It was one of those decisions that we talked about and found reasons not to make for ages. Then when it finally came, it was instantly right for both of us.
Fred and Ellie are now in new "foster" homes, waiting placement in their new "forever" homes. Steve and I said our "Good-byes" this afternoon.
It's quieter here now, even with the TV going.
For those not in the know, Fred was Steve's basset (mix) and Ellie was my shi-tzu (mix). We'd each had them for several years. Each was a rescue with a history. Each was ideal for the one who owned it, not so much for the other one.
Steve got Fred first, back when he lived out in Dassel. He'd gone to the Hutchinson Humane Society, but had to wait a few months before adoption. Fred had been turned in by someone who (said they) found him alongside the highway, suffering from both a broken pelvis and leg. He needed serious healing before being released. Steve lived in a ground floor accessible apartment, ideal because Fred would never be able to climb stairs. Somebody forgot to tell Fred that. He climbed stairs, chairs, couches, and even into bed with Steve in his earlier years. Until this last trip north, he even jumped easily into the back seat of the car. Watching him struggle to get into the car this trip, we suddenly both knew.
Steve adored him, of course. It took me longer to come around, and was never as bonded as Steve was. First was the allergy thing, but mostly it was the shedding. I know you can guess whose job it became to clean up after the shedding in the house, and the requested outdoor brushing never happened often enough to prevent the "Fred Bunnies" from collecting all over the house, clinging to every piece of fabric available, clothing to furniture to rugs. But he had that gentle, terminally sweet disposition and a look from him was designed for nothing else in the world but melting hearts.
His other notable skill was loudly baying at passing coyotes, enough to both drive the neighbors crazy, and after a pause to size up their would-be competition, persuade the coyotes they had someplace else more important to be. The little dog with him would have been a tasty meal, but they would have to have gone through Fred first.
Ellie was my rescue dog, from my local Humane Society. Her abuse was emotional rather than physical, but we suited each other. I was about to retire, at the time a member of a household of 4 with varying schedules, and a dog with severe abandonment issues would practically always have company, including Fred. One of her previous "homes" thought a dog was fine to have around an hour or so a day, when they thought it convenient. Otherwise, she was kept outside in a crate. Not a doghouse, not a kennel, but a crate. Nevermind the weather, hot, cold, or wet. I put her in a crate to ride safely in the car, and within a short while she struggled so hard to get out that her paws were bloody. That was her last time in a crate.
She made a great lap dog, especially right after clipping when she was a bit chilly. She was also my guard dog, facing out from either my lap or the foot of the bed. And she certainly earned Steve's nickname of a "yap dog." Nobody got near the house or back yard without notice. She never shed, a great alternative to Fred, and I didn't mind taking the clippers to groom her about three times a year, even though it took parts of three days to keep her still enough to get the job finished.
The downside was that if both Steve and I left the house long enough, especially the last year or so with my hospitalizations and surgeries, even with Fred's company she became upset enough to become destructive. We learned to shut some doors to limit her access to certain parts of the house, to keep garbage well out of reach, and wound up replacing several items of clothing where she chewed through the nastiest bits before we learned to barricade them sufficiently. (Hey, lidded hampers and high door hooks are easy! Right?)
Well, each of us tired of the other's dog, and even discussed never getting another once these had lived their span. We each knew the other's attachment, and much as we each griped, respected the other enough to not suggest your dog should go. We started looking at the possibility of doing a little more travel, but that meant the extra expense of finding a placement the dogs - Ellie especially - could tolerate. Flying them was out of the question, limiting our options even more. Driving the snowbird path became a longer jaunt when it meant they needed their rest stops too, and motels more work to search out. Plus more stuff needed hauling in and out, and a 3AM potty call meant we had to get dressed and walk them to their idea of a suitable spot rather than open the door to the back yard.
So the discussion of having a life without dogs came up, but was always nixed for the forseeable future.
That is, until we watched Fred struggle getting into the car. It's already just a little hatchback. They don't come lower. Now was the time. We both knew it. We were just leaving to head north, so there was a whole trip to get through first. Luckily, Fred gave just enough extra effort hearing those two magic words, "Milk Bone". It might take two tries, but knowing one was waiting for him did the trick.
We started with the local Humane Society, the one where I rescued Ellie. Their voicemail wasn't encouraging, and in fact they never bothered to call us back. Unbeknownst to us, Steve's daughter knows a woman who works with M.A.R.S., a fostering agency, where the dogs are loved until someone adopts them for their forever companion. The wheels were quickly greased, paperwork completed, foster homes found, a vet check including updating shots completed, and we said our farewells this afternoon. Fred is going to a home where they love bassets. (We never did hear how many they have at the moment.) Ellie is now busy meeting her five new little canine companions and will be squirming into her place on the foot of the bed tonight. The fosterer was there before we left, and I made sure he knew her issues before she left.
Steve and I both tell each other we're OK. Mostly I think we believe it. It's quieter now, less for the neighbors to complain about. Once swept, the floor can be expected to stay somewhat clean for more than an hour. No dog chow and Milk Bones for the budget to stretch around. We can sleep until we waken ourselves. Fewer mobile tripping hazards. No bare feet poked by the tiny bits of dog chow Ellie loved to scatter around, just like the pine cone bits she loved to munch. No cleaning the floor after an accident or throwing up who-the-hell-knows-what? It will probably take a year or so for the great majority of fur bits to wash or vacuum out of where they lodge right now. I think, though, as we find them in the future, they'll recall to mind the happy times rather than the irritation of still more work ... AGAIN! They will become the lingering bits of furry love from our past.