What does it feel like when you rehome a dog?
The emotions that come with the territory
A multi-part series on rehoming a dog
My first Thanksgiving after starting my freshman year of university I returned home to visit friends and family over the festive season and to say goodbye to our 12 year-old Newfoundland, Laurel, who was on her last legs. My heart ached knowing how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family’s beloved companion for 12 years. The thought of cuddling my other three dogs eased the pain of Laurel’s impending final visit to the veterinarian. However, my heart broke even more when I learned my parents had sent our two Golden Retrievers to a golden rescue organisation for rehoming without talking to me or my other siblings first. I was gutted to say the least. When I arrived at our house I went straight to my old bedroom, slammed the door and cried like a five year old who lost their favourite toy. I didn’t speak to parents for days. My parents’ utter disregard to my feelings about rehoming two furry members of our family still affects me today.
Almost 20 years later I still feel sadness for not getting the chance to say goodbye to Poppy and Cally and give them one last cuddle; and anger towards my parents for not taking my feelings into consideration. I never thought how my parents must have felt, their youngest child off to college, leaving them an empty nest of two-legged children, but a nest full of four-legged children. . . four to be exact. Maybe it was too much for them to handle. Maybe, Poppy and Cally weren’t the right fit in the first place. The time has longed passed to ask my parents how they felt about rehoming the goldens.
Have you ever wondered what people feel when they decide to rehome a furry four-legged member of their pack? Well, I never did. Instead my thoughts focused on the dog and their feelings. Today, I ask that question every time I a read a story about a dog seeking a new home, how are the dog's guardians feeling? While I will never know how my parents felt about their rehoming experience of Poppy and Cally, I unfortunately have first-hand experience in rehoming a dog, our beloved Jackman Telluride.
One word sums up all the feelings. . . horrible. It’s like being forced onto a roller-coaster you never wanted to go on where you experience all the highs and lows that come with the ride from the moment you ponder the idea, to making the decision, to saying goodbye, to seven months later and beyond. You’re angry at the person who put you on the roller coaster, but when you look around to see who the culprit was you find out it was yourself. Eventually you realise that being angry at yourself doesn’t make the situation any easier. That you need to put the anger aside to focus your attention on what is best for your dog.
The ride fills us with a mixture of feelings from shame, guilt, fear, embarrassment, to sadness, relief, regret, hope, jealousy and excitement. If we’re experiencing all these emotions why did we get on the ride in the first place? Because of those small glimmers of hope and excitement that this was the best decision for Jackman Telluride.
The roller coaster never really ends because your dog will always be in your thoughts. Whether it’s looking at your photo stream or seeing photos of them in their new surroundings your stomach plummets again and it feels as if your heart was pulled out of your chest, stomped on and then shoved back in. But, then you take a closer look at the new photos and you see your dog smiling with his soft, relaxed eyes and you realise that as horrible as the ride is for you, the hope that it is the best decision for your dog makes you stay on.
At the end of the day the feeling of hope and excitement for our dog to thrive in his new surroundings with his new guardian far outweighed the emotional turmoil we have experienced and continue to go through. It was not an easy decision to make. Each and every day we come closer to grips on accepting that our decision was the best one for Jackman Telluride and our family. We continue to work through the emotional roller coaster that make some days better than others without our Jax Jax.
If you ever cross the bridge of rehoming a dog take the time to work through your emotions while also thinking about what is best for dog. If there is potential for them to thrive in a new home be brave to step on the roller coaster and ride through the feelings.
I implore you, the next time you read a story about a dog needing a new home stop and think about how their two-legged family members’ feel. Have you ever re-homed a dogged? It’s a scary thing to share because of the judgement that comes with it, but please share your story here. This is a safe place.
Part 2 of this series will address why we came to the rehoming decision. . . a decision that was not made lightly, quickly or easily.