On Sunday, Gino is going to live somewhere else.
That feels really weird, but it’s absolutely what needs to happen. Let me exlain…
In May 2017, I heard through a friend of a friend posting for another friend in a Facebook group that there was a dog being rehomed because his family was in a difficult place and could no longer keep him. He had been trained as a sensory alert/companion dog for a little girl with autism, which made him sound perfect for us.
We had occasionally talked about getting a second dog, but had never really settled on when or how that might happen. We decided that this was probably an ideal situation, especially as there was so much anxiety going on in our house at the time. So we packed up the boys and our dog, Annie, and went to meet Gino.
All the dogs at the breeder’s place were caged and Gino was ecstatic to get out and run around the arena. Once he settled down a bit, we were able to throw a ball for him to fetch. The breeder talked about how respectful he was of Annie, and he was. She also talked about how interested he was in our boys. This I did not see, but I assumed the breeder knew more about it than I did. Annie has always been very attached to me, but she’s had some difficulty with the boys, so I didn’t really know what it would look like for a dog to be interested in them.
What I know now is that Gino was interested in the ball. Period.
We went home to talk about it and the breeder said she would call us when she’d finished meeting with the string of other people who had made appointments. We were the first who had met him. She called the next day saying that, if we felt it was the right fit for our family, she would love for us to have Gino. We talked about it some more and decided it was a now-or-never situation, so we accepted Gino into our family. For a pretty steep price.
I’m not sure how long it took us to realize we were in over our heads. It may have been that first night. But we were also in denial.
Gino is a beautiful dog. He is sweet and loving and his tongue sticks out a little bit when he’s just sitting around relaxing and it’s just about the cutest thing ever. He’s energetic and smart and completely uninterested in our boys unless they are throwing a ball for him, which they don’t do very often.
As for the sensory alert/companion part? All I can say is my ass. Instead of helping reduce our anxiety, he just added his own anxiety into the mix. Not only does he have no interest in the boys, he runs outside whenever one of them starts to cry or get upset.
Then there is the barking. Oh. My. The barking. My office has a window that looks out over our street and he barks when anyone walks by. Our house is next to the path that leads to the front of the neighborhood, so pretty much everyone walks by. We had to put special coating on the window next to our front door because Gino would just stand there and bark at spiders, leaves, wind…whatever. He chases dust around our house. That was cute at first, but quickly became annoying.
I understand all of the behaviors. He’s bored. We are not an energetic enough family for him. That’s not his fault any more than it is ours. We love him and he loves us, but we are not the right family for him.
And yet, we couldn’t send him back to the breeder. She was cagey and unresponsive any time I asked about his training. There was no paperwork when we bought Gino. And he was not chipped. I don’t trust her and I wouldn’t send any dog to her, let alone one I love.
Kowalski was telling a friend about Gino at lunch one day when the friend said, “Do you need me to take him?” She lives on acreage and has horses and four dogs. Her dogs are all older and won’t hike with her anymore, so she had actually been looking for a new hiking companion. Gino went for a trial run one weekend and it went really well. He hiked 18 miles over the course of two days. He wasn’t even tired.
The only thing left was to tell the boys. That did not go well. There was lots of screaming and crying spread out over days. We were cursed at and things were thrown. After about a week of I-Hate-Yous and This-Is-Not-Happenings, we were finally able to explain that this was the best thing for Gino. That we wouldn’t give him up if it wasn’t someplace where he would be happier.
Kowalski and I even realized something new that helped the boys understand. The family he was with for the first two years of his life was going through an acrimonious breakup. The mom and two daughters had gone to live with the grandparents and the grandfather was in the beginning stages of dementia. The little girl he lived with was blind as well as autistic. We knew all of that when we got Gino.
We knew that was why they had to give him up. What we hadn’t thought about was the effect that environment had on Gino. Of course he was anxious all the time. How could he not be? And no wonder he runs from the boys when they cry. They make erratic and awkward attempts to hug or lay on him and it freaks him out. Although it’s true that he needs a home that is more physically active, mostly needs one that is infinitely calmer than ours. He needs to run and be chill and he can’t do either here.
So, this move, this new home, is best for everyone involved.
But it’s still really, really sad.