This is Bentley:

Love at first sight

So cute, right?! He is a 110 pound (oversized) Airedale Terrier and my first “child.” I had wanted an Airedale for a few years and one day I convinced my husband to take a “short” (2.5 hours each way) drive to go see some Airedale puppies that a family was selling. Of course the moment he saw them he wanted one! Bentley sort of picked us. He was the fattest of the puppies and while the rest were running around like crazy he walked up to us and plopped himself down between my husbands feet. Then my husband scooped him up to cuddle him and said to me “I want this one.” We brought him home a few weeks later when he was about 11 weeks old.

When he was still small enough for me to carry him

To say that this dog was a naughty puppy would be an understatement! He bit, he chewed, he barked, he destroyed everything he could get his teeth on. He did potty train in just four days though. We took him to puppy training classes like good “parents.” Still, he was SO hyper! Then I found a dog daycare not far from where we lived and I took him 3-4 days a week. Perfect! He ran and played with other dogs, learned to swim, and got a ton of attention while my husband and I were at work. Of course we both worked full time and had no children so we could afford that kind of frivolous expense. Dog daycare did wonders for him.

Naughty face!

His “I wanna play!” stance

He seemed almost human

Best swimmer!

Food beggar

The baby, Scarlet

Over the next couple of years he was our main focus at home. We took him to the dog park, to dog festivals, on long walks, on fun outings to the pet store, and swimming. He had the life! Then… along came the little sister. We adopted our second dog Scarlet and brought her home at only 6 weeks old. She was so tiny and cute! But it was immediately clear that Bentley did not see her the same way. He hated her! I was so upset. I thought I had ruined his life! Thankfully, within a week he was used to her and then they became the best of friends.

Sibblings

Partners in crime

Then things really changed! When Bentley was 4 years and Scarlet was 1 year I found out I was pregnant. You know, everyone says that having a baby changes the way you feel about your pets. I swore it wouldn’t be that way for me. But truly, even though you still love them and care for them it does change. You change. Your house changes. It is inevitable. We worked hard to do all of the things you’re supposed to do when introducing your new baby to your dogs. Scarlet adjusted very well. Bentley… not at all.

The trouble with Bentleys reaction to our daughter was almost immediate. He didn’t seem to care for a few days. But then things began to unravel. At two weeks old my daughter was nearly flung from her swing when his whole 110 pounds bolted towards her because she dared to fuss for a second. He bashed himself into the swing right as I ran to stop him and I caught my delicate little newborn as she fell. So scary! After that moment I didn’t leave my daughter within reach of the dog. I was always closer to her than he was.

As time passed we tried to give the dogs more attention and give Bentley more exercise. We tried to help him see the baby as non-threatening to him. It didn’t work. Then she began crawling and his nervousness with her went through the roof. One day she crawled a little too close to his food dish and he flipped out! At that point I was certain he was a danger to my daughter. He would rush at her constantly, which was scary enough because he was so heavy and could be clumsy. He was always stepping on our feet and it hurt! I couldn’t imagine what would happen if he trampled my daughter. It would have happened for sure if I hadn’t been so protective of her. I said to my husband “this is ridiculous! I cannot live my life on my hands and knees constantly hovering over my daughter! Our child needs to be safe to crawl in her own house!” He agreed and we began talking about re-homing Bentley.

Now, I need to say that all of this was a complete surprise to us. Bentley had always loved kids. We took him to Kids Church at our church as a part of an object lesson. All of the kids wanted to pet him afterwards so we let them come up row by row. They surrounded him, squealing, reaching to pet him all at once. He was in heaven! His face was so sweet and happy. He loved children! At other times we had friends visit our house with their babies and he was fine. I watched a baby reach out and grab two big handfuls of his fur around his mouth and then pull hard. I instantly interceded to protect the baby because I didn’t know how he would react. He did not growl or show his teeth. He just patiently waited for me to untangle the little fingers from his beard and then he just made sure to stay out of reach after that. Yes, he was a very hyper big dog. He barked and jumped, which was frustrating and annoying to guests. But I had no reason to believe that he wouldn’t adapt to having a new baby at our house.

I called my mom to tell her we might have to give the dog up. She was shocked and sad and said “really?! Are you sure?” He was like family and no one could imagine him not being with us. But a week later my parents came to visit. After only two days of seeing how Bentley was behaving my mom said “you’re right, this is not good. He has to go.” We were devastated but didn’t feel we had any other choice. It was around this time that he also began to growl and snarl at the baby. I knew him so well and this nervous and aggressive behavior was VERY serious. He did have to go.

First we contacted an Airedale Terrier rescue organization that serves our state. My husband and I were shocked by how we were treated. We felt no compassion. We were treated like idiots who didn’t care about our dog. So we decided to forget the rescue option and use Craigs List to locate a new family. I posted about our dog and our requirements for a new home for him and immediately received emails from interested people. After a week we narrowed the choices down to one family and set a time to go see them. We drove him two hours away and spent an afternoon with the new family. They loved Bentley and we liked them and their home. After a few hours we decided to leave… without the dog. As we said goodbye and walked through the door I turned back and saw them holding Bentley back gently as he looked at us panting and wagging is tail as if he was saying “where are we going?!” I whispered to my husband not to look back, but he did. That was the last time we saw our boy.

We cried the whole way home. For days I was terribly depressed. I had strange moments of panic where I was thinking “I LEFT MY DOG!!! I NEED TO GET MY DOG!” It was like a part of me was missing.

Over the next few months we dealt with our emotions and moved on. We received some email updates and pictures which helped a lot. The one member of our family who could not get past the change was little Scarlet. She has not been the same dog since we gave up her best friend. This hurts me more than I can explain.

