September 26, 2001
Today I am filled with sadness. You see I gave away the very first puppy I had ever owned yesterday. He was wonderful, beautiful and filled with love. He was perfect in ever way possible and I gave him away.
My wife and I have talked about getting a puppy for a couple of years. There was always some reason why we put it off. We had just moved, or we were going to be moving, or we didn’t have a fence and so on. We now live on an acre of ground with a portion fenced - perfect for a dog. We settled on a West Highland White Terrier as our breed of choice. Westies, as they are known, are all white small to medium sized dogs.
We picked up our Westie on Friday evening at a breeder about 2 hours from our home. She had two puppies left, both male. We had really wanted a female but our delaying the decision had cost us that opportunity. I tend to put things off again and again. Michele gets frustrated with this and we sometimes end up doing something impulsively to offset how we both feel. She’s upset that we didn’t do this in the first place and I’m upset that I can’t be more flexible. We picked one of the two males and signed the papers. He was all ours.
We hadn’t gone a mile from their house when he began to throw up all over Michele. We had a towel with us but it only partially caught his vomit. Poor Michele had dog blorp on one of her favorite new dresses. After we cleaned up as best we could we continued on towards home. A few minutes later he puked again. Joy. This time we were better prepared and he didn’t get it all over, although I did get puppy puke on me trying to shake the towel out by the side of the road. Happy, happy, happy.
We stopped for gas and after we got rolling again, you guessed it, more puppy chunks. Well isn’t this just real special?
Finally at home turned him loose in our house and began a 60-hour marathon. First to go were our two cats, Abby and Nekko. They are both house cats and as such properly spoiled. Once they discovered a smelly little intruder in their domain they promptly disappeared as only house cats can do. We expected this and weren’t too upset. We were still working on names for the little guy when we went to bed at midnight.
Of course he came to bed with us. At 5 am Saturday he announced his presence by pissing in the bed. And then playfully biting any digit he could find. I guess it was time to get up. We played around with him until it was time to visit the pet store and buy some supplies. Off in the Vomit Comet, formerly known as the Lexus, again. This time with two towels we managed to get to the store without soiling our clothes. Of course with only 5 hours sleep and no shower, soiled clothes might have gone unnoticed. Once in the store we secured a harness and lead for the little guy and put him on the floor. Where upon he puked. I couldn’t wait to give this dog some food, all this vomit on no ammunition was impressive, what would he do fully loaded?
Since he was a Scottish breed we decided on Archibald McTavish as a name. Archie for short. Although we would soon decided that Spunky was a better handle for this incredible bundle of energy and attitude that had invaded our house and our hearts.
Back that the house Michele took a nap and I played goalie for a couple of hours. Finally he crashed and took a nap. Both cats ventured out at this point and discovered his sleeping form in their space. Much hissing and spitting accompanied their return to hiding. When he was awake he went full speed, biting, tearing, pissing and shitting his way through the house. No amount of disciplined seemed to matter to him. He was fearless in all things and not the least bit cowed by us at all. I spent some time reading the information on the Westie web site again. Funny how all those phrases about “demanding”, “won’t be ignored”, “as likely to train his owners as the other way around” took on a whole new meaning now.
Michele had much the same experience as I when I took my much-needed nap. By early evening we were exhausted and starting to question our decision to bring a dog this forceful into our lives. We are rather laid back people and for more accustomed to the demands of cat ownership than puppies. We wondered if we could return him.
One point in our favor this day was that we managed to completely exhaust him. He slept for 5 whole hours Saturday night. At 5 am he woke me up by biting my nose and I promptly took him outside. He peed out there and I praised him and brought him back inside. Then he shit on the carpet. Bad dog. Back outside. Michele made us breakfast and afterwards I decided to lie down and get some more sleep. I slept for a couple of hours and when I got up Michele was wiped out. Her words were that this was the most aggressive puppy/dog she had ever been around. She has had puppies and dogs before but not for the past 20 years. She had forgotten just how demanding they could be. We talked it all over and decided that our live style wasn’t suited for this breed, and maybe not for any breed of puppy.
We called the breeder and asked to return him. She wasn’t having any part of it. All sales are final, she said. She suggested we should sell him ourselves. That could take days and we were already at our wits end. Lock him in the back yard she said, he’d be okay. Neither of us would ever do that to a puppy. Maybe we are too soft but ignoring him like that seemed the height of cruel. It was Sunday and the paper was closed, no way to place and ad before Monday. Michele napped and I watched Spunky. He was playing, full force, for an hour or two and than napping for an hour or so, in rotation. Big mistake.
At 10 we tried to go to bed. Spunky wasn’t having any of it. So I stayed up with him until he crashed, about 11:30. He slept until 1 and then had to go. After a few minutes outside watching him piss and getting eaten alive by some huge mosquitoes myself, we went in. He did another hour of whirling dervish playing before sleeping again at 2 or so. At 4:30 he peed the bed again and then woke me up. While we were stripping the bed he shit on the carpet.
We were exhausted, frustrated, sad, and confused. In the 60 hours between Friday evening at 7 PM and Monday morning at 7 AM we had gone from educated, intelligent, caring people to zombies wondering if the pound was the answer for our little Spunky. As a last ditch try to do the right thing I looked online for other Westie breeders in the Mid-west - maybe we could give him to someone that would find a proper home for the guy. Imagine our astonishment to find a breeder barely 30 minutes away.
We called and this angel of a woman agreed to take him on. The drive to her home was heart wrenching. Were we doing the right thing? Wouldn’t this situation get better? How could we keep him? How could we not keep him? She was a lovely person with half a dozen Westies in her home. This was not a puppy mill. She said that she might get three or four hundred for the little guy, and paid us one-fifty. We hadn’t expected any money at all.
Driving away was extremely hard to do, we were crying and bawling and trying to comfort each other most of journey home. Our hearts broken, our spirits crushed we had admitted defeat at the paws of an 8 week old male Westie. In our heads we thought we had done the best thing for the dog. In our hearts we were despondent.
Over the next few days we each dealt with Spunky’s going in our own ways. We welcomed the return of normal interactions with our two cats. We shared the story with friends and learned that they too had struggled with dogs that weren’t suited for their home or lifestyle. The hurt began to lesson but the emptiness was still there.
It has been almost 4 months since Spunky entered our lives and forever touched us. I still get a lump in my throat when I look at the spot on the floor, by my desk, where he slept that Saturday afternoon. He had gone to sleep in the living room and I went to our office to use the computer. I looked up and he wasn’t in the living room anymore. Then I looked down and he was asleep right by my feet. It melted my heart then, and I still hurt for him now.
We are talking about dogs again, maybe a dachshund, or miniature pinscher, something small and friendly to enter our hearts.
In looking back we did a couple of things we shouldn’t have. First we settled for a gender we didn’t want. We had always wanted a female and we took a male because he was all that was left. Second we both had uneasy feelings about the breeder when we go there. At the time we thought it is apprehension about the dog, now we now it was our instincts about the breeder and her set up. The puppies were kept in a cage off the ground. The trouble we had trying to bathroom train him resulted from his having lived in a cage his whole life. We feel that she was running a puppy mill. In the future we will visit the breeder long before selecting a dog. We want to feel good about the atmosphere she will be born in, and where she will spend her first 8 weeks. Third we acted hastily when picking Spunky. Even though getting a puppy had been the topic of discussion for weeks, the actual decision happened only hours before getting the dog.
We did hear once from the family that eventually got Spunky. They sounded like great people and we are thankful that our sacrifice gave Spunky a good home.
I love Spunky and I will always miss his furry little self.