It’s a very bittersweet Christmas, capping off a very bittersweet 2013. The babies are truly amazing; being a father is easily the best thing that has happened to me, and their little smiles and coos melt me into a puddle of goo.
Twins, along with financial struggles and finally losing my job, meant that we had to make some serious sacrifices. We budgeted, strictly meal-planned, did everything we possibly could–in vain–to avoid what we knew was inevitable.
Seneca needed to find a new home. And, if a new home couldn’t be found, we had to do what we thought unthinkable.
By now, most of you are familiar with Seneca, our faithful Labrador-Golden mix dog. We rescued him as a stray in our backyard when he was only six weeks old and he’s been with us for almost four years. I’ve noted here how, even early on, he found himself at home with us and how he was instrumental in activating my parental side.
So it’s been a point of tension in my heart and in our home to realize that we couldn’t invest the time and effort into Sen that we previously had. And, being an intuitive pup, he knew the dynamics at home were changing. He handled it the best he as a still-young Lab could, and he was most certainly gracious and gentle with the beans. But he still needed time and attention we weren’t able to provide, and eventually, food we couldn’t afford.
As soon as we knew there were two babies that there had to be an endgame in place for Seneca. We pushed it back time and again, not wanting to face the inevitable hurt of letting the pup we saved, nursed to health, trained and suffered with go. For me, it felt much like betrayal: how could I be so grateful for a dog who helped me emotionally prepare for daddyhood and turn him over to someone else, or worse? Wife spoke the most wisdom into the situation (she’s often good for it): is it fair to Seneca to not get everything he’s used to, or is it in his best interest to get him into a home where they can take care of him and love him the way he deserves?
To keep him would be sentimentally gratifying, but ultimately selfish: what business have we keeping a dog we cannot afford to feed and keep active?
So, with the cold slap of reality to the face, we began calling rescue shelters and researching options. The disconcerting reality of no-kill rescue outfits is that we would have been better served by them if we decided to chain Seneca to a tree, never feed him and let him rot in our backyard. Because we loved and cared for him, they wouldn’t view him as a rescue and thus wouldn’t step in to assist us. I’m not sure in what universe that makes any sense at all, but I’d like to take a moment and thank the numerous outfits who refused to help rehome a perfectly happy, healthy pup–he would have been the easiest adoption story you would have ever had, and instead some of you shrugged your shoulders while others were perfectly content to ignore our pleas for help outright.
…that is, until it was the 11th hour.
We got more interest as our situation grew more dire. After the rescue shelters failed us, we took to social media to help save Seneca, once just after Thanksgiving and again about two weeks ago. Lots of people came to his and our aid and his situation went slightly national. People were wonderful and supportive, but no one could take him in. Now, and only now, were shelters interested, the self-serving, self-important jerks; of course it’s a sexier story to tell potential donors that they saved a healthy dog from being put to sleep. And that was the situation we were faced with, either a home opened up for him or we had no choice left but to make an ultimate decision.
“Whatever you do, don’t take him to the Humane Society in town,” we were warned by a reputable veterinary clinic in our city. Apparently, they are a little too eager to help control the pet population, but that was our only option left. We couldn’t even get an appointment with a clinic to put Seneca down, and we tried other regional animal control facilities, animal shelters and humane societies to no avail. Understandably, they can only help animals in their respective jurisdictions. At first, we couldn’t even get an appointment at the local humane society, but we were able to get booked for a 4pm surrender appointment, at which point, he would have been screened for adoptability and we would have either been faced with surrender into a large facility or euthanasia.
A week ago, we had a few promising leads, but ultimately no solution for Sen. A few great options opened up, but they were either too far away for us to connect or the timing wasn’t quite right. Frustratingly, and desperately, we looked for any other options to no avail. We prepared for one final night with our boy: either way, we were facing the last 24 hours with our sweet pup.
Thursday came, and Seneca was none the wiser as to his fate. He knew something was up, and he wouldn’t stay alone in a room for anything. If Mama got up to go tend to our babies, so did he. If I went to the bathroom, I had a buddy in there with me. If we were packing, he sat at attention at our doorway. The hours crept by, each one causing us more dread. We were confident he would have passed the screening, but who really knows? That uncertainty was nearly unbearable. Morning became afternoon and our last real hope, someone who would at least foster Sen, was gone. I got my car ready to transport.
It was 2.45 when my phone went off. Our Christmas miracle came early.
A friend of my sister-in-law was willing to bring him into their home and foster until a relative of hers who heard our plight was able to bring him into her home. Despair turned to a mournful joy; we were thrilled that we could avoid the risk of the humane society. I called the humane society, never happier to cancel an appointment (note to the local humane society: when you do actually choose to answer your phone, at least sound interested or somewhat empathetic. Really, if you care about animals, care about those who call.)
It was a bit of a drive to get Seneca to his temporary home, and wife-mama had to stay with the babies and finish packing. I loaded all his belongings and the pup into the SUV one last time. She stood in the driveway, tears running down her cheeks, saying her goodbyes. Seneca gave her kisses and kept ducking his head out the window for her when she finally stepped away, allowing me to leave.
And the home was perfect for him. They had a one-year old Boxer pup for him to play with, older children to love and a cat to keep sequestered in a closet (two out of three ain’t bad: the cat apparently took matters into its own hands that way.) The family was even Scandinavian, aside from me, I knew of scant few Scandafolk in Southwest Missouri. We got him acclimated to his new surroundings and I was allowed a final moment with my boy. He sat in the driveway for me, I leaned over, kissed his head and rubbed his chest, telling him to be a good and brave boy. We went to the door, and he laid down for a drink of water. I stepped away, got in the car, swallowed the lump in my throat and left him to the care of a wonderful family.
We lost Seneca almost a week ago, but were able to give him a chance to be wonderful for a new family. Wherever he goes, he will likely live longer than he did with us, but I know that if someone calls for daddy, he’ll perk his ears and head to the window. I won’t be there for him. And that will be OK.
I hope he remembers his life with us, and the last thing I told him as he runs and plays and lounges around his new environs and is afforded the chance to live a full, happy life: Never forget that Mama and Daddy love you.
It’s a bittersweet Christmas but, given the alternative, we’ll gladly take it. We lost our boy, but were able to still give him a priceless gift.