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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.