoe from a no-kill shelter and would never consider surrendering an animal to a kill shelter. That option would never even be on the table.) Thank you for taking the time to read the rest and think about where I was coming from. 🙂

    • Sometimes, I think self-judgy pants are the worst kind – I do have a tendency to put those on without a second thought.

      Thank you again so much, Roxanne. You sharing your experience really helped me when I was thinking through all of this.

  5. You did the right thing, and I’m sure Roscoe would say so as well. It sounds like your home just wasn’t quite the right fit for him. There’s a perfect forever home out there for him, and now he’s one step closer to find it. 🙂
    BZ Training recently posted..Round 10

    • Thank you so much. I cannot wait until he finds that perfect forever home – I think he will be so much happier and I look forward to hearing that happy news.

  6. I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your story. Sometimes it can be hard to put stories like this out there for everyone to judge, so I am glad to see that you are getting support for making such a tough decision! I really appreciate hearing less than perfect stories that show me that everyone struggles sometimes with doing what is best for their animals. I am happy that you were able to come to a decision that makes things better for you, your pups, and Roscoe, who will hopefully find a forever home that is a better fit.
    Karen recently posted..Aren’t You Uncomfortable?

  7. Like everyone else, I just wanted to say I am sorry you had to make such a heart-wrenching decision but I think you already know it was the absolute best thing for your family and for Roscoe. Sometimes the fit just isn’t right and it’s nobody’s fault. It would have been much worse to keep him and keep struggling, especially when he is likely to find happier placement elsewhere very soon.

    I am so proud of you for having the courage.
    Kristine recently posted..Stream of Consciousness: Cat Edition

  8. As I already told you, I used to feel sad for the dogs that got returned to the (no-kill) shelter where I volunteer. But I got over that a long time ago. I realized that not every situation is going to be perfect, so if the dog gets returned, it’s actually a good thing. It gives the dog another chance at finding something that *is* perfect. I would much rather see a dog get returned than hear that someone is enduring a less-than-ideal situation.
    I know it’s still sad though, because you wanted it to work out so badly, but it will all work out in the end. You have your tiny happy herd, and Roscoe will eventually find a perfect furever home.
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Some Veggies are Scary

  9. You are very courageous to put Roscoe’s, Tavish’s, and Bella’s well being first. The desire for social acceptance is one of the strongest human urges–strong enough to cause people to risk their lives and even to kill.

    I also think that foster to adopt is a good idea. So maybe that’s how you should think of your recent experience.

    Enjoy your little herd. And good luck with Roscoe on Saturday.
    Pamela recently posted..(Almost) Wordless Wednesday – Bitey Face

    • Thanks, Pamela. The reactions of others was definitely weighing very heavily on my mind throughout all of this, but I’m glad I was able to get over my fear to make the decision that I needed to make.

      You know, before this whole situation occurred, the hub and I had talked about fostering and possibly fostering to adopt. But then, of course, I jumped the gun. I like the idea of thinking of it in those terms anyway though!

  10. My judgy pants are at the cleaners. 🙂

    My heart aches for you, I can’t even imagine how difficult this was for you. Something wasn’t working for Roscoe and you had to make a really hard choice and put his well-being above all else. It sounds like you did just that.

    Sometimes what we want isn’t always what someone else needs or wants. I’m glad you are at peace with your decision and hope Roscoe finds his forever home very soon.

    xoxo
    Jodi recently posted..Training Tidbits

    • Thank you so much, Jodi. I’m still a bit sad, but the last two days have solidified my belief that it was absolutely the right call. Bella is even starting to play with Tavish now, and she never does anything like that! (We joke that she missed some days in Being a Dog 101.) The house is a much more peaceful and pleasant place – I think that both remaining dogs feel much more at ease (as do I). Now if Roscoe finds a home soon, I’ll feel even better!

  11. You evidently made the right decision for your home. It isn’t like you didn’t try before returning him. We know it was a hard decision, but there is a home for him where he will fit in and be happy.
    jansfunnyfarm recently posted..Cameron is 8

  12. Yep, echoing everyone else here. You did the right thing. And while I can be pretty damn judgy in general, it didn’t occur to me to question any decision you might make. I know, from reading your blog for a long time, that you don’t do things lightly, so if you needed to give up a dog then you needed to. So I’m just sharing my guilt-free zone — which, I admit, doesn’t always work — with you.
    Edie recently posted..Underdog to Wonderdog: Frankie!

    • Edie, I appreciate that you didn’t even think to be judgy about my decision – that really means a lot. And thank you for sharing the guilt-free zone… I can definitely make use of that right now!

  13. It’s heartbreaking to have to make a decision like that and I’m so sorry you had to do it. I really appreciate you sharing this with the world. Sometimes things don’t work out, sometimes a pet that you thought was perfect, doesn’t fit in with your family – it happens, and your honesty will only help other people making similar tough decisions. We do the best we can, right? Big hugs to you and your family – I’m so glad your are feeling more settled and relaxed. I hope Roscoe finds the perfect family!
    Julie recently posted..Wordless Wednesday #36

    • Julie, thank you so much. I was really scared to publish this post, but I felt that I needed to. Your support and the other comments on this post have really been a lifesaver this week. I do feel more at peace, and when Roscoe finds his forever home, I will feel even better!

