We were just married living in a cozy apartment with an amazing view of the Boston skyline. As many young couples, we had a lot of plans including buying a house and start growing our little family. After talking it through and looking at our budget and free time, we decided that we should get a dog. The dog would be the first ‘thing’ we would have together to love and care for, so it sounded like a great idea.
I grew up among a lot animals, including dogs, cats and chickens, and my husband also had a dog growing up so we knew the amount of care it would require from us. We both had full time jobs and we were living in a rental. Before agreeing with us having a dog, our landlord set up several requirements: small breed, 4 years old+, house trained, cradle trained, and the nails should be kept short to not damage the furniture and wood floor. From our side, we were looking for a dog that would be friendly with kids (as we wanted to have kids soon) and didn’t shed too much, because I have a lot of allergies. Wow, that seemed like a lot of requirements! I didn’t think we would find this ‘perfect’ dog.
We went to several places, but the searching was tough. Every dog I saw I would fall in love with it. I remember there was pit bull called Lovie. I cried when I got home because we couldn’t adopt her. She was so cute and docile; I really didn’t want to leave her behind. My husband was struggling trying to keep me from getting too attached to the dogs we visited, but it was tough, I have a weak heart 🙂
I was almost giving up, I thought that the requirements were too many and it was emotionally draining. Then, one day I was searching online and I found this website for rescued dogs. They had a rat terrier that seemed to meet all the requirements. We went to her foster home for a visit and we both fell in love! What a cute dog! She seemed a bit noisy and had tons of energy despite being 6 years old but it felt like she was ours from the moment we first put our eyes on her.
After filling up all the paperwork and doing the adoption process, we brought Bella home. Her back-story, as told to us, was that she was with her owner for 6 years until they adopted a sick older dog. Bella didn’t get along with the older dog and the family decided to give her away since they thought she would have a better chance to be adopted. I don’t know if I believed in this story, I couldn’t understand how you raise a dog for 6 years and then decide to give it away because you got another one. I should not judge, but I did. I made a promise to Bella that I would never let her go. She was my first daughter.
When Bella just moved in with us, she had a lot of issues. She was scared of any noise and it was very hard to walk her on the streets of Boston, even on the quieter ones. Most of the time, we would have to carry Bella as she would freeze and not move her paws at all. It looked like she was going to have a heart attack – her little body would shake so hard and I didn’t know little hearts could beat so fast. Poor Bella…
After a while, she became more confident and happy to walk on the streets. She was greeting people and even running around. When we moved to our new home in the suburbs, Bella was super happy! Maybe it was because the area was less noisy and the house was much bigger. Bella also loved her new dog walkers! They told me she was the leader and was doing very well with other dogs. Everything was perfect for us and for Bella. She had lots of walks and all of our love and attention. She loved to go on hikes with us, but even a little car ride would do her good.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I think Bella knew something was up. She got extremely attached to me and would follow me everywhere. She also started to get more protective on walks, especially around men. I didn’t make much of it; I thought it was just temporary. The baby came and Bella seemed fine with it. She went through sleepiness nights as she would always check in when the baby was crying, poor Bella was as exhausted as I was.
Bella was very loving and gentle with the baby, but she was still more protective than usual on our walks. The baby started to grow, crawling, and then walking. She wanted to play with Bella, so I had my eyes always on them because J still didn’t know how to be gentle. She wanted to hug and kiss Bella, but Bella wasn’t the cuddling type.
I was pregnant with my second baby and resigned from my job to stay home with the kids for a little while. We couldn’t justify paying for Bella walks anymore with only one income and me staying at home. It was okay for a while, but as the belly grew bigger and the winter came it became very challenging. I wasn’t giving Bella long walks as she was used to. Bella started to become a little bit more anxious and didn’t want my toddler around her. J would try to play with her and even a gentle approach let Bella to nip her a couple of times.
My husband and I tried to work it out. He started to give Bella long walks in the morning and evenings and I made sure to have time to play with her even though I was feeling so tired. One winter afternoon, I was walking Bella with my toddler when J had a tantrum and threw herself on the ground; at the same time Bella was barking and pulling the leash trying to escape to run across the street to fight another dog. I was in panic! After that day I realized that it would be very hard to handle the situation moving forward: in a few weeks I would have another baby at home, I couldn’t leave Bella alone with the toddler, and Bella was barking uncontrollably.
We looked for professional help. The ‘diagnose’ was that Bella was insecure; her behavior was driven by fear. I think Bella had the first child syndrome – she was used to have 100% attention and love and now we could not provide it anymore. After talking to a few professionals, the price to have Bella trained was at least $700 per week and they didn’t guarantee results due to her advanced age. We couldn’t afford that, and couldn’t afford Bella nipping behavior either. She even tried to nip the kid’s neighbor and a stranger on the street while we were walking her – she had never done that before.
It was time to face the truth: we couldn’t keep Bella.
I was so stressed. I couldn’t let my first daughter go, I had made her a promise. I’d failed her.
We started to ask friends if they would like to take Bella, this way we would still be around her and know she was being treated well. It was when one of our friends said he would consider taking her. His response was perfect:
“Bella is a great dog but, as you know, being a dog owner – being a good dog owner – is a lot of work, so this isn’t a decision that I can go into lightly. I will need a little bit of time to think about this and plan/budget what I would need in order to be the type of dog owner that Bella deserves.”
His answer brought tears to my eyes. He was the right person to love and care for our little Bella and I couldn’t wait to hear his final response. After a couple of dog sittings, he said yes. Our little Bella had found a new loving owner. My feelings were mixed, I was so happy that our friend was going to take her, but my heart was in pieces for having to let her go. I loved – I love – Bella so much.
The day Bella moved out my husband and I had tears in our eyes. Our little Bella was gone. We kept telling ourselves it was the best decision for her and for us. We couldn’t give her the love and time she deserved. But I couldn’t stop thinking that it is not an excuse to let your child go, Bella was my first child and I had given her away.
Today, my heart still hurts when I think about it. I miss Bella, I miss arriving home and see her jumping around and grabbing one of her squeaky toys. Sometimes I even miss her barking. However, we believe that we did the best for Bella. Her new dad loves her deeply and gives her all the love and attention she deserves. We see photos and videos of Bella everyday and we went to visit once. I don’t like to go visit much, because I feel every time I leave I am abandoning her again. Looking at her videos and photos warms my heart, as I know she is happy and healthy.
Sometimes, we have to let them go. Letting go someone or something you love isn’t an easy decision and it hurts deep in our heart, but knowing that by letting them go you set them free to be happy and to have the love they need and deserve brings some relief to our soul.