This is a cautionary tale, a story of people who didn’t do their homework before they got their dog. It is also a plea for help because I am at my wit’s end.
We are a dog family. We got a Golden Retriever puppy when I was six months pregnant with our oldest daughter (now 19). No need to point out the foolishness of the timing- we learned it all on our own. After 12 years with our Golden, she got cancer and we had to put her to sleep. It was a horrible day, but she was a good dog for 12 long years.
After that, I vowed that we would live dog-free for a time. That lasted all of four months. We found out about Dunkin from a friend who had a friend who had a 15-month old Yellow Lab and couldn’t keep it because of the owner’s escalating health problems. After visiting Dunkin in his former family’s home, we decided to take him as our own. Despite being the most stubborn animal I’ve ever met, Dunkin is a sweetie. He’s now eight, doesn’t chew, doesn’t steal (much) food, is non-threatening, hasn’t had any significant health problems and would rather have his bladder explode than have an accident in the house. He’s a good boy.
So that worked out pretty well and we should have been content. However, about five years ago, the kids started lobbying for a second dog “to keep Dunkin company.” My oldest daughter even wrote a multiple page proposal outlining the reasons why we should get a second dog. When we wouldn’t budge, she shifted her proposal to fostering dogs. We fostered a couple dogs, which softened us up quite a bit, and we finally decided that if we were going to do the work involved we might as well get a second dog after all. We started perusing adoption web sites looking for a good match.
On a whim, we accompanied my sister’s family to a local pet store for an adoption event and fell in love with 10-month old “Gorgeous”, a Great Dane mix of some sort. She was so big and awkward and sweet. Although we had no intention of going home with a dog, that is exactly what we did. We knew nothing about the organization hosting the event and nothing about Great Danes. That was very irresponsible of us, but we were anxious to get “Gorgeous” (promptly renamed Lily) before anyone else did.
In retrospect, there were some red flags that we dismissed. Lily had some scratches on her face, which her foster mom said were the result of a scuffle with one of the other dogs in the foster home where she had lived for the previous three weeks. She seemed like she was wheezing, but we were told she recently had pneumonia that had since been cleared by the vet. She looked like she had a tennis ball under the skin on her elbow, but that was purportedly because she had been locked in a basement for her puppyhood, which probably also caused the pneumonia. Those all seemed like either minor or temporary issues.
Guess what? They weren’t.
We visited the vet about six or eight times to get her elbow drained and tried months of different antibiotics before one finally worked. The wheezing? She has chronic bronchitis (probably from the basement she lived in as a puppy) for which she has to take two different medicines every day, limits her ability to exercise, and landed her in the Doggie ICU for a couple days with pneumonia two years ago. Oh, and we found out four months after we got her that she wasn’t spayed, despite the fact that the adoption forms stated that she was. We found out that good news on Christmas morning several hours before guests started to arrive. Getting her spayed was an issue in itself because the vet was concerned that her bad lungs couldn’t withstand the anesthesia, although she would also never survive a pregnancy (god forbid). We risked the spaying and luckily it went okay, although it caused some incontinence for which she also takes medicine. Those are her medical issues.
Behavior? She hates all other dogs, which was initially unfortunate for poor Dunkin until Lily decided she liked him about a week after we got her. We tried crating her for the first several months we had her, but she managed to get out of her crate regularly, even though we clipped it shut with extra reinforcements. When she got out of her crate, she chewed anything she could find, favoring the small chewy buttons on our t.v. remote controls. There are certain people who she seems to dislike, but because we can’t anticipate who those will be, we need to be cautious every time someone new enters our house. We’ve worked with several trainers with limited success.
Things have improved. She no longer needs to be crated and we put away anything that she might like to chew. She has gained 40 pounds since we got her. The vet initially told us that she would probably only live to about four because her lungs are so bad. Well, now she’s four and her most recent x-rays showed that her lungs haven’t gotten any worse, which feels like a mixed blessing. She has a regular file at the emergency vet because she’s been there so many times for various issues. It just feels like it’s always something with her.
I know a lot of people wouldn’t have kept Lily, and I won’t pretend that we’ve the absolute best owners she ever could have ended up with. We have definitely done our best with her health issues, but I have to admit that it gets old. Last night I took her outside twice with diarrhea, and then she had an explosion in the dining room earlier today. I’m guessing she ate something that didn’t agree with her, although I have no idea what. Last week she looked like her lip was infected and I was going to take her to the vet, but it were closed and I couldn’t bring myself to go to the emergency vet—again (luckily that one seems to have resolved itself). Two months ago her elbow issue resurfaced with a vengeance. Fortunately that only required two vet trips to tackle.
We love her, but she is a pain. She has a cute personality, but how far does that get a dog? I know we didn’t do our due diligence before we got her, but I can also see the attraction of getting a puppy from a breeder. Going with a reputable adoption place or shelter is the answer in my opinion, and not doing so was a fatal mistake. When you get a dog, how much are you expected to do for it? That is an ethical as well as a practical question. Of course we would do anything for our kids, but dogs are not kids.
I have four kids, work fulltime and my husband is working out of state this year. Every time an issue with Lily comes up I groan. Two of my kids would be devastated if we got rid of Lily, while two just think she’s a pain. I would be devastated AND I think she’s a pain. We’re not getting rid of her. I don’t want to think that someone else could do a better job with her than we could.
My message is not to rush into getting a dog. Do lots of homework. Work with a reputable breeder or shelter or adoption agency. A good one will evaluate your family and match you with a dog that suits you.
Advice is welcome. Thanks for listening.
Filed under: Parenting