When Jason and I decided to have a kid, we knew (as much as you can) that the road ahead would be filled with wonderful, amazing, life-changing moments as well as some hard and challenging ones. Such is the life of a parent. We have a strong love for each other and I believe we also have a strong faith in God, and armed with those two things, we decided we were ready (as much as you can be) to take the leap into parenthood.
What I did not anticipate with this leap was that we'd have to make hard parenting decisions right away. I figured once Eloise could walk and talk, we'd have to start teaching her what she could and could not do and the "trouble" she could get into would change as she grew older. We'd have to decide on our method of discipline and be consistent in order to raise a good kid. I knew that would be challenging at times, but we've talked about it at length and will (hopefully) not enter into that stage blindly and without much prayer.
So, in the first week of Eloise's life, when we were faced with a really hard decision, I thought to myself, "So soon?" The decision we faced was what to do about our Boxer, Chance.
We came home with Eloise on a Friday, and by Tuesday we decided we could not impose on my sister any longer (she was keeping Chance for us), and it was time for Chance to come home and meet his new human. I assumed this would be a breeze because Chance has always been great with kids. He loves my niece and nephew and has been to our church's Trunk or Treat event twice, never having any sort of negative reaction to children of all ages and temperaments.
When Chance came home Eloise was asleep in the gated off portion of the house. We let him sniff around and get comfortable until she woke up and then we brought her in to meet him. I held Eloise and we sat on the ottoman, allowing Chance to sniff a little closer. I'm not sure how to describe his reaction exactly. It is one that I've recognized in him often before but never with alarm because...well, it was never aimed at my newborn. When Eloise moved or grunted, he looked as if he was ready to pounce. He looked at her as if she were a bunny or squirrel out on our morning walk, and I was immediately alarmed.
We tried allowing more time but his reaction never changed or settled. We googled dogs and babies and we googled Boxers, only to discover that this issue was in fact common! Mom even reminded me when I told her of our dilemma that the breeders who sold Chance to us had to get rid of his parents after their first child was born. I had forgotten that.
It was heartbreaking but I didn't know what else to do. We couldn't have even one mishap. I couldn't make one mistake. Jason was going back to work the next week and I was terrified of being the only set of eyes on the lookout. Even with the gated off sections of the house, I knew Eloise and I would be where Chance was often, and while I didn't want him to spend the rest of his life in his kennel, I couldn't risk ever making a mistake where he and Eloise were concerned.
Jason and I decided we had to find him another home, but we weren't willing to settle where that was concerned. We were going to be 100% happy with his new owner before handing him off. I advertised at my brother-in-law's workplace and within a few hours we got a call. The man was a runner (how nice) and knew us from our local running community. He had 100 acres of land in Tennessee, a few other dogs, some grown kids, and he had owned Boxers before so he knew a lot about them. He came one afternoon to meet Chance and then came that night to pick him up. It was to be a trial period to make sure Chance adjusted well to his new surroundings, but I think we all knew he'd be just fine.
It was over and done before we could even blink. It was not what I had imagined at all. I thought we'd be 3 peas in a pod during the day - hanging out at home, going for walks, Chance making Eloise laugh just by coming near. I never imagined it would be a problem. I never thought there would be reason for concern. The day Chance left us was awful and I think I cried all day. Since then I've sort of compartmentalized it so I simply do not think of it (until now and oh how easily the tears return!). It sounds kind of harsh, but I don't know any other way to cope. I have a baby girl to take care of now.
Time, as always, is taking care of our sadness little by little. While I loved Chance and having him in my life, he is not a human. I love animals, but I do not want to give them human status...or human emotion. It isn't a Disney movie, and I often have to remind myself of that (because I do LOVE a good Disney movie!). Chance's new owner befriended Jason on Facebook and yesterday I asked Jason if he'd seen anything about Chance. Jason said he had, that apparently Chance got to go to a drive-in movie with his new family. I haven't seen the pictures, but it made me smile. Chance loves people and the fact that he is getting lots of love and attention lets me know he is as happy as a pup can be. The human emotions are all mine. The sadness, the sense of loss, the disappointment that it couldn't be as I had imagined in my mind... that's all mine and Jason's. Chance is running around in Tennessee with other pups and people who love him and that is what matters the most.
I'm going to miss that guy. I do miss him a little every day. I allow myself a small moment... while getting ready in the bathroom where Chance took up most of the rug...while going for a walk, something Chance always enjoyed...while Jason gets his breakfast and usually gave Chance a frosted mini wheat or two...these little moments still accompany me and I allow them their few seconds to reside in my mind before pushing them back out. I know it is for the best, but that doesn't mean it is easy. I know there will be many decisions like this one in our future...hard ones that are "for the best" and I brace myself for those. My prayer when things are tough these days is that if it can't be easier, that God will make me strong enough to handle it. And He answers that prayer every time I ask.
So here's to Chancey Pants, the Chancellor, the Mongrel, Gizmo and my best furry pal for 6 wonderful, fun and hilarious years.