One of our greatest losses in moving was deciding what to do with our dogs. Ultimately we chose to make the move to Hawai’i without them. This was at times heart wrenching, and other times we felt much peace about the decision. Unless you are a dog owner, or animal lover, it may be difficult to understand the turmoil and the questioning that my husband and I went through on a very personal level. There were many times the guilt and concerns we felt were unspoken, except with one another. And because we have a large family, the dogs do not play the same prominent role in our lives they did when we had two children. However, we love them the same as when they were puppies. They are missed.
We have had two dogs for many years. Chloe, our German Shepherd was a faithful companion to our family for the past 13 years. Her pal Leah, our Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix was a part of our family for the past 8 years. We knew it wasn’t best to bring the dogs out to Hawai’i for many reasons. So, we began looking for the most appropriate adoptive placements for them several months ago. Here is a little history…
Chloe became part of the family after the loss of our first pregnancy. I was a teacher at the time. After determining the I was carrying a tubal pregnancy and needing surgery, I ended up missing several weeks of school. Upon my return, one of my students came to me and said something like, “Mrs. Wertz, I know it is not the same as having a baby….but my dog just had puppies. My parents and I would like to know if you would like to have one.” Such a sweet gesture from a darling middle schooler named Ashley. My husband and I had been dealing with so much heartache over the loss of our first child, and my recovery after surgery was slow, something happy, like a puppy actually sounded delightful. There were a few issues to be taken care of….
Pets were not allowed in the apartments we lived in, so once it was time for our puppy to come home, we would have to figure out a place for her to stay. You see, we were just on the cusp of a big move out-of-state. I had not renewed my teaching contract and my husband had just accepted a job as an Associate Pastor in Ashland, Oregon. Luckily a staff member at my school was very skilled at training dogs and she had the time and space and offered to care for Chloe until we moved. What a gift! She cared for our girl and basically crate trained her in the last few weeks of school prior to our move. Once we left she was all ours…full of spunk and personality. She was our baby and the first grand-dog in the family. She went everywhere with us.
The parsonage in Ashland was a great little craftsman home with two bedrooms and one bath. The yard was large but had no fence across the front. We tried all kinds of scenarios to keep Chloe in the yard and she continuously escaped despite our efforts. I remember being so worried for her and even crying when she was lost. As time went by we went to obedience school, and continued to train her, and she became very good at staying in the yard. She stopped chewing on everything and even learned to stay with us as we went on walks without the lead. She was wonderful with children. That little puppy who used to sleep at the end of the bed, soon weighed 80 pounds and took over almost the whole bed! We had many people stay with us while we had Chloe. We did foster care for most of her life and had 20+ children in our care over the years. We also hosted Japanese students who were in Oregon for English immersion programs. They were often intimidated because of her size, however they quickly learned that she was a gentle giant.
Everywhere we went people commented on how beautiful Chloe was. She had an amazing coat and her variegated colors were stunning. Chloe was always a house dog and she shed, and shed and shed. I felt terrible about the amount of fur she shed, because there was no way to stay on top of it. Anyone who visited our home, left with deposits of Chloe fur on them! One of our sons was having severe asthma. As we discovered, being around pet dander was very hard on him and his breathing. We learned he was very allergic to horses and dogs. Once this discovery was made, we realized that controlling my sons asthma was crucial. He needed to stop having trips to the ER and less times using the nebulizer. So, we moved Chloe outdoors and our son immediately began to improve. Chloe of course was shocked, and a little put off by such a drastic change. The change in our sons health took place almost immediately and we knew Chloe would forever become an outside dog.
My son wanted a little dog with less dander that he could call his own. So we decided to get Leah. She shed a lot too, however her fur did not have the dander that Chloe did and he could tolerate being around her more. How sad for a little guy to love dogs so much and to have such a terrible reaction around them. Straight away, Leah joined Chloe outside and they became fast friends. Chloe was like a caregiver for Leah. She cleaned her off when she was a puppy and Leah bounced around Chloe until Chloe got annoyed. In in the most gentle way, Chloe would extend her paw and press it down on Leah, and just hold Leah still until she calmed down. Leah was a great companion for Chloe and as it ended up Leah did not love small children which was a bit of a problem for our family. But, Leah did love Chloe so all was well.
