That has become more than a cliche' at our house.
We have had a year full of letting go. Over and over, we are learning that the 'right' decision is not always the 'easy' decision. That is a concept I have known for a very long time....I was raised that way....but never have we, as a family, had to make so many right, hard decisions in such a short amount of time.
In a year full of highs and lows, one of our greatest highs came this past Valentine's Day. The girls, especially Alyssa, have been asking for a dog for as long as I can remember. For the last three years we were in Georgia, the house was on the market and I had, not only the two older girls, but two babies/toddlers, as well. We just didn't think that timing was right.
When we moved to Michigan, in an effort to ease some the girls' pain of moving, we started throwing around the idea of getting a dog. We had criteria: must be great with children, must be housebroken, must be medium sized (or smaller), and must be cheap/free. I began looking around different websites, but on Craig's List one night, I came across the cutest little black dog I had ever seen. She had beautiful eyes, the cutest little turned-down ears, and in her description it said, "Must have a family with children." That sounded perfect, especially since most of the descriptions I had come across said, "Needs a home with no children.
To make a long story short, I contacted the family who listed her and found out that she had been abandoned by the road in very poor condition, and this family had been rehabilitating her for the past six months. They had no children at home and worked outside of the home a lot, and felt she would be happier with a family that had children. After talking for a while, we went to visit her. We asked if we could have a week to think it over, and after much prayer, Jeff and I decided to go for it! On Valentine's Day, we handed the girls baggies with four alphabet cookies and told them that if they put them in the right order, they would spell what their gift was. You guessed it....they spelled:
We picked her up a few days later and really thought we had just picked up "our dog". We were in it for the long haul, and were absolutely smitten with Lucy. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog we had ever met.
This was taken the day we got Lucy. I took this picture in the van as we pulled out the driveway of their house.
It was very obvious that Lucy was a free spirit, but we really believed that in time, she would come to love us and feel like part of our family. We loved on her, played with her, and did obedience training with her. We did everything we thought a good dog owner should do.
I learned many lessons from Lucy. There were times, when I was training her in our back yard, that I could sense the Lord speaking to me as I worked on Lucy's behaviors. When I was trying to teach her to walk beside me and not pull in front of me, I felt the Lord say, "Jeannie, how often do you try to pull ahead....to take my plan into your own hand and plow forward?" When I was trying to teach her to stay focused and not go berserk when the dogs next door were barking at her, I would lean down to her when I sensed her getting antsy and tell her to "look into my eyes; focus on me". Once she was focused, we would moved forward a little until we had to stop again. It was then that I sensed God saying, "Jeannie, stay focused on Me. Don't put so much time and energy into these distractions around you....they will lead you astray. Focus on Me." Those were sweet times, both with Lucy and the Lord. I never cease to be amazed at God's creativity....He will use whatever it takes to speak to us.
As time passed, our love for her grew deeper, and she really came to love us, as well. When the girls weren't here, she would whimper for them. At night, when the girls were in bed, she would snuggle with me and Jeff on the couch. (I know...you're not supposed to let a dog on the couch. That was the rule we mutually agreed to break.) But while I knew she loved us, I always felt she was discontent, like her heart was somewhere else. She spent a lot of time staring out of windows, like she was missing something on the 'outside'. She would often dart out the door the minute it opened, sending us on a wild chase to get her back. Once, when the wind blew the back door open and we didn't know it, she got out for an extended period of time. That time we had to bail her out of 'doggie jail'. It just seemed like we were chasing her one or two times a week, no matter what precautions we took to keep it from happening. We always made her "sit and stay" at the door to make sure we went out before her. She stayed in a kennel if we were all gone or asleep. We tried to train the girls to always know where she was before they opened the door.
No matter what we did or how much we loved on her to help her feel a part of our family, we knew she was not completely happy. When she would escape from the house, we would find her farther and farther away. We live smack-dab in the middle of the city, and this was of great concern to us. We became more and more fearful that we would find her laying in the road after being hit by a car, or even worse, that the girls would not pay attention and would chase her into the road.
I cringe to think about it.
We had a few months where things were a little better, but we never felt totally "out of the woods". We had a month or two where she didn't try to escape, but there were other behaviors, as well. If she ever found our bedroom door open (even though we kept it closed, but when you live with little ones....well, you know), she would pee in our floor or directly on our bed (always on my side). She had a love for the taste of shoes and chewed one of three different pairs of Megan's shoes and one of two different pairs of my shoes. Thankfully, this problem had an easy, albeit unattractive, solution:
You don't put your shoes on your mantle?
While these behaviors were frustrating, they were behaviors that we knew were just part of having a dog and taking the time to train the dog not to do those behaviors. They were not dangerous behaviors, like her escape act.
In the past few weeks, though, things have taken a sharp turn for the worst. I am not sure why, but her escapes became much more frequent, and were not even always escapes from the house. Since we are renting, we are not going to put a fence around the yard, but as a substitute, to provide her with some outdoor time occasionally, we had one of those chains that comes with the spiral stake that goes deep into the ground. This past Monday, she dug the entire thing out of the ground and went running; chain, stake, and all. Thankfully she got tangled around the neighbors mailbox, but not before I had called the police to report our dog stolen.
Isn't that nice?
Today, Alyssa was taking her for a nice long walk when Lucy bolted suddenly and Alyssa lost her grip on the leash. I drove around looking for her and Jeff even came home from work to help us look. After an hour of driving around we finally found her, but it was crystal clear that we were no longer doing what was best for Lucy. We were holding onto her for our own selfish reasons. When I walked in the door with her, Alyssa, through tears, said, "Mom, I don't think she's happy here. Can you please call Mr. ______ (the previous owner) to ask if they will take her back?" It is a decision that Jeff and I had been contemplating for a few weeks, but it was nice to hear it from Alyssa's mouth....she knew it was the right thing without us having to tell her. I know how hard that was for her to say, and while I was very proud of her maturity in that moment, I was heart-broken. She was right.
We have contacted her previous owners and they will happily take her back. They are really wonderful people and love animals. We would never just "dump" her, but knowing she is going to a loving home with LOTS of land to roam and many other dogs to play with makes us all feel a little better. I am not saying it will be easy....it will be anything BUT easy... but we have a peace, knowing we are doing the right thing for Lucy. I think she is just a free-spirited country girl and longs for the freedom she once had.
Please pray for our family these next few days. Lucy goes back on Tuesday and it is going to be very difficult for us. I am praying that God will help me comfort my girls through my own tears, and that this will not be a source of anger or contention for them. We can honestly say that we did everything we could have done...even Alyssa and Emilie acknowledge that.
Enjoy some our favorite pictures of our "Lucy-Girl":
Lucy spends a lot of time looking out the window.
Dress-up became one of her favorite activities. :-)