September 1, 2011

Farewell, Friend

Tonight, after much toe-dragging and soul-searching, our beloved dog Remy moved to a new home. It was a decision I came to reluctantly. He'd been with us since he was seven weeks old--over three and a half years now--and we'd been through so much together. All the hard work of puppyhood and adolescence was done. He was a good dog. But even a good dog is no match for the "terrible twos"--of a toddler, that is.

About six months ago it became clear to me that our home life wasn't working. Remy has always been an excitable dog (he is a Border Collie, after all), but somehow we managed. However, once Colin turned two and started zipping around the house on his ride-on toys and rolling his cars across the floors, we couldn't manage any more. Remy started herding Colin (he is a Border Collie, after all), and Colin, quite rightly, found this terrifying.

To make matters worse, Colin started retaliating by chasing Remy and yelling at him (he is a two year old, after all), and Remy, quite rightly, found this terrifying. We tried our best to curb this behaviour on both their parts, but there was only so much we could do. It's just in the nature of a two year old to want to run around the house and it's just in the nature of a herding dog to want to herd him when he does.

Then, of course, we had a second child, and, suddenly, I found myself with three demanding creatures to care for and only two hands. I had to do the daily walks in two shifts: one for the kids and another for the dog, because I just couldn't manage all three at once. Often Remy had to go without one of his walks and would spend large parts of each day outside, which is no life for a dog, especially a whip-smart, high-energy dog like Remy.

And soon, I knew, the winter would come and Remy would have to spend all his time inside with us. However, lately, whenever Remy was in the house with us, Colin would cry, "Mama, put Remy outside." How could I survive a long winter of this? I can't ask my son to go without any cars or ride-on toys. Those are basically the only toys he's interested in. Also, I know what it feels like to be a little kid and herded by a big dog. My grandmother had an Australian Shepherd when I was a kid and the dog was forever barking at me and nipping at my heels. It was terrifying, and I was a lot older and a lot bigger than Colin. I want my child to love dogs, not be afraid of them.

I was at my wit's end, when my mother suggested finding Remy a new home. I was horrified to even consider it, but my mom put things into perspective when she said: "If you could find him a home as good as yours, could you let him go?" The answer was yes.

So I started putting the word out through friends and colleagues that Remy was looking for a new home. I mourned for Remy. And then I waited and waited. Six months passed and I hadn't found a good candidate. I had just about decided that we'd have to find a way to muddle through somehow when I heard about a friend-of-a-friend who was looking for a dog.

D. had recently lost his own dog and was looking for another but didn't feel he had it in him to go through puppyhood again. And I couldn't blame him. Having raised two puppies and two babies, I can say with authority that puppies are the more challenging of the two.

D. was everything I was looking for. He owned a house with a big yard, was really active, and had no kids. Best of all, he "got" Border Collies. He grew up around them and regularly visits the family farm that is full of Border Collies. Still, could I really give him my dog?

Despite our problems, Remy is actually a great dog. He's gentle with babies and our cat. He can catch a Frisbee in mid-air. He walks on a leash like a pro and is forever winning the praise and admiration of passers-by. More importantly, when I got Remy I made a promise to him and to myself that it was for life. And I knew that in a couple of years Colin would outgrow this phase, and he and Remy would learn to cohabitate peacefully--they'd probably even be good friends. Sure, there's another boy that has to pass through the "terrible twos," but Archer is much more easy-going than his big brother. It likely wouldn't be an issue for him...

But my mom put things into perspective for me once again when she said: "I know you can wait it out for another couple of years, Sarah, but can Remy? Two years is huge portion of his life." Wow, how do moms just do that?

So yesterday Remy went on a little visit to D.'s house. And D. took him for a bike ride. (Really? My dog did that?) Then he played with D.'s extended family of dogs. (Really? My dog did that?) Then he went to a party and sat around a campfire all night. (Really?! My dog did that?!) D. said that Remy behaved "beautifully" all day and night and that he is by far the "most calm, best-behaved" Border Collie he has ever met. Well, of course he is. He's my dog!

So this morning, when D. offered to take Remy to his grandparents' farm for the long weekend--and then to take him forever--I didn't hesitate. Later this afternoon, D. brought Remy around for a few hours so that we could say our good-byes. I think Remy was actually a little sorry to come back into our chaotic lives--or maybe he was just exhausted after such a fun-filled 24-hours. Nonetheless, I got Kevin to watch the kids, and I took Remy out for one last hurrah. We took a big walk around the neighbourhood, played Frisbee in the park, and paid a call on his best doggie-friend, Levi. As we were doing so, it occurred to me that this was the first time all summer I had done any of these things with Remy, but with D. he'll get to do them every day.

When D. came to pick Remy up tonight--for the last time--I didn't shed a tear. How could I? Remy is going to be so very happy. I will miss him though.

Rem, Rembo and Remy-doddle through the years:


Rachel said...

Oh, Sarah, I know this was a hard decision for you. But I am so glad you found D., who sounds like he's exactly what you were looking for. Best wishes to Remy.

Vicky said...

That must have been such a hard thing for you to do but I'm sure he'll be happy. He was an adorable puppy.

Katie Parson said...

We had 2 inside kitties...till I had 2 asthmatic babies! The tender hearted lap cat found a new home. The guard cat became an outside cat (which she adores!) but who is granted house privileges (basement) on hot days or cold nights. It worked out well. But yes, I understand. When our guard cat dies I have no intention of getting another creature to care for! The 2 asthmatics are plenty!