Over five months ago, we adopted Teddy, a Tibetan terrier mix. He was five years old, and cute as a button. We had no idea what his life had been like before his owners surrendered him to the animal shelter.
After about six weeks, Teddy really started to relax. He began playing with toys, and racing around the living room, hoping that Molly (the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon) would chase him. She often did, barking in frustration because she couldn't catch him. (Karma's a bitch, Molly dear. You did the exact same thing to Sophie when you were a puppy.)
We soon discovered, however, that Teddy had a few physical boundaries that, when violated, turned him into a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. It's as if he was possessed for 10 seconds, then normal. One of the boundaries was human feet, so he might have been kicked a lot. We hired a trainer to help us, and I worked with Teddy every day, and kept him leashed to me all day to help establish dominance. We muzzled him and did desensitizing exercises, touching his feet and body. It was going well....then not well...then well...then not well.
Turns out that I, as a person with clear boundaries, somehow chose a dog with clear boundaries. Melissa and Molly, on the other hand, do not have boundaries. When you don't have them, it's hard to recognize and remember that others have them. Teddy became my dog, following me everywhere. Melissa became, to Teddy, "The Other."
To make a long story short, after five months it was clear that Teddy and Melissa/Molly weren't a good combination, which upset all of us.
A friend of ours who'd met Teddy, and spent an evening caring for him, stepped up. "I'll take him," she said. "I live alone, don't have visitors, and I can respect his boundaries."
We have never given away a dog. Any dog we've owned--purchase or adopted, no matter the problems---stays with us until he or she dies. But after five months of really, really trying, I had to accept that we couldn't do that this time.
Three weeks ago, Teddy went to his new home. He's doing well. I miss him. Melissa even misses him. It's easy to fall in love with a dog even though he has 'issues.' Luckily, he's only five miles away, so I can visit him whenever I want.
A friend recently asked us for advice. She'd rescued a little dog from a horrible living situation, but the new dog wasn't getting along with her existing dog, and there was lots of stress. She wanted to find him another home, but felt guilty, as if she had to keep him. We reminded her that she'd done something important---getting the dog out of a difficult situation, which is the first step.
I guess we have to look at Teddy's situation that way. We got him out of the shelter. We showed him what a good, safe home looks like. We taught him lots of things. We loved him every day.
Now it's someone else's turn.
We'll get another dog soon---there are too many dogs stuck in kennels to not open up our home and try again.