My dog was lost but now (s)he’s found.
Our family did something that I never, ever thought we would do. We gave away one of our perfectly healthy dogs that we love very much. In the past we joked about giving her away, but in my heart I truly believed that we would never do it. My stubbornness and misplaced belief of my abilities as a dog-owner would not allow such a thing to happen. But we did it and things are better.
Bianca came to our family during a difficult period. My wife and I each brought a dog to our relationship. I brought our aussie cattle dog and she brought a maltese named Harley. Unfortunately, Harley passed away far to early due to some medical issues. Our hearts were broken as Harley was a very special being. We quickly found Bianca to help us with the loss and because we both wanted a maltese in our lives. I never thought I would be a small dog person. But I loved Harley so much. Bianca was very mellow for a couple of days. Then, she busted out with a breezy vengeance. She would hide under the couch and sneak attack a passerby’s ankle. She would fling herself out the doggy door and down three steps like she was invincible. When we first took her to the bay, she followed our cattle dog in like she had been swimming her whole life. She had some hilarious quirks. She would fake injuries to get attention (a maltese trait). She would try to boss around the dogs at the park until another dog pushed back. Then she would yelp like she had been shot and run to her “big brother” to protect her.
This sort of fearlessness was eventually tamped down, but she retained the independence and attitude and alpha-dogged our crew. A couple of years later we took in another maltese — a sweet, gentle soul named Lucy. Bianca started in on bossing Lucy around immediately. If Lucy was getting attention from humans or from big brother, Bianca would intervene and force attention on herself. Bianca would engage in dominant behavior — marking, herding, barking, etc. with Lucy and to a lesser extent our cattle dog.
I don’t mean this to be a list of the ways that B was a pain in the ass. She was so much more. She’s a lover, when it’s on her terms. At night she would plaster herself to my upper back and kiss my neck until I fell asleep or couldn’t take it any more. She was amazing with our kids when they were infants. She would frequently lie down next to the bassinet or make sure she always had a line of vision to the babies. Her interest in the kids disappeared when they became grabby toddlers, though.
So for a time things weren’t perfect, but there were far more good times than bad. The bad times were just annoyances, really. Things seemed to change when we moved to a house with a much larger yard and some fencing issues. Bianca became a master at defeating my ever more elaborate attempts to keep her in the yard. She made friends with a neighbor that was pregnant and would go to their house daily. They loved her but we were all concerned for her safety. We took some drastic steps to keep her in the yard. This did not make her happy.
Bianca began to ditch her previously “acceptable” behaviors. Important things like house-training. She started to “go” in the house. She particularly enjoyed any carpeted area. Sometimes she would do it right in front of us. She’d look us in the eye as she went, then do her “kicks” after she was done and run away so she wouldn’t be corrected. Any attempted correction had zero effect. We started to realize that she really didn’t like us any more, which is a very strange thing for us. We have two other dogs that wouldn’t run away if a dog food truck overturned in front of our house, spilling its cargo, and the gate were left open. She used to like us. She used to listen. Luckily, we determined that the house wasn’t for us (non-dog related reasons) and moved. We hoped the problems would stop.
Things did get marginally better for a while. Then we welcomed our second child and things started to go back downhill. She began tunneling under fencing. The house-training disappeared. We began to keep the dogs downstairs on where we have wood floors, but the constant presence of urine was a nightmare. I’d wake up every morning and clean as much as I could so my wife wouldn’t get upset. We began looking at more punitive methods of training. These efforts did not bring results. Any time we disciplined her she would “punish” us by escaping and/or peeing or pooping in the house. I didn’t know what to do but I knew I loved her so much, still, and thought we could make it work.
One day the combination of peeing in the house, escaping, Bianca’s lack of fucks to give about what we thought or wanted, and the unfortunate timing of her escape tipped me over. My (very) patient wife explained to me that she hit her end point a while back and kept trying to suggest other options, which I dismissed out of hand. It was time to consider those options. I reluctantly agreed and began to wonder why I have to be dragged to these positions — but that’s a topic for another day. My wife reached out to the local maltese rescue and began to explain the situation. The nice lady at the rescue cut her off and said, “Let me guess, you had this dog before you had kids and now she is acting out and is un-trainable?” My wife was shocked at how accurate the supposition was. We thought we knew all about maltese but we didn’t know this. The rescue group asked for pictures and a medical history. Within 2 days, they had a retired couple that wanted to shower love on a maltese but didn’t want a puppy. We decided it was the best thing to do. I was traveling for business on the day that my wife dropped her off. I’m really sorry that she had to do it. Just thinking about it puts a knot in my stomach.
Bianca has been gone for a little bit and my heart hurts every time I think of her. This hurt is counterbalanced by the frequent updates from her new owners. She is doing great. She is happy. The owners are happy. We told our oldest daughter the truth, that Bianca went to a new home where she is happy, and our daughter is happy. Our other well behaved dogs do not have to be punished or limited because Bianca was acting out. There are no more “accidents” in our home. Our family seems to be working as intended.
But I still miss her. I love her so much. I’m angry with myself as I failed her as an owner. But I’m happy for us all.