autism,  family,  motherhood,  siblings and autism

The Right One

This post was supposed to be about Monday night’s trip up to Crookston, Minnesota to watch Temple Grandin speak but that will have to be next week’s post because something else has hijacked our week.

This is Viking. He’s a 5 year old German Shepherd. The shelter picked him up from the pound. He was microchipped when the pound found him, but when they contacted his owners they told the pound that they didn’t want an older GSD anymore and wanted to have younger ones again.

We brought a dog home.

Everyone in this family has been wanting a dog ever since we had to put Fred down (you can read about that here). Everyone, that is, except for Steve. For a year and a half, the kids and I have been begging Steve for a new dog. Finally, in December, Steve agreed to one and we surprised the kids with this card on Christmas letting them know we could start looking for a dog.

So Tuesday (the day after Temple Grandin) we pulled the trigger on the process (after being pre-approved at some rescue agencies in Fargo for a few weeks) and I met Viking at Homeward Animal Shelter. Wednesday morning I brought Steve to meet him. Wednesday afternoon we brought the kids to meet him (W was in love and J wanted to know if this was the one we were taking home). And by close that night we needed to let them know if we were going to adopt him. We said that we needed to talk about it as a family and they said they’d give us until first thing Thursday morning before they listed him as “adoptable” on the website. My friend Amanda (remember Amanda? She’s the awesome woman who bailed us out last week) brought her daughter (they know everything about German Shepherds) and they did a “good citizenship test” with him (he passed!) and suddenly, Thursday night, we picked up Viking and brought him home.

It’s been almost 5 years since we brought Fred home and I remember the first 2 weeks of his adoption were ridiculously stressful. It was fine for W and J. It was terrible on me and Steve.

So I knew it would be the same time this time around. It’s sort of like labour. It’s awful, you know it’s awful, but you forget it, and then you have another baby and remember the awfulness all over again. Thursday night was awful. Suddenly I was having second thoughts over the whole thing. As we left the shelter with Viking, he was so excited that he jumped up on another lady in the waiting room in line for her adoptions (there were 4 adoptions the night we picked up Viking) and licked her face. She was 5 feet tall and he was taller than her. He’s huge.

That night Steve slept with him on the couch because he was stressed out and whiny and I laid in our bed thinking, “what have we done!?” he’s so big, he’s so BIG. What if we can’t train him? He’s so strong? What if we can’t get a pet sitter because he’s so big? What if he can’t be babysat because he’s big and out of control? What if we don’t have time to train him? Finals week was last week? That was terrible enough. Do I even have time to train a dog when I’m trying to make sure all of J’s academic needs and social needs are met? What if I can’t keep on top of J and the dog? Do any of us have time for a dog? W was 9 and J was 11 when we adopted Fred. Our lives are so very different now. The kids have so many activities. Do they have time for a dog? I bawled all night.

I got out of bed a wreck. I bawled to Steve. I apologized for ignoring all his concerns (which were all of the ones that went through my mind the night before–eek he might be right!). I told the kids that we might not keep Viking. J told me he didn’t want Viking to go back. W wouldn’t go near the dog because she didn’t want to get attached. It was rough.

This has to be the absolute worst weather to bring a new dog home in. Trying to introduce him to the potty spot outside and go for walks with him (which he pulls on his leash and needs to be corrected by stopping the walk and having him come back and be ready again) absolutely miserable.
For you Fahrenheit people 😉

But after talking to my friend Angie and my sister Laura I decided to take a different perspective. This was a two week trial again. The shelter told us if for any reason we needed to bring him back, we could. We talked as a family about the plan–especially to W–that not only did we have to make sure he was the right dog for our family, but we needed to make sure and assess if a dog, right now in our life, is right for our family.

W took it really well. And as terrible as I feel about putting my kids on this emotional roller coaster, I keep telling myself that this is a good life lesson. Sometimes you have to put things on trial. Sometimes, as you try to find the right things in life, you may end up loving something or someone only to find out as time goes on that it’s “not the right fit” or “the right one” for you, and you might have to say good-bye. It may be tough but you can do it.

He’s catching on to the kennel really well and we’ve gotten him to stop jumping when he’s excited. He’s a pretty fast learner.

We’re on day 4.5 with Viking (now Rudy–we’ve been reluctant to name him because we first couldn’t agree on a name and then we were scared to name him because we didn’t want to get too attached). Things are getting better. Rudy is a sweet, SWEET boy, he wants to please. He wants to obey. After the first night, he’s fine sleeping on the main floor on his own. He’s warming up to his kennel. We’re trying to find out more about him and he’s trying to find out more about us.

He’s an absolutely lovely dog. And with just a little training would make a great dog for a lot of families. We’ll keep you posted if it’s the right fit for ours.

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