  14. The only judgement that I’m going to make is that you tried your hardest to make it work out and ultimately did what was best for everyone involved. Fighting dogs are not fun & I’m sure that Roscoe will find a family to live with ASAP.

    And to give you a little smile today, “don’t whiz on the electric fence” See, worked, didn’t it? 😀

    Hugs from me and my “pack”
    Karen Friesecke recently posted..Dog A Day Project – Inventor Of The Puppy Mill

  15. Oh geez, there’s no room what with my freak-show mess of a dog for judgy-pants here. Seriously, you know that, right? AJ, you’re worried about people judging you and all I can say is my respect for you has just increased in size. (And it was pretty big to begin with.)

    Not only do you try to help rescue dogs in your “spare” time, not only did you try to adopt two when you only planned on one, but you were strong enough to both try and make a bad situation better and admit when it wasn’t going to. Admitting something isn’t working and changing your path is incredibly difficult. It’s hard enough to do in private but putting it out there for the whole world to see…? So much harder. But what a gift you have given to others who find themselves in similarly difficult positions.

    I see two valuable lessons people learn from you sharing your experience here: 1) Not every dog is perfect for every family. 2) It doesn’t mean the dog that doesn’t fit one family is a bad dog. It doesn’t make the family bad people either.

    I am sorry for your tears. But I’m confident Roscoe will find his very own forever home – due in part to your wisdom and courage.
    Leslie recently posted..Wordless Wednesday 49 – Fritz

    • Leslie, your comment really touched me. Thank you so much for being so sweet. I do hope that my post here can help someone else who is struggling with a tough decision. If nothing else, the outpouring of support in the comments should let them know that it will all be okay, and that there are people out there who will leave the judgy pants at home and really try to understand.

  16. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. As you know, we had to give up our beloved Moses and we, too felt awful. But knowing that Moses’ foster mom adopted him and he’s so happy now, helped me so much. Roscoe will find just the right home. It will be the best for all dogs and people involved. Your heart will heal too. I think Bella and Tavish are probably more secure and comfortable now too.
    Peggy Frezon recently posted..Easy Canvas gives back to pet rescue

    • Peggy, you were such a help to me during all of this. I really appreciate it – hearing how your story worked out gave me the confidence to make the decision I thought best.

  17. Thank you for writing about this. I’ve rehomed a dog but I’m reluctant to share the story with anyone because…. well, you know. It hurts to admit the dog is not right for your situation. It’s just salt on the wound when you’re judged for it.

    Anyway, I understand. In my case, my old puppy went to a home better than mine and she’s living it up.

    I wish the best for Roscoe.

    • I know exactly what you mean – I was so afraid of being judged. It’s hard when you think you’re making the right decision, but scared that others won’t understand. I’m glad to hear that the decision worked out for the best in your case too.

  18. AJ, I’m truly sorry you were feeling so bad about everything. I feel like most people who spend their spare time blogging about their dog(s) are not the type of people who make decisions about dogs all willy nilly. It never occurred to me to judge you. It’s apparent that you did what was best for all people and dogs involved. There’s no reason for a poor match of home & dog to continue if it’s going to be detrimental to anyone. I very much hope you’ve been able to shake out any residual negative feelings and not feel ashamed at your sense of relief. I went through a similar situation that I’ve yet to blog about because my feelings on the whole thing are too complicated for me to want to get into, but I distinctly remember feeling relieved when all was said and done. And that’s OK. Best of luck to your updated tiny herd!
    lauren recently posted..Happy Tails! A Follow-up on the Ruff House Adoption Event

    • Lauren, thank you so much for your nice comment. I am sorry to hear that you’ve gone through a similar situation – it really is emotionally draining. After it’s all said and done there’s a combo of guilt and relief that’s a bit disorienting as well, I think.

  19. I’m reading this terribly late and came here after I wondered why there were only pictures of Tavish with his spa cut and Bella.

    It was a hard decision, but given the circumstances, I can’t think of a better one. I guess the fact that Roscoe didn’t even look back says something. The littlefella might even have been grateful himself and hopefully will find a good home soon.

    Isn’t it magic for Tavish, The Bonus Dog though? So glad you now have a peaceful home again 🙂 x
    Georgia Little Pea recently posted..I ate a doughnut today.

    • I can see how that would be confusing. I’m glad you were able to find this post for the full story.

      It really was a tough decision, but I agree that it was for the best. I think Roscoe will be much happier in another home, and my fingers and toes are all crossed that he finds the perfect one very soon.

      Tavish is an absolute delight, and his relationship with Bella has really started to develop now that it’s just the two of them.

  20. I meant to update the comments on this post sooner, but I was thinking about it today and wanted to let everyone know that Roscoe was adopted and is now living it up in another home. 🙂 (It happened a while ago, but I forgot to come share that news here. Yay!)

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