It was so hard. I never thought I would abandon on a beloved pet.
But there I was last week, only a few days after my husband and I agreed to shelter the little Jack Russell terrier that stole our hearts after she wandered onto my parents' farm.
We just weren't prepared for Effie, as we called her. She was raised an outside dog, the people at animal control told us. We have an invisible fence, but I hadn't learned to use it. She scratched at the front door and whined when she had to stay inside.
With all the crazy -- entire days spent focusing on the bodily functions of the dog, my two young boys and the cats, whose litter box had to move when they refused to emerge from under the guest bed -- I had no time to learn.
We had no kennel. Effie is so smart that she defeated every system I arranged for sleep.
The first night, she jumped the pressure gate in the playroom doorway. She seemed content to stay downstairs, away from the cats' new realm in the second story of our house. A thunderstorm struck late that night, and I found her cowering under a chair when I came downstairs to check the weather radar. She jumped in my lap and trembled as I booted up my laptop in the dark. I got to mother her. We bonded.
The next night was much more trying. More thunder. Pressure gate in the play room door way: jumped. Pressure gate moved to the stairwell: jumped, and stairs scaled. Double-high pressure gates in the playroom doorway: Bottom gate knocked down, top gate demolished. Doubled pressure gates in the stairwell: bottom gate knocked down.
These charades lasted for hours until she finally settled on the bench at the foot of our bed upstairs. The cats were protected two doors down in the guest bedroom, where the litter box was newly installed and the door was closed.
Things stayed calm for about two minutes until our little insomniac awoke. Bennett didn't fall asleep until 4:30 a.m.
The sleeping arrangements would have been an easy fix with a kennel. It was the arrangements with the cats that were more difficult.
One afternoon the dog spent an hour trying to see out a living room window because she glimpsed a neighbor cat outside. She yipped and yelped, scratched the woodwork and perched on the window ledge. Imagine how she reacted with a cat in the same room. Up, down, around. Both animals on the piano, claws gripping the antique woodwork. One up the curtain, eight feet high.
The dog so terrorized our older cat, Gertie, that the cat didn't come down from atop the fridge for two days after Effie left.
There were some heart attack-inducing moments the morning we decided to send the dog to the shelter. Effie had defeated the bottom-of-the-stairs gate again. She climbed the stairs and discovered Gertie perched somewhere in our bedroom. A chase ensued. Gertie hid in the guest bedroom. Effie scratched at the 95-year-old door. My 3- and almost-2-year-old sons nearly fell down the stairs, still ungated at the top after two months in this house (we're working on it, promise!). The temperature was subfreezing, and Effie wouldn't relieve herself outside. She peed and pooped on our 3-year-old's rug. Then she peed in our 1-year-old's room. I lost it.
I was beginning to understand what we had to do, but my father, a kindhearted farmer and dog lover, articulated it: Having a dog shouldn't be that hard. The situation wasn't right for us, and it wasn't right for Effie. Much more time stewing over the decision would have been unfair to our sons, who were becoming attached, and to the dog.
Effie is a loving, sweet dog who deserves better. She deserves an active family without cats. One with a fenced yard. One who can take her on frequent walks.
She can still find that, and whatever the case, she's better off than she was when she arrived at the farm, cold, dirty and hungry.
Maybe after some time, when our family is more settled in our new home, we can try again with a puppy who doesn't know she's not supposed to like cats. Maybe the cats will have forgotten by then.
If you're interested in adopting Effie, you can contact the O'Connor Animal Shelter in Concordia, Kan., by calling 785-243-3131.