Taking Care of Our Dogs…and Ourselves…

After what we thought was a careful consideration, M and I decided to adopt a new pup. M was a little reluctant at first, as he was allergic to dogs when he was young, but after finding some remedies on the Barking Royalty website, he was able to control his allergic reactions. We checked this before we got the puppy. We wanted to add another amazing dog to our pack: a companion for Chester and another cuddle bug for us. We both thought that Chester, our fabulous black lab, would have a much happier life with a friend to keep him company. We wanted him to have the dog park all day, everyday…

The whole adoption process was seemingly led by fate. We found Jack, a beautiful fox red lab, on a random visit to an adoption website and emailed about him as soon as we could. Unfortunately, we were told he’d already been adopted. M and I were disappointed, but figured it wasn’t the right time. However, hours later we got an email saying things didn’t work out with the other family and asking if were were still interested. We were…

To make a long story somewhat shorter, we picked up Jack on Saturday. After an hour long drive to the middle of nowhere, we waited in a hotel parking lot for the white Adopt a Lab van to arrive. There were at least 10 other families excitedly awaiting the arrival of their new, furry babies. Jack turned out to be the quiet one of the bunch, unlike Chester who whined and whined while waiting for his turn to exit the van. Jack was incredibly bony, but had the most amazing droopy face. M and I were excited– Jack seemed sweet and calm– the perfect yin to Chester’s crazy yang. He was so quiet on the drive home that we almost forgot he was in the back seat.

The initial introduction went well, but it was not at all what we had hoped for. Both dogs could stand each others company, but there was no playing. Chester attempted to start something once or twice, but Jack was just so incredibly neglected and disoriented that Chester’s jests were lost on him. It all deteriorated from there.

Now there are growls where there used to be none–mostly from Chester. The weekend was unbelievably stressful for both M and me. We both went back and forth as to whether adding another dog to the family was a good idea or not. We blame ourselves for Chester’s new “mean dog” disposition and his listless avoidance of us both. I’m certain that things will get better with time, but it’s so hard to keep bobbling back and forth between hopefulness and guilt. We need new stress relievers.

Things will work themselves out with time. They say it takes two weeks for a dog to get used to his new home, so it may take two weeks for us to get used to Jack…maybe longer. Hopefully, Chester will be back to his old self before long…In the meantime, I think this is a great opportunity to find more effective ways to take care of ourselves: better ways of releasing our stress about the dogs and about normal, everyday things. Stress management is especially important right now because our home, which used to be the nice, relaxing environment we crave, is now so full of tension that neither of us want to be there at the end of the day.

So far we’ve coped by treating ourselves to take-out from our favorite Japanese restaurant, and visiting family members who just happen to feed us homemade spaghetti and meatballs…Having someone else make dinner takes a huge weight off our shoulders. On a non-food related note, we’ve also increased the frequency and duration of our hugs and back scratches (it’s the little things that make a huge difference).There have been some tears too…sometimes we just need to let it all out.

It all boils down to this: what happens happens. In the end we will do the right thing because we really care about Chester and Jack. It’s also important to really care for and about ourselves too. I’m confident that our love for our dogs and ourselves will help us make the right decision.

deciding everything is falling into place perfectly as long as you don’t get too picky about what you mean by place. Or perfectly.

– Brian Andreas

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