Where’s Jack? Why We Chose to Re-home Our Dog
I’ve been getting sporadic messages from people throughout the past few months asking “Where’s Jack?” or “How’s Jack handling having a new baby in the house?” In case you’re new around here, Jack is our black, puggle mix that we rescued when he was a few months old back in 2008.
Honestly, I debated not sharing what happened to Jack, because I know how passionate some people are about pets. But I realized there are others out there who’ve probably been in our same situation, or perhaps others could learn from our experience and take steps to prevent what transpired for us.
Owen and Jack
When Owen came into the mix in 2014, Jack was fine– until Owen became mobile. And things seemed to get worse the older Owen got. Jack’s anxiety ramped up, and it’s like he was trying to compete with Owen now that Owen was bigger. Jack would try to get between us and Owen when we were playing with Owen on the floor. He would growl at Owen from time to time but it was more of a low-key “leave me alone” growl. It broke our hearts because Owen loved him so much and always wanted to play with him.
After consulting with our vet, he recommended we put Jack on an anti-anxiety medication. We also made a point to walk Jack more often, and double down on training techniques– Jack was never allowed in our bed (he slept in his crate), he wasn’t allowed on the furniture (we strictly implemented this after Owen was born and we got new couches), he was never fed table scraps, he knew commands (sit, stay, lay down, wait, leave it, etc.). We also always reminded Owen how to treat animals. And he was never rough with Jack. He never laid on him or tried to sit on him, never grabbed his ears or tail. We taught Owen to always ask before petting a dog. Owen would even ask if it was okay to pet Jack.
Moving Into the New House
But things started to decline after we moved into the new house. Leading up to the move Jack was understandably anxious– getting the house staged, packing boxes, etc. In fact, to make things easier on Jack and us, we sent Jack to stay with Brad’s parents for a couple weeks while we showed the house. We didn’t want to have to cart him around with us while the house was being shown and then bring him back to the house where he’d be able to smell that strangers were there. And if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t want to have to constantly vacuum up his hair before showings.
We know moving can be stressful for a dog. In fact, when we moved from an apartment to our last house, Jack would vomit every day until we took him to the vet, and she said it was stress-induced. So we gave him Pepcid for a week and he was fine. But with this move, Jack seemed okay. I kept waiting for him to vomit, but he didn’t. He did, however, always follow me and Owen around the house. If I went upstairs to check on the laundry, Owen would go with me, and Jack would wake up from a deep slumber to follow us. This happened every time. But, if Owen was napping, and I had to go upstairs for some reason, Jack would remain sleeping soundly on the first floor. We consulted with our vet a few times, and he recommended adding another medication to help calm Jack down.
In early August, Jack attempted to bite me. He had snuck out the backdoor when I stepped out to water my plants and ran down to the lake. I called for him to come back, but he wouldn’t listen so I walked down to get him. He still wouldn’t listen to me, so I went to reach for his collar, and he tried to bite my hand. This was not his typical behavior. After getting back to the house and sending him to his crate, I burst into tears, telling Brad between sobs what had happened. I had no clue what had gotten into him.
The next morning, Owen, Jack, and I were upstairs in the master bedroom while I was getting ready for the day. I stepped into the bathroom to go to the bathroom for one minute. And in that time, Jack bit Owen. I heard Owen screaming and crying so I ran out and picked him up. He kept saying, “Jack bit me”. Thankfully, the bite didn’t break the skin. From what I can assume, Owen attempted to hug Jack, and Jack nipped his cheek. Was it okay for Owen to do that? No. But we couldn’t expect our then-two-year-old to do the right thing 100% of the time. Was it okay for me to leave them alone together? No. But I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who don’t always take their toddler or dog to the bathroom with them in order to never leave the two alone in the same room.
It just so happened that we were supposed to be meeting my parents an hour away that night to give them Jack for at least a week while we went on our New England trip. We left Jack in our car with the air conditioner running while we ate dinner with my parents. And when it came time to put Jack into their truck, Owen screamed and cried because he didn’t want Jack to go with them. I immediately started crying because all I could think was, “Holy crap. Jack bit you this morning, but you still love him so much.”
Jack did fine at my parents’ house while he was there. He enjoyed his daily walks around my quaint hometown and being ignored by my parents’ two older female dogs. My parents said they’d keep him as long as needed.
