People who’ve read this column over the years know of my family’s challenges with a crazy dog. I’ve written about Boomer several times, detailing all the ways he was a loon, and all the ways we tried to ease his mental suffering.
I’m finally ready to write an update. After seven years of trying to accommodate a dog who clearly hated the noise and chaos of a noisy and chaotic family, we found another home for him in March of 2011. This column is not going to offer advice on how to rehome a distressed and distressing pet because it took me two years and a lot of crying and begging to accomplish it.
What this column will focus on is how Boomer’s sister is doing without him, and how the dynamics have changed in our home since we have gone from two dogs to one. In a word, fantastic! I cannot even believe what a wonderful dog Daisy has become out of the shadows of her neurotic constant companion.
First, a bit of history: We got Daisy and Boomer from a Labrador rescue when they were a few months old. We’d intended to adopt only a girl dog, but these two were very close and we thought they would be better off together.
It quickly became obvious these siblings had extremely different personalities, and we often thought Daisy was a horrible bully to poor, picked-on Boomer.
Another thing we learned was that litter-mates is a particularly tough relationship for people to crack. The dogs were extremely oriented toward each other, less so toward us. This translated to difficult-to-train, hard to take for walks and nearly impossible to take on vacation with us.
Fast-forward to March, 2011. When we found another home for Boomer, we were quite worried that Daisy would be devastated. Although he wasn’t much more than a punching bag to her, Boomer was definitely a habit that could be hard to break.
It turns out that Daisy has blossomed beyond our wildest dreams. Her energy is now focused on being our constant companion, rather than her brother’s tormentor.
And we were pleasantly surprised to find out she’d actually learned everything we’d been trying to teach her. All those training sessions where we spent the bulk of our time trying to get Daisy to stop pouncing on Boomer had positive results: Daisy is a well-behaved dog who can accompany us anywhere. She can go to the Farmers Market, to stores that allow dogs, to the dog park, on vacation with us … she has impeccable manners.
Daisy came out of this experience extremely happy, loyal to us, and well, everything we’d want in a family pet. And we came out of it much better than I’d have imagined, too, because our love of dogs is back.
Honestly, there was a time a couple years ago if you’d have asked our kids about getting dogs when they grew up they’d have said “probably not.” It was just too much work without much reward.
Even worse was the lesson we were afraid we’d be teaching the kids if we found another home for Boomer. Giving up is thought of as so negative, and giving up on a family member seemed like the worst kind of message.
But what my husband and I have realized is that there’s a less-obvious valuable lesson in all of this. Sometimes you can try your best to improve something, and that might not be enough … it just might not be possible to fix everything yourself.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is let someone else — with a different set of skills in a different environment — give it a try.
The other valuable lesson — and you had to know this was coming — is that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Daisy doggedly devoted herself to learning how to be a great family pet, and the Perezes re-learned that, doggone it, a dog is a family’s best friend.
— Tanya Perez is an associate editor at The Enterprise. Her column publishes every other week on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya