I’ve been silent on this for a a long time because I’ve been afraid that people would call me heartless or cruel.
It was too soon to talk about, too soon for me to open up about.
But this feels like the right time and I think writing this down will help me to move on.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve become familiar with a very significant character in my life story: Zelda the dog.
The husband and I were very excited about having a kid and a dog. Our family was going to get bigger. But, unfortunately, things did not turn out the way we had planned and I just need to get the whole story out.
A little backstory; Zelda was a rescue dog. Me, the husband and our friend spent two hours trying to coax her out of hiding so we could take care of her. She was skin and bones, she had a broken jaw and a swollen face. Being an animal lover, I told myself the whole time that I didn’t need to get attached, we would rescue this dog and get her to a good home.
But all three of us were smitten as we sat in a late night vet clinic, this puppy curled up in my husband’s arms. Our broke, college aged friend even volunteered to scrape up any money he could spare to make sure we could keep her.
As she grew up, we saw more of her personality. She was sweet, gentle and also very hyper. And she was terrified of men, especially big men. We think she was probably abused seeing the terror that overcame her around men sometimes.
But she learned to trust our friends and my dad fairly quickly and was beloved by all our friends.
A lot of times she was misunderstood. She was a big dog, all lean muscle. And she was obviously a pitbull mix…which sadly makes people more afraid of her. There were a lot of people who were intimidated by her and her size; not many people were willing to give her a chance. Which is why I think she loved me and my husband so much because we gave her a chance when no one else would.
When I found out I was pregnant, I felt scared. I knew Zelda, she wouldn’t willingly hurt a fly; but something just felt wrong. Something felt off. And I could never put a finger on it. We were both so uncertain of how she’d be around a newborn! All the time we talked about what we would do if it didn’t work out, and we came close to weeping every time because we just couldn’t imagine things ever coming to that.
My son was born eight days late. And the day before he was born my doctor wanted to see me and there was a high probability that I was going to be induced that night.
Zelda was always in the same room with me, no more than ten feet away from me at all times, my silent guardian angel. But on this day, Monday, February 23rd, Zelda was no more than two feet from me. She was extraordinarily loving that day. She laid on my feet while I brushed my teeth in my tiny bathroom that barely had room for the two of us. She laid right beside me while I put my makeup on while sitting on the floor. She gave me lots of hugs where her huge paws would rest on my shoulders as I sat on the floor facing her. She curled up in between my legs when she got the chance too.
And it was then that I knew instinctively, that this was it. But I didn’t want to face it.
I didn’t come home from my appointment that day. I went straight to the hospital and my husband made sure she was boarded like she had been many times before at our vet’s office.
Fast forward three days and we are finally going home with our first child. So many fears, so much joy and so much trepidation.
We get home, we spend a few hours enjoying the visitors that made their way to see us. But the whole time, my stomach was in knots. I missed Zelda and I needed to know what was going to happen.
Finally my husband brought her home from the vet, like we had many times after vacations and put her out in the backyard to calm down. I went out to see her and immediately was in tears. She would not stop running; she was so hyper. Normally she listened to me and I could soothe her when she got crazy. But not this time, she jumped on me so hard I thought I was going to fall over. She would not stop running laps around our back yard. She was nipping not totally harmlessly at me and my mom and sister.
I was one of the few people in her life that was not afraid of her. And I was scared.
My husband told me that there were a lot of things going on: I smelled different from the breastmilk, to my hormone changes, to the fact that my son had slept on my chest every night since he was born. There were a lot of new things that she needed to adjust too. He told me to go back inside and give her time to calm down by herself and we would worry about introducing them later.
But as the hours lagged on, and I checked on my dog out in the cold February night, she did not slow down. She was not about to stop. She was manic almost and there was nothing I could do.
Fear and worry were gnawing at my guts and finally I begged him to help me introduce them, I couldn’t take this not knowing anymore.
His sisters and brother in law were in our living room with my sisters hanging out and having fun; we knew that if too many people were involved it would only make things worse. So we made sure that my parents were in on things but that everyone else had no idea what was happening behind the scenes.
I fed our son. He was passed out in a deep newborn sleep; not stirring. And we knew it was time. I was waiting in the nursery with Clayton asleep in his crib, prepared to snatch him up if I needed to. Mom and dad were waiting outside the nursery since my dad being so tall made Zelda nervous.
