Each of my dogs has a theme song. My older dog's song is from the amazing L@ura L0ve. It's called Woe is Me and the mister and I have often sung it to her when her life seemed hard (at least when she thought her life was hard...say we were only willing to play an hour or two of frisbee). She knows it's her song and she even likes to sing along. We even included it on our wedding cd.
Our younger dog's name came with a song. Since she was named after a character in a musical it was a done deal. And no, she doesn't wear a lavaliere that goes all the way down to her chest.
Lately our Older Dog has way too much woe in her life. And our Younger Dog has as well.
A brief recap for those of you lucky enough to miss the drama the first time around: Younger Dog nearly died due to poisoned dog food when she was 10/11 months old. In fact, she's one of the only survivors. It caused severe liver failure, re-hardwired her brain and made her much more susceptible to stress. She would attack Older Dog without provocation. She's never attacked any other dog or person. She's normally a super sweet dog. She's a 48 pound lap puppy. She lets the kitten attack her. She loves to curl up right next to you. She's just super sensitive.
When the inter-dog aggression began we sought help right away. We had a trainer for about 2 years. We kept our dogs separated in our very small house except when we were training them or on walks that entire time. The mister and I became experts at moving the dogs through the house, closing one door and opening another. It was a long haul but it seemed to help.
The dogs have been getting along really well for the past few years. We know how to structure the environment and we do that. They're together most of the time and all was pretty ok. Until the river.
It was just too much change for Younger Dog. She really doesn't handle change well. Older Dog has always been really adaptable and she's lived in a variety of houses and traveled more than some people I know. Younger Dog has only lived in this house. The river totally stressed her out. There were 2 fights that sent us to the emergency vet. Both dogs have scars on their cheeks. We were hoping it would get better when we got back home and back to our normal routine.
While we were on our trip to the great state of North Carolina we got a call from our pet-sitter. There had been another fight. It took both the pet-sitter and her boyfriend to break it up. The dogs were ok but everyone was shaken.
Since we've been home we've worked hard to address the situation. Younger dog spends much of her time in a wire crate in our living room (so we're all together). We're keeping them separate when we're not home. I thought we should consider anti-anxiety/anti-depressants so I consulted our vet. Thanks to our vet we know have an appointment next week at the vet school a couple of hours away. They have some amazing behaviorists and we have to fill out a 14 page intake form, submit all medical records (her file is several inches thick thanks to the dog food poisoning) and it will be a 3 hour evaluation with both dogs.
This morning was another fight, thankfully brief. Usually we know what sets them off but there was nothing at all today that we could pinpoint.
Our Older Dog is getting much older (she's 12 now). She's going deaf and startles more easily. Unfortunately that's one of the things that triggers Younger Dog.
We're really pulling out all the stops and trying everything but this is breaking our hearts. We might have to find another home for Younger Dog and that is just too hard to even type.
Last week we went to our monthly drop-in adoption support group. It's a group for waiting couples and is run by one or two adoptive moms, depending. It's a small group and often has some of the same folks so it's very nice. Our dogs were weighing heavily on our minds and everyone in the group was a dog lover so we talked about it a bit.
The leader told us about having to find another home for one of her dogs. About how it broke her heart. About how one of her kid's birthfamilies took the dog in and it was a great situation but it hurt so much to see pics of the dog doing well and to have visits and have to leave all over again. About the pain of knowing it was the right decision but there was so much grief and it took a long time to get through.
And how it gave her a kind of insight and awareness and opened up a new level of empathy for what it was like for her kids' birthfamilies.* And how if we end up having to find another home for our dog it would do the same for us.
While I"m holding onto some hope there will be some thing that works for us and we don't have to split our family up, I'm also wondering a bit if this is another part of our journey. I really really really hope it isn't, but thinking about it this way makes it somewhat easier to at least consider.
*Please understand that we all know this is only a teeny tiny bit of what any birthfamily must go through when grappling with their decisions. I'm not saying it's the remotely the same to place a dog into a new home as a child but for the support leader (and for us) there are similar stages and feelings that will make us more empathetic in the future.