January 8, 2012

embracing and letting go

At some point in the last couple of months, we had been watching our 10-year-old greyhound go through a series of illnesses that left us broke and seriously stressed out. We began to realize the true limitations of our current living situation: a two bedroom condo, no yard, and a concrete patio. That means gearing up for doggy potty walks 3-5 times a day, which we have done faithfully for 8 years. Unless he's sick, in which case it means even more quick walks and breaking out the carpet shampooer and washing bedding and anything else that comes into contact with bodily fluids.

I should stop here and say that Louie has been an amazing dog. He doesn't chew on things, doesn't bark at people, isn't aggressive, and just wants love most of the time (when he isn't sleeping 16 hours a day). He doesn't do a lot of normal dog things either, like fetch or sit (looks incredibly uncomfortable). We adopted him from a local greyhound organization and really loved him.

With a string of recent stomach upsets plus an infection, I started to realize quickly my own capacity for taking care of this senior hound coupled with the impending responsibility of a newborn. If I felt overwhelmed and exhausted now... Well, we wondered if it was fair to the dog to keep him on when we'd be learning how to be parents and cleaning up a different set of bodily fluids on a daily basis.

Very early Christmas morning, we woke up to an absolute disaster in our master closet. We sprang into action with the washing machine and carpet shampooer - even had to clean some extra clothes and a dresser - and we knew what we had to do.

Yesterday we drove Louie and all his accouterments to a foster that specializes in taking care of senior greyhounds, lives in a big house that backs up to a nature trail, and has three other dogs to keep him company. We knew we were making the right decision. He'll be much happier there, and won't get ignored by owners who are learning how to take care of a baby.

This morning was hard, though. I woke up thinking about how I didn't have to take the dog out, how for the first time in years we could just sleep in and not worry about cleaning up the latest illness... and cried. Eight years is a long time - almost as long as our marriage so far - and it was the end of an era.

We're in transition from being fur-kid parents to skin-kid parents. In a way, caring for Louie has prepared us (I can't even count how many batches of poo and barf we've cleaned off the carpet and the dog), yet of course we're nowhere near prepared. But we are definitely ready. Even at this moment, our son is shifting around in my belly and I'm incredibly excited. I never thought I'd have to let go of something really significant in order to take hold of this, but I do. I really do.

Oh, someday we'll probably get another dog. But it will be a few years, and not unless we live in a bigger place with a backyard. We'd have moved by now if it weren't for the real estate market crash, and we have many thousands of dollars to save before we can sell the condo and put a downpayment on a house. So there it is. We're stuck here for now, but like many other people we're doing the best we can with what we have.