A Second Chance and a Dog Behaviorist
After multiple, lengthy conversations, Brad and I decided to give Jack a second chance. I mean, he was our dog for 9.5 years, and we felt like we needed to really try to make this work. So we called a renowned dog behaviorist, who happens to be local, and made an appointment. We met with the dog behaviorist, immediately implemented her program and called her weekly with updates and questions. It seemed to be working for the first few weeks. We walked Jack everyday with a special collar, and we saw a vast improvement with his leash/walking skills. But I felt like I was always commanding Jack to lay on his bed or go to his crate. And I was constantly on edge, trying to never turn my back when both Owen and Jack were in the same room, which was almost all the time. And all of this was going on while we dealt with house issues, and I was still in my first trimester. Needless to say, I was stressed out.
Is Jack Happy? And Another Bite
Brad and I had several discussions about everything, and I would always say, “Do we think Jack is happy? Do we think he even likes living here anymore? Because it doesn’t seem like he does.”
A little over a month into the training, out of the blue, Jack bit Owen on the hand. I was in the same room and saw it within my peripheral vision. Owen was walking by Jack’s bed, and Jack popped up and bit him. Thankfully, it didn’t break the skin. But this was the last straw. And I feared when the new baby came that I’d be feeding or changing him, and not be able to fully keep an eye on Jack and Owen while in the same room and something would happen.
The Decision to Re-home
Later that night, we called my parents and asked if they’d consider taking Jack permanently. They said yes. And they happened to be coming here that weekend so they said they’d bring him back to their house on Sunday.
Between October and December, Owen would bring up Jack from time to time, and we’d say that Jack went to live with grandma and grandpa. One night, Owen found one of Jack’s balls in the basement and said, “I’ll sit it right here until Jack comes back.” Talk about ripping your heart out. Our little boy loved his dog. But it just wasn’t safe for them to be together anymore.
I text with or talk to my mom almost daily, and when I ask how Jack is doing she’ll say he is doing great. He enjoys his morning walks and napping in the sun in front of their storm door. It appears he is loving not living with a toddler/preschooler. My parents slowly weaned Jack off his meds, and he seems to be doing well without them. He’s happier, which makes us happy.
In a way, we’re happier, too. First and foremost, Owen is in a safer environment. We don’t have the stress of trying to never turn our backs on Jack and Owen. But it’s still hard to say goodbye to your dog of 9.5 years. We miss him, because before Owen, he really was a good dog. And he had moments where we was good with Owen, they were just few and far between.
We went to my parents’ house this past Christmas, and to be honest, I was dreading the visit. How would Jack act toward Owen? How would Jack act toward us? Would Owen have a meltdown when it was time to go and we were leaving Jack behind? Thankfully, things went amazingly well. Jack and Owen got along fine. Jack didn’t pay too much attention to Brad or me. It’s like he thought, “If I don’t really acknowledge them, they won’t notice me and take me back with them.” When it was time to leave, Owen said bye to Jack and didn’t seem phased we were leaving Jack at grandma’s and grandpa’s house.
Some may think we gave up on Jack too soon. Some may think we gave him too many chances. But in the end, we did what we felt was right for our family, and for Jack. We know we tried our best to make it work. We just think Jack was never cut out to live with children.
What We Would’ve Done Differently
Would we have done things differently? Yes. We would’ve taken Jack to training a lot sooner. Which is why I give friends and family semi-unsolicited advice about training their dog as soon as possible and not babying them, especially if they’re planning to have kids in the future. Because I feel like a lot of people, especially younger adults, treat their dogs more like children and less like dogs. We were certainly guilty of that to a point.
I also tell people to keep in mind that there’s a big difference between a dog interacting with a immobile baby and a mobile toddler. An immobile baby doesn’t pose as much of a threat to a dog as a mobile baby. So just because the dog is interacting fine with an infant, doesn’t mean they’ll interact well with a toddler.
In the end, we’re so lucky, and forever grateful, that my parents were willing to adopt Jack. We didn’t have to take him to an animal shelter, or give him to people we/he didn’t know. We ended up with the most ideal scenario. He’s with people (and dogs) he’s known his entire life and living in a house he’s very familiar with and comfortable in.
So while it’s not the happiest of endings, it’s the best situation we could ask for given the circumstances.
Some people have asked us if we plan on getting another dog. I definitely see us having a dog in the future, but we don’t think now is the right time for us to add a dog into our family. I joke that we’ll get another when the boys are old enough to start relentlessly begging for a dog.
