Monday’s To-do list:
Call local council and cancel dog permit in process for Teddy
Call the RSPCA and see how Teddy is coping.
An intended ‘Meet Teddy’ post on the heels of a ‘Dear Percy’ post has become another goodbye tale, and it has torn my heart in two. Sadly, Teddy is not suitable for our menagerie and our menagerie (of small, chase-able animals) is not suited for a dear dog with a keen and active prey instinct.
At the time we adopted him, Thursday of last week, this was not known to us, but in the days that followed it became apparent that he saw Lenni, Olive, and Misha as something to hunt rather than befriend or grow indifferent towards. We followed the training exercises for introducing a new dog to cats, practising on the cats’ terms when they were ready, and always supervised and with diverting dog treats in hand, but though Lenni and Misha, in particular, began stoutheartedly they quickly became wary of him. Even the more robust visiting neighbourhood cats, Frank, Millie, and Tommy, after a few close scrapes, heeded the warning. We tried to convince ourselves that it was just a big adjustment for all involved, but deep down, though neither of us gave it a voice, we knew it was never going to work, unless Teddy and the cats were kept zoned within our house, sharing the space in turns. As Teddy grew increasingly focused on fast-moving Lenni, he lunged at him and snapped on two occasions and it was only because we were both there that the outcome was not a tragic one for all involved.
When the cats were not in the room, he was the teddy bear languid and snuggly. The longhaired heartbreaker with black currant eyes. A shrunken polar bear. Easy to train, desperate to please, relaxed in our company: the quintessential man’s best friend and Voltaire’s "most faithful". This could work, we dreamed. We can do this, we thought. We’ll get there, with time. And more training. And besides, he’s adorable. Never ones to take the easy path, we rallied. In adopting Teddy, a six-year-old rescue dog, we were giving him the second chance he merited. In adopting Teddy, he became a physical symbol of our hope. And abandoning this hope has been one heavy millstone. Rationally, we understand that there was no way for it to work, for the cats to feel and be safe, for Teddy to flourish as the sweet dear he is, but in our hearts, we feel we’ve let Teddy down.
As the post-operative anaesthetic for his de-sexing wore off and he finished his course of antibiotics for kennel cough, Teddy also began to show lead aggression and he would snap at other dogs. Initially, we put it down to the steep learning curve we were all on, when not blaming ourselves. At home, on his own, he looked and was the teddy bear who loved belly rubs and to be brushed. Louise called the RSPCA about Teddy’s behaviour to see if there was anything in his case file in relation to how he was with other animals. It was then that we found out about his known socialisation issues with other dogs. This alone, this we could have worked with. Independent of the prey instinct towards cats, we could have got Teddy through the aggression towards other dogs with training. Treatable, just like his flea allergy and tendency to whimper if out of your sight.
On Saturday morning, we drove Teddy back to the RSPCA. Red-eyed from crying all night, we had to surrender Teddy and it was the hardest thing either of us has ever had to do. An affront to everything we believe about caring for animals and accepting responsibility, it remains an emotional yoke to bear. A kick in the guts, a constriction in the throat, grief is physically felt in the body. An anvil has been placed inside my chest cavity: the weight of guilt and love—but we’d adopted him, we surrendered him, legally, absolutely. The RSPCA staff and vollies were empathetic towards us and the whole unfortunate mess, assuring us it was as if we’d provided him with great foster care in his post-operative phase, but right now, to me, it feels like I’ve broken an animal’s trust. Though we know it was the only decision we could have made, in the best interests of Teddy (in the long term) and the menagerie we so desperately wanted him to be a part of, doing ‘the right thing’ was, and remains, so damn hard. Part of opening up your heart means you inevitably get hurt.
Teddy, we miss you. As I write this late on Saturday evening, I know you are alone in your kennel, crying and confused and scared. But I also know that the good and caring folk at the RSPCA will soon find you the right fit forever home you deserve*. If the comments you drew out from strangers are any indication—he’s just so cute!—this will be soon.
* Since writing this, Louise called the RSPCA to see how Teddy was doing and he is already on hold. His potential new owners are coming in to the shelter to see him today. It is such a sweet relief and we trust they’ll all be very happy together. In a home where he is the only dog, he’ll do just fine.