At the beginning of the year, I adopted a dog. I had wanted to for years, and spent months trying to find the perfect dog for my family. I saw the cutest dog via a local rescue I was following on social media. His previous owners, who had him since he was a puppy, were unable to keep him. He has a sweet old man face and the most soulful brown eyes. We got him, but unfortunately we weren’t his forever home. Rehoming a dog isn’t something we talk about enough, but sometimes it’s the only right thing for a family and their pet.
A few weeks after Hank’s arrival, I met someone and we began dating. She would sleep at my place, but I couldn’t be at hers for more than a few hours because the dog would worry himself sick. Separation anxiety is normal for pets, especially in a new home. They say it takes a rescue dog three months to truly feel like they are at home. It was only two months in, so I knew we had time. In that time, things got better and we were all pretty happy. He would sleep in bed with my son or me. We had lots of cuddles and belly rubs.
Because of COVID, my girlfriend lost her employment. So, over the summer, she moved in with me, along with her two cats. She’s had the cats for six years, but because she was coming into our space, we agreed that rehoming the cats would happen before the dog. If, and only if, merging our furry families proved to be unsafe. I could never do that to Hank again — everyone was going to have to adjust. And it actually went surprisingly well. The cats slowly warmed up, and the dog seemed perfectly content.
Soon, things began to change. The dog became lethargic and more stubborn than normal. The vet confirmed that he was fine, but he had been through so much, and was now going through another transition. Sudden change is a lot for humans, so of course it is for a dog.
But he was our dog — he was family. I was confident we could help him get over his issues and we could all peacefully coexist.
Then, on a trip to see family out of state, things really went wrong. Hank is a sweet dog, but he has some issues with other dogs. That’s why his previous owners were rehoming him. His aggression was usually nothing more than a warning growl or bark. But during our trip, his constant antagonizing of their dog was too much. His behavior was causing my son anxiety and distress.
I had been giving the dog nothing but love, patience and grace since we got him. He deserved that. But the aggression with other dogs on the walks, his stubbornness, all of it on top of working-from-home and remote schooling became overwhelming. It was affecting my mental health now too. Even through my anxiety, rehoming him still seemed wrong. You don’t do that to your pet; once you commit to them, they’re yours forever. We couldn’t just get rid of him because of his challenges. This is a topic I had very strong, firm feelings about. But, prior to this, I had never actually been in a situation like this.
One nigh, Hank crawled into my lap, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. And that’s when I saw it.
Hank was not happy. There was nothing but sadness in his eyes, and that’s when I knew that we needed to seriously consider rehoming him. Of course I still didn’t want to, but I was beginning to realize that we had to. Because if we didn’t do something soon, there may be no recovering from this for him. And he is such a good dog, he deserves to be where he’ll be happy. He needed a home with his own yard and room to run and play. Our cramped studio apartment in the city was not meeting his needs, even with multiple daily walks.
Clearly, as much as we wanted it to work, our family wasn’t meant to be his forever home. There were many tears and sleepless nights as I came to this conclusion.
Rehoming a dog isn’t easy. Because he’s a rescue dog, we couldn’t do it on our own. Writing the email to the head of the rescue is one of the hardest things I’ve done this year. He was family, and I was sending him away. My stomach was in knots as I typed up the email. In it, I gave every painstaking detail of the past few months. When we took him to the vet because I thought he had anxiety, he was diagnosed with allergies. I described the barking and aggression with other dogs and its relation to my son’s anxiety. At the end, I stressed that we weren’t rehoming him because he was a bad dog. But our house wasn’t the one for him.
After weeks of back and forth with the rescue, rehoming Hank had become reality. They had found a family that wanted him, and wanted to arrange a meeting. Unfortunately, they scheduled it for my son’s 7th birthday and made it clear that was our only option. My son cried every time we talked about it happening. I didn’t want him to spend his birthday, which was already a disappointment because of the pandemic, saying goodbye to his dog. But we had no choice. We got to meet his new owners, and they’re perfect. It was hard to say goodbye, but we knew he’d be so much happier.
This is the first time I’m talking about this to anyone out of my immediate circle. Rehoming your dog isn’t exactly the kind of thing to advertise. Much of my internal struggle with doing it was how others would see me and judge me. I knew the judgment would be swift and harsh. I’m not a bad person, but it may seem that way. Trust me when I say that no one wanted it to work more than me. I loved our dog, but I also knew that I couldn’t help him. Sometimes you need to know when you’re doing the right thing. I couldn’t keep the dog purely out of fear of what others would think of me. That would be selfish. That wouldn’t be centering the needs of the dog.
It’s never easy, but sometimes it is the right decision. Hank is super happy with his new family. They have a big yard and a pool. We are in contact, and they’ve invited us over to visit in the future. We are excited to see him again. We have no plans of adding another dog to our family.
Rehoming a dog isn’t the right decision for everyone. It’s hard and emotional. But sometimes it’s what is best for everyone involved. Only you know what’s best for your family – despite the judgment it might bring.
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