Sadly, Jack passed away on October 14, 2019. He suffered a perforated intestine and septic peritonitis due to ingesting a foreign object or a mass. Brad and I loaded up the boys and rushed an hour away to meet my parents at the animal hospital. My mom, Brad, and I were able to love on Jack before we made the difficult, but humane, decision to have him put to sleep. He passed away surrounded by the three of us.
We take comfort knowing Jack had two peaceful years of retirement living with my parents, away from loud and unpredictable little kids. He enjoyed daily walks, naps in the sunshine, and table scraps he succeeded in procuring after years of longing for them when he lived with us.
While this a much better story than to say you had him put down giving him another chance at your parents will still give him aforever home. I think Jack deserved this. No one can ever really know what makes a dog anxious & turn to biting only God knows but a second chance at your parents where he will continue to get love was a good decision. My son’s black lab just out of the blue attacked one of his boys in the face. The boy had to have plastic surgery and still wears the scars inside & out over this issue. It is never an easy decision to give up a pet you have loved so long. God bless you and your family:)
You tried and ended up doing what is right for both Jack and your family. I have seen people give up way sooner and then put the dog down so they don’t have to deal with it. You did the right thing!
Thanks for sharing this, Chelsea! We were so unsure of how Lucy would do with a baby. She is a rescue pup who has always struggled with new people. She is painfully “shy”, and hides from just about anyone who visits, who isn’t our parents or siblings. She is also touch-shy, and doesn’t let people not inside her close circle touch her. She has never been aggressive, but it’s just a big worry.
When we had our daughter prematurely, there were long stretches when we knew we couldn’t be home, and so my in-laws took her for a few weeks so that she wouldn’t have to be alone at our house. She did fine with them, but once we transitioned her back to our house part time when my husband went back to work (and I was still in the hospital with the baby), she was vomiting daily, and stressed. When the baby and I came home, I hadn’t seen Lucy in over 6 weeks, and she was a little standoffish to me, and definitely avoided us. Now, she is super comfortable around the baby, and will lay next to her with no issue. I hope that since she is always okay with us and our very close family members, that she will be fine with our daughter, but I know things can change. I sincerely hope we don’t have to, but we are glad to know that we have options of family that can take her if absolutely necessary.
Thanks for sharing your story- I think we would have handled it the same way. Yes, I do leave Lucy and the baby while I go to the bathroom or if the baby is napping, (I didn’t right away, but you’re right- I imagine many people do). I think it sounds like you’re much less stressed about it, and the Jack’s life is happier and also less stressful, which is a win-win! I’m sure you miss him- I know we would miss Lucy, but we would also want her to be happy, like you said.
I’m so sorry this happened to you and your family. Lots of love and support coming your way!
I think you handled this situation amazingly well. It’s never easy when the kids and pets don’t get along. Thank you for sharing your story. (((hugs)))
You are NOT alone! Pets are people too, and not everyone is meant to live with everyone else. We’ve had a similar situation, with one of our pets, my MILs pet, friend’s pets. It’s so hard, it makes you feel so guilty, but in the end only you can know what is best for your family. I’m so glad Jack is able to be within your family so you can still see him. I think it’s great that you’re willing to share this publicly, I’m sure more people are dealing with this issue and it helps to know you’re not alone.
I can relate 100%. We got our dog Roscoe in early 2008 as well. Our son (coincidentally named Jack) will be 3 in August and we just had our second baby in March. Our dog’s behavior is exactly the same towards our son – he does the low “leave me alone” growl from time to time and in general just tries to keep a distance from our son. He was ok with our son when he was a baby, but the toddler energy seems to be too much for him. We have taught our son not to touch our dog and are trying our best to make it work. Our son loves our dog and also cries when we have to leave him if we go on vacation. Thank you for posting your experience. I know from experience that it is a really difficult situation to be in. I’m so glad your parents were able to take Jack and that it sounds like he’s doing great there!
I think (not that it matters what I think ?, it’s your family!) that you guys did the absolute right thing!! I appreciate this post so much, for its honesty and helpful ideas on how to handle a situation like this. I’m so happy Jack had a happy, good place to go where you all can still see each other and that you don’t have to be worried or stressed about this while trying to raise your boys!
I’m so sorry you had to go through this and part with your precious pup! How wonderful though that he is with family and you can still see him and check in. As hard as I’m sure that was, it sounds like you made the right decision for your family to keep everyone safe and happy.
