Blending a Family with Pets: Part 2

Blending a Family with Pets: Part 2

The Husky mix named Blaze

This beautiful boy was a husky mix my ex-husband and I adopted from the Humane Society. We brought our little girl Libby in with me to visit the dog and it was love at first sight. We wanted to ensure our daughter Libby would be raised with without a fear of animals and that she would always have a best friend. We brought him home just in time for our daughter’s first birthday. At this time Libby was obsessed with the Tinkerbell movies, particularly the one where Tinkerbell sets off on an adventure and befriends a little firefly bug that behaves as a dog which she discovers is named Blaze. The name seemed to fit our furry companion. Blaze was a fairly gentle dog, but not without his quirks.

The day of Libby’s birthday, I had just pulled the cake out of the oven and set it high on the counter to cool. I was tucking Libby into bed for a nap before her big party. By the time I came back Blaze had eaten a quarter of the cake and all of the frosting flowers, petals and a substantial amount of wax paper.  This dog was constantly into food. He wouldn’t even wait until we left the room, just until our backs were turned.

 

Food wasn’t the only problem we faced with this canine. After a while Blaze adopted the nickname “Bolt.” Despite walking him twice a day and having a large backyard to run in, Blaze had an affinity for bolting out the front door the moment he saw an opening wide enough to squeeze through. He would plow straight through anyone standing in his way, including Libby, Blaze was constantly running away. The most worrying time he ran away was during the horrendous rainstorm at the end of September that caused the Colorado Floods in 2013. He had bolted out the door and taken off so fast I couldn’t catch him. The rain was pouring down hard for hours and I received a call from my military unit. We’d been activated to help rescue stranded flood victims. I kissed my sweet daughter good-bye and left her with my then husband and headed off to fulfill my duty. Blaze was gone for 3 days during those floods. He had wandered straight through the backdoor into someone’s kitchen and they kept him for a few days until the water receded enough to where they could drive him to the local vet clinic. The vet clinic was able to scan Blaze’s microchip and begin the process of returning him home.

Once I returned from my duties with the natural disaster, personal disaster struck our home and my 1st husband and I separated.

At first we tried to keep the dog with our daughter during split custody. Wherever she went, he went too. The idea was to treat him as a therapy dog and give her a constant companion she could rely on. We accomplished this somewhat reasonably until our house was sold during divorce proceedings. My ex had to move in with family who could not accommodate such a large dog. I somehow managed to squeeze myself, my daughter, Blaze and the cat into a tiny one bedroom apartment. During the times where Libby was away with her father, Blaze became my consoling companion. He made the days less lonely and the heartache of missing Libby bearable.

In the apartment however, Blaze became a nightmare more than ever! He was constantly in the food and would often sneak my meal straight off my plate, usually while I was buckling Libby into her highchair. There were times as a single mother I had rationed my food and divided portions. First feeding my daughter, waiting until she was done and then finishing the meager amount left over. If Blaze managed to sneak the food for himself I simply couldn’t afford to make myself another dinner and I wouldn’t eat.

A friend of mine with a heart of gold caught wind of my situation and he immediately invited me and my toddler to join his family for dinner. After which the whole family surprised me with a shopping trip to the local supermarket and filled my shopping cart with necessities, even dog food! I will never forget such a sweet gesture. I know I can never repay them, but someday I hope I can pay it forward to someone else in need.

I was still very frugal with my food and I tried to set my food various places I assumed Blaze couldn’t get until one day I discovered powdered sugar strewn on the floor. It had been in the top, corner cupboard on the tallest shelf. There was literally nowhere food was safe from this dog. Even if I hid my food in the microwave before the meal, during the meal I would lean forward to help spoon some food into her mouth when I would feel a nudge on my elbow and in less than a second food was missing from my plate and the dog was already huddled in the farthest corner of the room.

Struggling to get by as hard as I was, I should have surrendered Blaze then so he could find a more suitable home seeing how my circumstances had so drastically changed. I felt selfish trying to keep a dog that I had to rely on the generosity of others in order to feed. I had tentatively reached out on my personal social media so see if there was anyone who would be able to either take in Blaze for a time or even adopt him.

I was truly shocked and surprised by the intensity in which some of my dog-lover friends who began to guilt trip me for even considering re-homing my “second child.” On one occasion when a flu was making its rounds, Libby and I were incredibly sick. Libby was throwing up constantly and hardly able to keep anything down. Without laundry units in our apartment I was having to haul a sick baby, loads of puked-on laundry down a flight of stairs and across the street to the facility provided by the apartments. Then Blaze became ill as well and no sooner did I mention the dog’s malaise that a “friend” offered to bring an electrolyte drink for the dog! I was so sick and trying to cuddle my 1-year-old that I was completely at a loss for words.

