Thursday, 30 May 2013

I'm so sorry, lovely Esme dog.

We chose you because you seemed so relaxed and happy in your kennel, but curious, gentle and friendly when we took you outside.  We knew you were going to need loads of exercise, but we were happy to take you out for two or three hours of walks a day, longer on our days off.  And you'd have the garden to run around in between.

On the journey home, I was impressed with your trust, constantly looking to me for reassurance as I held you safe on the back seat. You must have been so bewildered and scared, but you didn't cry or bark or wee.

We did tons of research and listened intently to the good advice the trainer gave us on our introductory talk, but we still probably did everything wrong that first day.  We did our best to leave you to discover your new home at your own pace, We tried to see whether you knew any commands.  You didn't know "sit" or "here", you didn't even know your name. We tried to get you to play, you didn't seem to know how.  But you seemed to forgive us, and you were so good when we put you to bed.

We knew as soon as we got you home that you were a chewer.  Still, all dogs chew things, and we were prepared for a level of destruction.  The howling that first night was understandable, it was obviously going to take you a while to settle in.  We were sad about the wooden window blinds you ate through, but knew it wasn't your fault, so instead of telling you off we went out and bought a huge crate to put your bed in.  It was the only way the room would be safe from you and vice versa while we weren't in the room.

We knew you were going to be hard work, Esme, but you are one of the sweetest natured dogs I have ever met, and you deserved the effort.  After the first 24 hours, though, you were miserable and we were exhausted.  The only time you were happy was out on walks.  The rest of the time, you paced the house, crying and chewing things.  We could distract you for a few moments with a toy or a chew, but within seconds, you'd be chewing again.  We would have called it separation anxiety, except you did it when we were both there.  I've known big and powerful dogs, but I've never seen one bite great chunks out of solid wood furniture before.  Esme, how could we keep you safe?  You would have eaten everything made of wood or plastic if we took our eyes off you for long enough to go to the toilet, and you didn't care if a bottle you were chewing contained milk or washing-up liquid.  We very quickly ran out of high places to put things on.

Paul and I were down to one meal a day by day three, to spare us the difficulty of coaxing you into your crate several times a day, and to stop you from thinking the crate was a punishment or a torture.  A cup of tea became more trouble than it was worth because you don't yet understand that not everything is for dogs, and would knock it from our hands.

Every waking moment was spent following you around saying no.  What kind of life is that for us or for you?  I know you will learn, but we simply don't have the experience or resources to look after you till you are trained.

It became clear how wrong we were for you the first time you were confident enough to play in the garden.  You raced up and down, but seeing you at full tilt made me realise that an ordinary suburban garden is nowhere near enough space for you.  And that if you saw a squirrel, you would be over our six foot fences in a flash.  So I let you dig up all our vegetables, because at least you seemed happy when you were digging.

The next day I rang the charity you came from, and they were good enough to agree to let us bring you back there on Friday.  I'm telling myself what the charity's vet said - that we have helped you by finding out things about you that no-one could have ever known when you were in kennels.  I'll be recommending that the next people who fall in love with you take you to a home with a very large, very secure garden. And that you need to be with other dogs.  I think that's what you're looking for when you pace around crying.  I found myself telling the vet that you seemed much happier in the kennels than you ever have since we brought you home, and it breaks my heart to realise it's true.

I don't feel sad for you, Esme, because I know we're taking you back to a much better chance than you'll have with us.  I don't think you'll miss us anywhere near as much as you've been missing the company of other dogs.

I am sad that we will miss your company and the pleasure of seeing you gradually grow into the happy well-trained dog you have so much potential to be.  We will donate all your belongings to the rescue when we take you back, and eventually we'll repair the hundreds of pounds worth of damage you did to our house. But I would swap any amount of furniture for the ability to be the owner that you need.

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