As the years passed, Chloe became less and less active. Leah became a little more possessive of her space. Chloe had a harder time getting up and around due to arthritis in her hips. Still, what great dogs these were! When we first started considering our move to Hawai’i four years ago, we took all the necessary steps to prepare to take the dogs with us. Hawai’i has some stringent rules about bringing animals into the islands. So we had computer chips placed in their necks for identification and had their rabies tests run in just the right way so as to avoid quarantines for them once they got here. We learned that a lot changes in a dog’s life in four years. As Leah became more protective of her space, and Chloe became older and less able to move freely, we began to rethink our plan of taking them to Hawai’i. Some of you reading may remember the garden fiasco last year, when my dogs destroyed part of my garden. And with sarcasm and a great deal of annoyance I flippantly said that I would not be taking the dogs to Hawai’i….well, this choice not to take them really had nothing to do with the garden. Just to clear the air….
Looking at dog rescues and agencies, I attempted to search out the perfect placement where the dogs could be together. This was very difficult to do. Here was Chloe this elderly dog who was sweet and docile, loved children and being with family, but she was older and not likely to live much longer. Coupled with Leah who was very good with my husband and I, and although she had times when she was extremely sweet, she could also be food aggressive and she was terrier…she acted like this big vicious dog trapped in a little body. A local rescue agency worked closely with me as our move date quickly approached. We were having no luck finding a place for Chloe. However, they did find a match for Leah. A home with no children, where she would be a pampered companion to a man who was disabled and needed a small dog to keep him company. I filled out paperwork and was interviewed and asked questions about this potential home. We all agreed this was the best match for Leah. I surprised myself at the amount of tears that came forth while I signed those papers – relinquishing my right to her as my pet and signing her over top this agency for placement in her new family. Wow. This moment was terribly difficult. The only saving grace was that I was satisfied with her new living situation. I trusted that she would be loved and cared for and that she would be a blessing to this man who needed her.
Things were not so easy for Chloe. No one wanted to take on responsibility for an older dog who could have health issues. All of our friends and family were busy with children and pets of their own. Continuing to make calls for Chloe sake, we prayed and felt hopeful that something would give – even in the final hour. We kept her with us, through days and days of packing. She was curious about what was going on, and feeling a bit nervous, she would pace around us and the boxes, tire herself out lay down a bit and do it all over again. When it was time for us to leave Oregon there still was no one to care for her. I called several agencies and no one had any ideas. All the German Shepherd rescues who would take her had long waiting lists. They told me that there would be no adoption for a dog her age. She would live her final days in a rescue. So, as we packed the car to go to California to say our final goodbyes, we packed Chloe right along with us.
Chloe stayed with us a couple of nights at my mom’s house and then I got a call from my step mom Mari saying that their neighbor had a friend who is looking for a trained, mellow, elderly dog as a companion to her aging mother who is terminally ill. Well, we had been praying daily for a place for her, so we felt that this may work. My husband took Chloe the following day to meet this family. They commented that she was bigger than they hoped and maybe a little older than the had in mind, too…but they thought she was so beautiful and they wanted to give it a try. Ben was sad to leave his dog there. He said as he left and Chloe, looked at him with her head tilted. He said he will never forget the look in her eyes. She seemed so confused as to why he was leaving her. Oh, what a terrible feeling as a dog owner. He wondered as he left if they would keep her.
As it turns out, after about a week of her being there, they had changed their mind. We were already in Hawai’i. My step-mom and dad, as well as my mom and step-dad, worked together to figure out how to get Chloe back to my moms. We continued calling every pet rescue we could as well as sent emails trying to find a resource for her. After many contacts and no responses, we decided we would fly her over to Hawai’i after all. Once Chloe was back at my mom’s she became very ill and rapidly declined. With 24 hours she was on the brink of dying. We had just seen her and she looked so healthy and acted so normal, we were completely shocked at this news. My mom took her to the vet who said she had pneumonia and the beginning of congestive heart failure. Chloe could no longer walk and she had no control of her bladder or bowels. My mom took excellent care of her, babying her and pampering her. The vet counseled my mom and told her it was time for Chloe to die. Mom called us in Hawai’i and we just couldn’t believe it, we felt so bad for her.
We felt bad for so many reasons. One was that we realized she lost everything very quickly and she was too old to make such an adjustment. She lost her people and her best dog pal – her entire pack. Being that dogs are pack animals we realized this was too much for Chloe to handle and she became depressed, not wanting to eat, and it seems she lost her will to live. Oh the guilt and grief we have been dealing with over the loss of our dog. It may seem silly to some, but in perspective, she was such a part of our lives, we hated to see her go through such a hardship. And worst of all, we were not able to be with her when she passed on.
We miss both of our dogs. Leah is doing well in her new home. As it turns out her adoptive placement was a great match for her and for her new owner.
Thank you again to my parents who worked so hard to take care of her in our absence. We cannot thank you enough.