Why we decided to re-home Jackman?
A multi-part series on rehoming a dog
Haven’t read Part 1, read it here
The other day I learned about a friend, who with a similar heavy heart made the decision to re-home their dog. Knowing that there are others like us, who are confronted with such a difficult choice now felt like the right time to write Part 2 of this series. With the year anniversary of re-homing Jackman looming, I have spent a lot of time thinking about him and wondering if we made the right decision. Trying to understand the why of this whole experience is more challenging as time has passed. While it seems like just yesterday Jackman joined our little pack, it feels like ages since we put him on the plane to his new family.
The decision to add another member to our pack of three (2 humans and 1 dog) was not a decision we made on a whim. There were many conversations between my husband and I, our breeder, and the doggy daycare our current dog went to. We wanted to be sure that we were making the right decision for us and Jessie, our first dog. The deciding factor was that we were told a couple years prior that we had a less than 10% chance of conceiving a baby without medical assistance. As my husband and I agreed that if we couldn’t have a baby naturally, then we were meant not to have a baby. Instead of being parents to two-legged children we decided that our life would be that of guardians to four-legged ones.
When Jessie’s breeder contacted us that she had a puppy that was “perfect” for us we said yes. Really, it was me that wanted it more than Sam, which looking back I wish I saw that as a red flag. Out of the two of us I am the dog lover, more like dog obsessed. Whereas, Sam likes and enjoys dogs. But his life would be ok without a dog in it, which has taken a long time for me to accept and respect. Anyway, Jackman Telluride, just like all puppies wooed us with his adorable puppy looks. He slotted into the pack really well, especially with Jessie. Jessie was the one he looked to for guidance and comfort, always wanting to play with her. Jessie being three years older than him tolerated it for the most part with the occasional telling off. We thought we did everything right with his socialising as a puppy. Our breeder told us 100 dogs and 100 people in a 100 days. A great piece of wisdom. We followed dog behaviourists methodologies like Jan Fennell and Sophia Yin. Jackman went to daycare with Jessie. We received hands-on guidance from a dog behaviourist who had excellent techniques. However, we didn’t apply them properly, which is where we think the trouble started. Instead of taking responsibility for it we blamed the behavourist and to this day I am very sorry.
For the first 6 months he was with us I worked four days a week. Then I started working from home more; and I was with the dogs ALL the time. We pulled them from daycare. . . a possible regret there too. We lived in a tiny house with only a deck for the dogs to play on. While Jessie was happy with her morning walks and lounging around, Jackman needed more, a lot more. My husband would take him on bike rides and I would take him to the park. It was great seeing him run around and be a happy dog. However, the protectiveness of the chessie breed came out in him when people came over. It got to the point that I was too scared to let him out of his crate to greet people. Of course, my being scared worked him up even more because Jackman felt the need to protect me. Without trust between human and dog there is a risk that the dog will assume the leadership role, which he was not qualified to do. It’s a lot easier said than done, when the experts tell you you need to trust your dog, if they have broken your trust in a scary way.
As Jackman’s behaviour continued to change we sought help from other behaviourists. Jackman was entire and one behaviourist said to get him fixed and his excitement and energy levels would drop, along with his aggression. All of our research contradicted what the behaviourist said. Should we have done it? I don’t know? Another behaviourist recommended an e-collar. Yes, a very controversial tool, but they can be effective with the right training, guidance and support of an expert. In the case of Jackman it was the worst thing we could have done to him, especially after the behaviourist kept both Jessie and Jackman for a weekend and they came back with open wounds from the e-collars being used on them both all weekend. Arrgghhh!!!!! We are terrible guardians. We were feeling like failures and didn’t know what to do.
A little over a year after Jackman’s arrival my husband and I were surprised to discover I was pregnant with our first child. Not once did I ever worry about either of the dogs with the baby. However, it became apparent that two adults, two large dogs and a baby in our tiny house would not work, so we embarked on a house-hunting excursion. With a four week old baby we not only moved to a new house, but a new town. The house and section were massive in comparison to where we were before. The dogs loved the open space to run. The dogs were very curious about the baby, but showed no signs of aggression towards her. We found a great doggy daycare that gave me hope that they might help us with Jackman. He made fast friends with the owners and other dogs. All was going well, until he and Jessie stayed or an extended stay. He became possessive over an item with one of the owner’s dogs and bit the dog. Fortunately, no serious harm was done and the owners were very understanding. However, Jackman was banned from there and the owners suggested we think about re-homing him. But, how was re-homing going to make things better?
Well this was about 10 months before we made the decision. We reached out to our amazing breeder for help, who is very experienced in dogs and dog behaviour. We saw improvements in his behaviour, but then he would regress. I don’t remember the exact moment or what it was that clicked in my head, but I remember telling my husband, “if we are going to re-home Jackman then you have to take the lead on this because I won’t be able to.” I knew that I would talk to the breeder and she would say something that would convince me I could do this; I could help Jackman reach his potential as an amazing dog. Really, I couldn’t. I was trying to raise a baby, manage a house, work on Alongtail and help my husband with his business. That meant that the dogs were getting less attention from me, when what they needed was more, especially Jackman. Jackman needed to be out running and swimming everyday to be worked physically and mentally. This was all too much for me to manage.
At the end of the day we re-homed him for one reason and one reason only. We did it for his benefit and well being. If we didn’t he would still be here with us; and he and Jessie would be in the laundry room, instead of being able to go wherever we want them to go. Do I regret our decision? Initially I had second thoughts, as Jackman’s new guardian encountered serious challenges on his arrival and we worried that he was going to be euthanised. Fortunately, the breeder provided support to help the two settle into their new relationship. With the exception of photo posted of Jackman and two other chessies at the end of January we don’t know how he’s doing because we thought a “closed adoption” would be less painful and emotional for us then an “open adoption.” Seeing the picture of Jackman made me so happy to see him relaxed and in his element, but I couldn’t stop crying and still can’t stop crying when I see the picture. All we can hope that almost a year since we parted ways, that he is living the life we wanted to give him, but couldn’t. Today and everyday I miss him terribly, but I now don’t regret the decision.
Every circumstance is different. Comparing our story to anyone else’s won’t make the situation better. As I write this portion of our story, I still question did we do enough for Jackman? You know what, I don’t know. I will never know. I have to be okay with what we did because I miss him everyday. In our daughter’s room is a blanket of Jessie and Jackman and every night when I put our daughter to bed, we say goodnight to both Jessie and Jackman. She probably won’t remember him, but I tell her about Jackman all the time and she loves looking at pictures of him.
You may wonder if Jessie misses him. I’m happy to write that she doesn’t. She’s loving the life of a house chessie, sneaking onto our bed when we’re not home and enjoying trips to the river for swims. However, I believe that if they were ever to see each other again they would get into their playful antics and it would be one of the best moments for me.
If you have re-homed a dog please share your story with us. We would like to feel that we’re not alone in this.
Part 3 of this series will address the process we went through to re-home Jackman.