I Need Your Advice About My Dogs

Angel, the stray who wound up having her puppies in my friend's barn. Shenanigans is to the left of the picture. Tom is underneath somewhere.

This isn’t going to be a normal blog post. I need advice, but I want to tell the backstory, which would be far too much for a Facebook post, so I am using this space instead. Not ideal, but hopefully people will read this and give me advice.

Five years ago, Shenanigans and Tom were born into a large litter of mutts. Their mother was a huge dog, part Great Pyrenees, part who knows what (Shenanigans got her mother’s polydactylism, Tom did not). Their father was a purebred Australian cattle dog. The puppies looked like cattle dogs, except for Shenanigans. She was the biggest puppy and mostly solid black. I wanted her and I wanted to name her Shenanigans. But I also wanted a Tom Foolery. One of the plainest puppies, a blue male, crawled over to me as soon as he could crawl and never left me. Whenever I visited the litter, that one puppy would seek me out and stay with me, even when the rest of the litter would reform into a sleeping ball of dog. He was my Tom Foolery.

I found a rescue group to take the litter, but I kept Tom and Shenanigans, ostensibly to give to a friend. But that sort of fell through/I really, really didn’t want to give them up. I wound up keeping them. Evan didn’t want them, and as a result, they became outdoor dogs. I always felt guilty about this, so I tried to make up for it with lots of obedience training, walks in the woods, dog park trips, playing in the yard, even sheep herding. (Tom, who is very smart, was a sheep herding rock star. Shenanigans, the most maternal animal even born, was a conscientious objector. She just wanted to love the sheep.)

Tom Foolery as a young man.

Recently, I’ve been turning them into indoor/outdoor dogs. Whenever they come in they remind me of a passage from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, where the characters go to heaven and each thinks, “Surely, this cannot be meant for me.” It makes me feel like I failed them. Right now, as I write this, Tom has his nose on my left elbow and a look of pure rapture on his face. He is gloriously happy.

I am the opposite of gloriously happy.

In less than a month, I am going to LA. It might surprise you to hear this, but a BFA in screenwriting only gets you so far in South Carolina. I will be there for a handful of weeks, during which time I am going to try to figure out a way to move there. I might succeed, I might fail. (It’s not something I am going to do if I can’t afford it.)

I have six animals, you guys. The chance I could afford a place in LA where I could house all six is essentially nil.

In an ideal world, I would find a friend willing to keep my dogs until I could afford such a place, but I’m not hopeful that I’ll be able to find such an arrangement.

Placing them permanently seems more likely, but there I run into another issue. Shenanigans’ favorite person in the whole wide world is Evan’s mom, Alice. This makes me pretty confident she’d be equally happy with someone who isn’t me. I’m not sure if that holds true for Tom, who is a one person dog. He picked me when he was tiny puppy and never looked back on that

Little Shenanigans, using her brother as an elbow rest.

decision. So, I could place Shenanigans and not Tom, but I worry he’d be lonely without her. And would it be fair to him, this dog that loves the woods and his backyard, to turn him into a city dog?

It occurs to me that all of this may read like a lot of agonizing over something that isn’t very important, in the grand scheme of things. It’s like in Casablanca when Humphrey Bogart makes the observation that the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans. I’d imagine it amounts to even less when it’s the problems of a couple of dogs. Not that either of them knows there is a problem. Ignorance is bliss. (Tom is still at my elbow, smiling at me. He smiles.)

I know these problems aren’t important, but this doesn’t stop me from crying about them. Tom Foolery and Shenanigans, more than anyone, have been there for me. They have been my solace. They are my family. They are always happy to see me when I come home. There was a time when my life was darkness and anxiety, but when I’d pull up into the driveway and Tom would always be there, rain or shine, his tail a giant windmill of wag.

I have never placed a dog or a cat before. Once you’re a part of my family, you’re a part of my family forever. I keep my commitments and I try my best to do right by them. Not only do I feel like I have failed to do right by my dogs, I feel like I am preparing to repay their loyal service with betrayal.

Shenanigans and Tom Foolery today.

But maybe these are over dramatic and inaccurate thoughts. Maybe they’d be happier in a new home, where they’d get to be inside a lot. Certainly, Shenanigans would like to be a professional laying down dog at this point in her life. When we go on our woodland rambles she plods along slowly beside me, only occasionally trotting after Tom. Tom, meanwhile, is still as much of an explorer as he ever was, checking out miles of forest for each one I cover. He always checks in on me, though. He’ll be gone for awhile, but then he pops up, lays eyes on me, and bounds off again. Sometimes, when he gets a little too comfortable with staying gone, I’ll put him on the leash for a few days. He’ll walk patiently beside me, as if he didn’t really want to be somewhere else. He’s a good dog. They’re both good dogs. If they weren’t, this wouldn’t be so hard.

Long story short – I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s best for them. I want to do whatever is best for them. I know that nobody can really answer these questions. But any and all thoughts and pieces of advice would be welcome.

4 thoughts on “I Need Your Advice About My Dogs

  1. kerry says:

    Have you already decided to definitely give them up? Perhaps the magical place with room for all of your pets is waiting for you on the west coast. As the great Tom Petty sings, “Most things I worry about never happen anyway…” I will keep my fingers crossed for you that it all works out. xo

  2. JMart says:

    I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you: If you decide to find any one of them a new home, take them to a place where you know they will be loved. If you know they are loved and happy, then the pain goes away. If you have a single doubt in your mind about a prospective new home, don’t place them there. The worst thing for a dog is to be shuttled around from new home to new home. They need stability and schedule along with love. And exercise, which it sounds like they have plenty of with you, and so too they should in their hypothetical new home. Don’t sweat them missing you (they will) because they can adjust to a new owner if they are happy there.

  3. Peter Exline says:

    You have to do what’s best for you. Forget the guilt, forget the ideas you have about what make the animals happy. Do what makes Carrie happy. It’s not the Catholic way, but………

  4. angie augsburger says:

    Your issues are surely larger than my quest for pumpkin spiced almonds I have been lamenting about on Facebook. Call it pregnancy hormones if you will, but alas, when something aches your heart, it does.
    I wish I was able to offer an in-a-nut-shell, easy solution, but when pets and hearts are concerned, it’s not so easy! Have you thought of trying to find friends who could maybe watch the for a week at a time? I have 3 other large dogs or I would love to be able to step up and help (more long term). Keep your chin up and pray about it. Crying is perfectly acceptable too. 🙂 hugs and love!

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