You did the best thing for your family and Jack. Had you taken Jack to the humane society I would have been upset. I don’t think people who have toddlers and new babies should get a dog or a puppy (which was not your case since you already had Jack but a lot of people do). Puppies bite, chew, scratch, poop and pee…….for the first year. People with small children don’t really have the time to deal with and train a puppy. I hate to see them crated for long periods of time just because they are being a puppy. When someone decides to get a dog or puppy a little research on the breed (or breeds) should be done. Our first dog was a Dalmatian. Guess what? Dalmations are not good with children (we don’t have any kids). Kids always wanted to pet him because of the movie and I would say no. You did the right thing and continue to do the right thing waiting until the kids are older to get another dog.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is almost EXACTLY what we went through with one of our two dogs (who coincidentally was all black and looked a little like Jack). As soon as our daughter became mobile he completely changed. We did months of training (with trainers at our house too) and tried to make it work, but in the end, we realized how incredibly unhappy he must have been being so stressed out. My in-laws took him in and we get to see him when we visit. Still breaks my heart that it didn’t work out and I had major guilt at the time, but he’s so much happier there. Kids are so unpredictable and he just couldn’t handle it.
Take solace in the fact that you made the right decision not just for you guys but for Jack too. And it doesn’t mean that Owen can’t have a dog again someday. xoxo
I can’t blame you for the decision you made. It sounds like Jack is much happier with your parents and your boys are safe. That is all that matters.
I am in awe of how much thought, care and attention you gave the situation and resolved it so well for your babies and fur baby. Cheers to thoughtful and loving parents and pet owners!
Like you and many others, I went through something similar to this with my dog of 10 years. Once the baby was born she went to my parents’ and ended up staying there. She would just go crazy when the baby was around and we never felt comfortable letting them be in the same space together. I’m pretty sure she would’ve bitten my son had we let her come closer more often. She had several health issues and eventually had to be put down when my son was 8 months old. We recently rescued an older dog (8 years old) who had grown up with little children and he has adjusted amazingly to our home with a toddler. I’m so sorry about Jack, but how wonderful that he can still be in your lives in a small way. I hope you will find the perfect pup for your family. Hugs to you!
I’m totally a pet person, but you lasted longer than I would have. After the first bite, I would have found him a new home. I’m sure he is happier, as you probably have been. You gave him to a new family before you hated him, he angered you, and you couldn’t trust him. You really did do what’s best for EVERYONE, especially Jack and Owen.
I’m so sorry this happened to your family. It’s gut wrenching.
I’m so sorry about Jack but what a relief your parents could take him. You made the right decision.
We had to do the same when my second son was born. Our dog, Ruby, is a 10-lb yorkie and was my “first born”. When my first son was born it was fine, but #2 came along dealing with a toddler, a newborn, and a small dog got too difficult. I was scared for her, my older son was very gentle, but he was a toddler, he fell on her once and she nipped at him, and she was constantly under my feet for attention and I tripped over her with the baby in my arms. I was getting really short with her, she didn’t deserve me to yell at her when I would come home after work with 2 hungry kids right at their witching hour when all she wanted was to play or go for a walk. My husband’s aunt offered to take her “for 2 weeks” and it’s been over a year now. Ruby now sleeps our aunt’s bed with her, has a cat sister she plays with, and gets all the love and attention she deserves. Our aunt sends us pictures and updates and Ruby is very happy. They came to visit recently and it was great, but I’m sure we made the right decision for us and for Ruby. I miss her every day, and my older son asks about her often, but it just wasn’t the right time. I know it’s so hard, but you did the right thing.
This exact scenario happened to us. Coming home to a 75lb dog who wanted nothing more than your attention and a walk right at the kids’ witching hour (I have 2 toddlers now. 16 months apart) was so hard and there’s nothing we could do for him. while my husband was bathing oine kid, I was feeding the other. Neither of us could leave the house to take the dog for a walk and the poor guy was miserable.
It was heartbreaking, but so unfair to the dog. We gave him up to a bulldog rescue that placed him immediately with a great family who loves him.
What a tough decision to have to make, but ultimately you made the right one.
Somehow I missed this post until you recently linked to it. I wanted to say thanks for sharing the hard stuff! We were also terrified having a pet around a baby (an eighteen-year-old cat who ended up passing away when our kiddo was fourth months old). We are petless for the first time since ’92, and are surprisingly okay with it. It feels like the right thing for this stage in our lives.