Those were my last words to Willow before I turned and walked out the door. For every moment before; when I had been upset, afraid, angry, thinking this was a mistake, and wishing I hadn’t put myself in this position – I knew that this final moment would be tough. And it was.
A volunteer in the rescue, to whom I will refer to as R, watched Willow a few days to get a sense of the dog. R has a great deal of experience with German Shepherds and was currently considering fostering again. I made sure R was up to date on all of the experiences with Willow, both the good and the bad. After dropping off Willow and seeing the way R handled Willow in a brief walk, I left feeling very confident that R would be able to handle Willow or anything that might come up.
She and Willow hung out together, exercised, and attended events held by the Rescue. It was towards the end of the weekend when R sent me a message saying she would be keeping Willow, that I would have to sign a release form, and I needed to bring the rest of the ‘gear’ and supplies. This sudden change in plan left me feeling both relieved and very sad.
I also felt more as a failure than ever before.
When I dropped off Willow’s toys, food, and other supplies, R and I chatted.
Some of the points R made to me:
- R had taken Willow to VSGR event. There she had observed the dog with other people and dogs. R and other volunteers evaluated Willow coming to the conclusion that I had ultimately made the right decision.
- Every one had agreed that Willow was an alpha female dog who had probably picked up bad habits from other dogs/owners. What was also was in agreement was that I probably should have never have been allowed to adopt Willow. Given her temperament and other traits, she would need someone experienced with aggressive shepherds.
- R said that given what she’s seen that this is the best decision for everyone and that I was correct in fearing something terrible might happen, because in the end, Willow would be the one ending up paying the ultimate price.
- From observing her interactions, R believed Willow was more a people dog. Most of the time she seemed not to care about other dogs. R said that there were a few times when Willow traded some “words” with other dogs but didn’t bare her teeth at all except for one event and that was due to a smaller dog starting the scrum.
- R also believed that Willow is more than likely fine around children except when she is surprised by them, such as in sudden movements or actions. R said she had witnessed this first hand but was there to prevent anything further from happening. She confirmed my concerns about Willow and kids.
- In the end, R said I had did the right thing, even though it was a hard decision to make. She went further to say my decision was met with a great deal of support from the other members of the Rescue. She went on to praise the fact that I had come to this decision, as tough as it may be, on my own and then reaching out to the Rescue.
Willow had been very happy/excited to see me when I returned to R’s home to bring the stuff and sign the form. Her tail wagged, she was smiling, and jumping around. This made the goodbye that much tougher. And in many ways, I related this to the goodbye I had to say to Clem and I think that is what made this more difficult. Willow and I had a little more than a month together and other than her flaws with aggression, she was a sweet and loving dog. But I had to face facts. I felt deep down that I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t be the owner she needed to be, and, in the end, be able to protect her and others. Do I wish things were different? Do I wish that I could still have her here with me on the couch and dragging me out on walks and jumping like a fool just because I walked back in the door? Of course, I do.
I walked out of that door, filled the vision of her sweet face, with warm tears on my own face, knowing that while I made the right decision it didn’t hurt any less. I am sad, yes. But I am happy that she is in a wonderful home with an experienced and loving owner. Someday, not soon, but someday, I will have my own dog once again and I will feel that love.