Loving Dogs Enough to Let Them Go

The world that I live in is blessed with good dog people.  People who understand that there are dogs that come into your life for a reason,  a season or to steal your heart forever.

People who don’t have fur-babies or think that their dogs are small human children.  Who “get” that there is something honest and real about what can happen when the right dog and the right person get together.

And, after yesterday was over and done, what I figured out was that under a different set of circumstances, Chickpea might have been the right dog for my son.  It broke my heart that I couldn’t make that happen for him.

But, I am so very proud that he understood what the Adoption Counselor at Lollypop  talked about:  that as dog owners,  “… you have to be the voice for your dog,” and Tessa wasn’t having any part of Chickpea.

How did we get to that place where we were thinking about making Chickpea be a part of our family?

We started out talking about why my son thought she was a good, fun dog; that physically, she was a good size (a muscular package of 30 pounds on three legs) and that he thought it might be worthwhile to see if she’d fit into our household.

He said:  She’s a great trail dog, mom.

So, we went out to see her.  And, Chickpea became as real to me as she’s been for my son for the two-three months that she’s been out at Lollypop Farm.

She’s a nine month old, Pit Bull Terrier pup — with a sweet, calm energy,  an insistent, playful demeanor and a wide grin.  On three legs.

The Adoption Counselor said:  “She’s like most pits – she plays rough.  And, she doesn’t know when to back off.  But, she listens and with training that gets better.”

My son  had said earlier:  “She calms down really quickly, Mom. When she first got here, she was a lot more hyper than she is now.”

Chickpea’s been at Lollypop long enough that she’s gotten to know the staff and the volunteers.  When my son and I walked into the dog suite where her kennel run was, she knew him.

She got up off of her raised dog bed and pressed her nose up to the wire door, barked a few times and looked him in the eye.

What she might have said:  All right.  You’re here. Is it time to play?

Chickpea was a street stray with a badly injured back leg when she found her way to Lollypop.  After determining that the leg was too severely damaged to be saved,  it was amputated.

I don’t think Chickpea even knows its gone.

We got her out of her run and into the hallway.  I could kneel down in front of her, massage both sides of her body with my hands and be calm with her.  She was pretty responsive to my tone of voice.

She was also quite ready to get busy.  She put her wide nose down to the ground and started working it. Lollypop’s a big place with a LOT of smells for a dog’s nose to suck up.

We took her a short way down the hall and outside into one of the inner courtyards. When she’s on the move, she’s all nose and not a lot of noise.

When we brought her back inside, there were quite a few people standing around. Chickpea was fine with all of that.

She was also fine with going back into her kennel run.

I spent some time talking with one of the Adoption Counselors before we left.  I wanted to know if we’d be given serious consideration as a home for Chickpea, if we decided to fill out the paperwork and go through the necessary steps.

I said:  We’ve got a 9 year old, male Great Dane, a 14 year old, female whippet, and an almost 3 year old, small mixed breed.

And the Adoption Counselor didn’t even bat an eye.  We talked about Chickpea’s background and how it was important that our dogs meet Chickpea. And that this might work out – but, that it might not.

The most important thing was finding a good match for ALL of the dogs.

As my son and I drove back home, we talked about Chickpea, what it’s like already having three dogs, how this might not be a good idea … BUT.

I said:  What is it that you really want to do?

And, he wanted to see if we could pull this off.  Several hours later, we went back to Lollypop.  This time around we had Tessa with us — our 18 pound, mix-breed; the dog we’d adopted from a smaller animal rescue group almost two years ago.

Tessa’s a bit of a brat when she’s meeting new dogs. And, out in the parking lot, away from all of the noise and distractions of an animal shelter, she was a brat around Chickpea.

Much the way she behaved the very first time we walked her into a room filled with dogs all waiting to begin a beginner’s obedience class.  High pitched barking, straining on her leash, feet scrabbling on the pavement.

Chickpea didn’t react one way of the other as she quietly watched Tessa act out. Chickpea was content to continue to snuffle the ground. Lots of smells for this busy girl.

I was the one who began to feel like maybe this was going to be too much to take on.

Leaving Tessa safely crated in the back of my car, we talked with the Adoption Counselor.  She was game for doing a “meet and greet’ in one of the larger areas inside of the shelter. After listening to her, I knew that she had the right dog background to be able to orchestrate this.

That she would be able to accurately read both dogs’ behavior. And, that she was confident about how Chickpea would respond.  The wild card in this equation was our dog.

I didn’t want to set up either dog for a negative experience and my own energy was now more apprehensive than calm – and I knew that THAT energy would travel down Tessa’s leash to interfere with Tessa’s own frenzied energy.

And, that was the point at which the Adoption Counselor said,  “It’s important that you be the voice for your own dog.” 

She also said:  Sometimes, it’s too hard bringing a third or fourth dog into a home.  And, you have to be able to recognize that.  It’s not supposed to be hard.

I said to my son:  I think this is going to be too hard on Tessa.  I think we might be asking her to do something that she’s not ready to do.

And my kid “got it.”  I was never more proud of him. We told the Adoption Counselor that we would talk about Chickpea with all of our dog friends – that maybe, we could help her find a good home.

Here’s what I know:  Chickpea is a happy little dog with an engaging disposition.  And, she touched my son’s heart.

What she might have said:  Love me just as I am. For the time that I am with you,  understand what I am about.  And tell my story well.

Which we hope we’ve done.  Because this is a story about Chickpea (and Tessa) and about a lot of other dogs that have stories to tell and homes to find.

But even better, this is a story about my son and his capacity to love dogs.  To really see them for what they are … to love them so well that he can both want them in his life and let them go because that’s the better choice.





    • htkhp says

      You know by now, that that’s the plan. I’ve put the word out to several of my dog lover cronies and am about to alert a few more of my friends today. Chickpea’s well-liked by the staff and volunteers at Lollypop and after meeting her, I can tell you that she’s one of those dogs that makes friends everywhere she goes. So, yes: please stay tuned.


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