It wasn’t soon after recovering from this flu that I needed to go in for a surgery. I only had 3 days to recover as a single mom before I had to go back to work. I had to juggle bringing the dog and the baby in a jogging stroller down a flight of stairs while not trying to tear open stitches or slip on ice, twice a day. It was one of the most incredibly stressful moments of my life. Surely there had to come a point where I was justified in seeking a better home for my dog. Once again, I was met with a number of hurtful remarks that favored the dog above my child. One person even suggested that if I couldn’t handle all of the responsibility that I should give custody of my daughter to her father instead in order to keep the dog and save him from the pound.

Surely if I had to choose between my child and the dog, I should feel free to choose my child without guilt!

Nevertheless, recovering from surgery was harder than I had anticipated and I was in over my head. I swallowed my pride and moved back home to my parents farm. Blaze was kept outside on the farm and he was miserable. He would howl constantly and began to damage fences and dig. Finally, my ex-husband said he would try to take Blaze again.

It was only a few months later that I met Tom. Our courtship was incredibly fast and we got married that summer. He had a small home that we moved into and tried to make enough space for everyone. Soon after we were settled, my ex-husband said he couldn’t keep Blaze any longer. Tom and I talked it over and of course made sure that Blaze got along with the beagle and quickly took the dog in. My step-son Thomas was thrilled to have another dog and they all played together beautifully. It seemed that we would be able to live peaceably with Blaze, except for one major problem. The HOA in the neighborhood would only allow a certain, short and open styled vinyl fencing. Blaze found it a cinch to jump over and he would frequently go for long and leisurely strolls around the neighborhood. Despite trying to enforce it with an electric fence and collar, Libby and I made it our daily “walk” to pick up Blaze from whatever phone call we would receive that day. But when I was ordered on modified bedrest due a pregnancy complication, the responsibility to hunt Blaze down turned to my husband Tom.

Blaze had a particular game he liked to play when he ran away called “catch-me-if-you-can.” Tom would run after Blaze and even bribe him with a treat. Blaze would allow Tom to get just barely out of arms reach, and just when Tom would try to grab hold of his collar, Blaze would bolt off again and repeat the pattern. The only way to catch this husky/German shepherd mix was to wait for a phone call.

It was a particularly blistering hot day that summer, with temperatures in the triple digits. I was still recovering from delivery and our little baby was less than 2 months old. Instead of a phone call, there was a knock on the door.  Animal Control was at the door with Blaze in the back of the truck. We weren’t unfamiliar with animal control at this point. We’d picked up Blaze from the Humane Society several times before. This time however, due to the chaos of a new baby, we had completely forgotten to attach the new rabies tag onto his collar. Despite being able to provide proof that Blaze was indeed up to date on his vaccinations, there was a very strict policy on dogs found without current tags. The officer began to explain that there was an immediate and mandatory court date along with fines that would total over $200. Perhaps it was still postpartum hormones, or a flood of memories about this dog, but I simply began to sob.

“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t drag my children out in 100+ heat in the summer and -25 in the winter to search for that dog anymore. I just can’t do it.”

The officer was very empathetic as he asked all kinds of questions to fill out surrender paperwork. I remember him asking if Blaze would have any attachment anxieties. I remember the hurt I felt when he asked that question. After everything I’ve done and sacrifices made for that dog, he still had no real attachment to anyone in the family.

When the officer drove away I sobbed into my husband’s chest as he held me tight. We had surrendered his beagle Sawyer just before winter and he was filled with empathy for my loss.

“What’s wrong mommy?” Libby asked.

“My heart hurts baby. Because Blaze keeps running away.”

“It’s ok mommy. You can have my heart.” Oh that sweet girl. Through my grief I didn’t realize until later that I probably shouldn’t have burdened her with my pain. But that tender moment is forever stitched on my heart.

We got Thomas the very next day for his weekend visitation and I drove him to the humane society in the next town over to say his good-byes to Blaze. We were given a bunch of dirty glares and treated very coldly with curt and short answers and gestures. But I wanted Thomas to at least have the chance to say goodbye. He now had to say goodbye to both dogs in less than a year. He hid his emotions well, but I could tell he was hurting.

When we returned home he made a comment of, “Well, at least we still have Kitty.” Of course unknown to us at the time, that would not last either.

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