My husband got our dog and held her by the collar while guiding her into our son’s room. She caught sight of him in the crib and started whining and licking her lips. Her muscular body stiffened, every muscle ready for action. She looked at him like he was a rabbit ready to be chased.
I was scared.
My husband brought her a few feet away from the crib and told me to hold my son in our arms so that maybe Zelda would see that I was protective of him. She strained at her collar so much so that my mom and dad felt the need to come in the room and help my husband restrain her.
My dog, who always has one eye on my dad, did not even blink when he came in the room, all she saw was my son. Every inch of her being focused on the 8 lb baby in my arms.
My husband told her to sit, normally the stubborn thing would need a pat on her rump to sit down; but she sat on the first command the way she would when she knew a treat was involved.
The whole time this is happening, my husband kept asking me, “Baby, what do you think?”
And all I had the heart to answer was, “I don’t know.”
Finally my husband told me to switch places with him, I got behind her holding her collar while he picked up our son, hoping that maybe seeing the alpha would help her to understand.
She whimpered, shivering, licking her lips, not responding to me or my attempts to soothe her.
I was silently weeping, I knew what was coming and I couldn’t take it.
Finally my husband asked one last time, “Baby, what do you think?” almost pleading for it not to be the answer we knew it had to be.
I couldn’t answer him.
I collapsed on the floor weeping. There was swift exchange where my dad took the baby, my husband took the dog outside and my mom wrapped her arms around me chanting a mantra to me, “You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing the right thing.”
All I could think was, if this is the right thing why does it feel so bad?
My husband left our dog outside until he could contact our vet. We couldn’t let her sleep outside because it was too cold but we didn’t want to risk her being inside and something happening. I crawled into my bed weeping more than I’ve ever wept before in my life.
He worked out with our vet that they would take care of her until we could figure out what to do.
As he and my mom were gathering up her things, I was able to slip outside with my sister (who loved Zelda almost as much as I did) and we were able to say our last goodbyes.
Both me and my youngest sister were very respected by Zelda, she would listen to us better than other people. But even still, she was nipping a little too much and not able to calm down.
It was like she was a different dog. I didn’t get a calm moment with her before my husband took her because I couldn’t get her to calm down.
My husband and his brother in law took her and all her belongings to the vet for the night. And that was the last I saw her.
There were a lot of crises that happened that weekend on top of trying to figure out what to do with our dog. We didn’t want to send her to a shelter where she would be put down in a few months. We’d rather just put her down ourselves so we could be with her in her last moments. But we also didn’t want to put her down period.
Finally a solution came up, there was a shelter an hour away from us; it wasn’t a no-kill shelter, but they spent a long time working with their animals to find them good homes. They don’t give up easy. My husband’s sister had adopted a dog from there who was in the shelter, altogether, over a year.
So almost a week from my child’s birth, my husband was driving our first baby to the shelter by himself. I woke up early and couldn’t sleep. While the rest of my house was sleeping, I called my husband and asked him to tell me everything that was happening and how she was doing.
He said that according to the vet, Zelda wanted to wear her Christmas sweater. The same sweater that normally she hated wearing, she was now whining for it to be put on her. She was comforted by it.
He told me that she was a lot more calm. That he thought she knew that things had to happen this way. And that he knew that she knew she was loved. Especially by me.
He drove her to the shelter in her Christmas sweater. He took pictures of her and him in their last moments. Took her collar from around her neck to bring home to me and left her there. And I cried the whole day.
He told me the whole way home that the workers at the shelter told him that she was such a beautiful sweet dog, she would be snatched up in no-time at all.
And I think they were right. My friend visited the shelter to look at kittens not a month after this happened. And she said that Zelda was not there.
I like to think she has found herself a loving home, a couple with older kids or a single guy. That she is curled up at the feet of someone else who loves her just as much as I did.
I thought she was going to ours forever. And I’m sad that it was only for a time.
I never thought I would be the person to give up on an animal. I never thought I would get rid of my dog when my baby came into the world. And maybe there are people that will read this story and get mad at me; that’s okay, I used to be you!
Just know this. I loved that dog more than I could handle sometimes. I also knew her and her behavior. And her behavior was different that night. Like my mom said, “For the first time I saw her for the animal she is not the baby she was.”
Getting rid of my dog was always a last resort attempt. And that’s what it was that night.
There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her. But I believe all things happen for a reason, even if you can’t always see it.