On Tuesday, when we came home, Thorin was still in his kennel, and all was well. I was so grateful. That evening, Sam dashed past us, out the door, and ran in the neighborhood for an hour. Laina chased him while I rushed to pick up Lexi and take her to dance for the next three hours, leaving Laina home alone to take care of the dogs. That night, Sam kept coming up and staring at us with his big brown eyes, telling us his discontentment, asking for more fun outside. We all went on a walk before bed, but he wanted to run.
On Wednesday, I left them home alone for a couple of hours while I went to the Nehemiah study, which was inspiring and helpful. So worth it! Sam and Thorin, however, were sad from being left alone even for such a short time, so I took them to my friend’s backyard to run while I swam laps. Several times, Sam jumped in to swim with me, and he had a blast. I got a call about homes for them five hours south of us. At first, I was hopeful, but when I discovered that Sam would become an outdoor guard dog and Thorin would live on a boat that was headed to Mexico, I deflated. They wouldn’t be happy in those situations, so we were back to square one.
When I arrived home, they tried to chase the cats. I forgot that I’d opened the bedroom door for the cats to explore while we were gone. Little by little, we have been introducing the cats and dogs to each other. Piper runs and hides, but Zeus is curious…until he has a dog right in his face, and then he hisses and runs back into the bedroom. Both dogs will stare at the cats with curiosity, but they also still chase after the cats.
This time, on Thursday, we leave all the pets home for eight hours. I teach two classes and have office hours. Lexi sends me a text that she’s in the clinic at school because her ear hurts so much. I have another class to teach, so she has to stay at school but they won’t give her any pain reliever. I worry about her but am glad she was able to text me. My phone broke last week, so our cell phone situation is also a mess. I have Lexi’s phone, she has one of her older phones (because the one I bought her off Craigslist wouldn’t receive or send any texts), Laina has a cracked phone. I know the phones are a metaphor: we literally have trouble communicating via our phones just as we are having trouble communicating with ourselves, each other, the world, God. We don’t want to listen to the truth about the dogs. Before leaving work, I get a distressing email regarding finances.
I am feeling discouraged, defeated, and angry when I go to my twenty-minute Fix appointment, yet the muscle therapy helps me release the negative emotions along with the tensed muscles. We discuss the body-mind connection, and I feel so much better when I leave—relaxed and centered again.
That afternoon, we all arrive home at the same time. Laina lets Sam out of the bathroom and says, “You’ve got to come see this.” The dogs are dancing around us, and Lexi hurries over to look. Both girls have nervous grins of disbelief on their faces. They grab the leashes and take the dogs out, insisting that I wait until they are outside to see for myself.
I take a deep breath and walk into the demolished bathroom. Paint peelings are scattered all over the bathroom floor, and the bottom half of the door is completely scratched free of white paint. Bite marks etch the siding, and black hair litters the floor.
I’ve got nothing. My feelings shut down, my mind shuts down, and my words are gone.
He wanted out. He wanted to be with us. He didn’t mean to destroy anything. I know all of that. At the same time, my responsibility and financial threshold is already overflowing, and I …
The girls bring the dogs back inside, and Lexi starts crying. Laina follows, and they both cry. We sit at the dining room table, the dogs lying at our feet, and I ask what’s going on with them.
Laina says, “What do you think?! We’re gonna have to get rid of the dogs. We’re all exhausted and the dogs aren’t happy and the cats are…”
Lexi interrupts, “I knew it. I knew we would have to let them go, but I didn’t want to face it. When Dad first told us, I knew we’d have to say goodbye to them, but I thought he was gonna give them to a friend and that was okay because they’d be together and they’d be happy. It’d easier if I hadn’t seen them again. But when he mentioned taking them to a kill shelter, I knew it was right to bring them here even if I knew it wouldn’t work. Why did they have to stay so long? When they were first here, I was okay with them going to a foster home, to saying a temporary goodbye. How can we break them up? They’ll be so sad. How can we give them away? I know it’s the right thing to do, but they’re our family and it’s like giving away part of your family. This is just like the divorce all over again. We’re breaking up our family again. I know we can see the good in it, that we’re learning, that we have to let go of them to let go of the past, but why do we have so many hard things to go through. I’m glad we get the hard things, glad for this opportunity because it’s an opportunity for emotional and spiritual growth. I know that there will be something good come from this, and that’s why it has to happen. God is actually telling me that it’s okay to let them go. But it’s just really hard.”
“I’m sorry this is hurting you girls so much. I’d give anything if we could keep them. Something good will happen, and remember we’re doing what we think is best for them and all of us.” I pause. “You might want to say goodbye to them tonight.”
Lexi sobbed, “Why? It doesn’t have to be so soon. I’m not ready.”
“It has to be this weekend ‘cuz we can’t leave them home alone again. Do you wanna go with me to take them to a rescue place?”
“Yes. It’d be easier if they were dying because then we’d know what happens to them. If we give them up, we won’t know how they’re being treated or if they’re happy.”
Laina adds, “Exactly! It’s like giving a baby up for adoption and not knowing. You don’t know if they’re gonna abuse them or if they’re gonna love them or if they mistreat them.”
“That’s why we wanna carefully choose a rescue place and not just take the first option. The ones that take labs make sure they have a good home with people who adore labs. Remember what you read this morning? God turns our curses into blessings because He loves us. It’ll be okay. For all of us.”
We eat dinner and then take the dogs to run, swim, and play in our friend’s backyard. The girls treasure every moment, knowing they will soon have to say a forever goodbye.