In December, 5 months after we last saw Bentley, I received an email… we had to take him back. I won’t bother with the details here, but basically it was no longer working out with the family and Bentley. I was immediately thrown into a tail spin. WHAT were we supposed to do?! We asked the family for a week to work something out and they agreed. At least they were very apologetic about the whole situation.

The major complication was that at that time we were in the middle of MOVING three hours away and would be renting a small house for a while. There was no way we could take him back and take him with us.

I contacted a family who had originally emailed about taking Bentley but it was after we had already set the date to take him to the family we had left him with. They seemed excited and said they would talk it over but would probably take him. Whew! It felt like a perfect fit. Until the next night when they called back and said it wouldn’t work for them at that time because their daughter wasn’t ready to have another dog in the family. I told them it was ok, hung up, and then bawled my eyes out. We had no other possibilities and had to pick the dog up at the end of that week.

The next day my husband contacted the Airedale rescue again and printed out the surrender paperwork. Even though we didn’t like how we were treated the first interaction we felt they would be best equipped to help because they understood Airedales. That afternoon my husband had a difficult conversation with our contact from the rescue. She was very irritated with him and said some unkind and insensitive things. My husband came home that evening and told me about the conversation and showed me the paperwork where we would have to sign to ok the possibility of the dog being put down if a home could not be found for him. Then I really lost it! I screamed and cried “NO! I am NOT giving my dog to those awful people!” I felt overwhelmed, broken hearted, and so helpless. My husband is a pastor. I said to him (more like screamed at him) “You are always helping other people. Visiting people in the hospital, counseling troubled kids, meeting with people who need to talk, helping people move, doing whatever is needed for people. WHO HELPS US?! WHO CARES ABOUT US?!” Then there was a lot of crying.

The next day the family who had said their daughter wasn’t ready to have a new dog in the family changed their mind. They were so wonderful to us that they went to pick Bentley up so we didn’t have to see him. We felt like seeing him would be too hard for all of us and confusing for him. Thank God that worked out! He now still lives with them and their other Airedale. We still think of him often and feel emotional when looking at pictures, reminiscing about him, or seeing other dogs that remind us of him. It’s not as painful, but I now know that it will never be 100% ok.

If you are in a tough situation with a pet and need to re-home, here are some things to consider first:

1. It will be very very difficult! At the time that we were about to give Bentley up I was so stressed and frustrated that I thought it would be a relief. It was a relief that my daughter was safe, but in every other way it was so very hard. My heart hurt. It was as bad as if he had died, but maybe worse because Scarlet was so lost without him and I wondered what he understood about the whole ordeal.
If you think you need to re-home your pet, make sure that you really do NEED to and it is not just out of convenience.

2. Try training first. I wish we had brought in a dog trainer to assess the situation and to see if there was anything that could be done before deciding to re-home.

3. Talk to your vet. If there is an anxiety or physical issue causing you to look to re-home, talk with your vet about the options first. We did not do this either. I now wish we had tried anti-anxiety medications before re-homing.

4. If you do end up having no choice but to give up your pet, be very thorough in screening potential new families. Some things I did for and asked of the families:

  • I provided a full background on the dog and included a lot of pictures.
  • I required that the potential families complete an application that I created. I used examples I found online.
  • I informed people that we would need to visit their home and possibly require a background check.
  • Contact personal references for the new owners.
  • I provided the new family with vaccination and medical records.
  • When we left him with his new family we also left his favorite toys, bed, leash, food bowls, and a bag of his food so they could continue feeding him the same food.
  • Ask for updates and pictures. Don’t expect this too often, but every few months isn’t too much to ask.

If you have any other advice for those who may need to re-home a pet please share in the comments.

Update Photos:

Bentley (left) and his new brother 

 My girls…

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5 Comments on Things to Know Before You Re-Home Your Pet

  1. Roaen
    March 10, 2014 at 3:29 am (4 years ago)

    Found your blog through the Mommy Monday Blog Hop and your story broke my heart. I can't even begin to imagine letting go of furry family member. (On a side note, is Scarlet a miniature schnauzer? I ask because ours is one.)

    Reply
    • Carissa Shaw
      March 11, 2014 at 4:44 pm (4 years ago)

      Scarlet is actually a mix, but she definitely looks mostly Miniature Schnauzer. So cute 🙂

      Reply
  2. Leslie
    March 13, 2014 at 1:54 am (4 years ago)

    Hi there from SITS. I can tell this was a heartbreaking time in your lives. Your post comes at an interesting time for our family as we're nearing the two year anniversary of when we had to give up our sweet cat. She was never very good with our first child, but was able to stay away or just deal. Then I became pregnant with our second daughter. That's when she started getting aggressive with the kid's toys and completely ignored both me and my husband. Thankfully we were able to make an arrangement with the Vet, whom we trusted more than anyone else. Thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully your Scarlet will adapt well to your family and be a wonderful companion for your daughter as she grows up.

    Reply
  3. Teresa
    March 18, 2014 at 6:25 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you for sharing your story. I always wanted a cocker spaniel, and when our kids were little a local dog breeder was giving away one of theirs. They "forgot" to mention that the dog had epilepsy. When it had its first seizure it terrified all of us! We finally gave it back because with a newborn and 2 toddlers I just couldn't handle a dog that needed care too, but it was a very difficult thing to do.
    I hope Scarlet will be everything you hope for!

    Reply
  4. April Layne
    September 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm (3 years ago)

    We had to give our Airedale up with a similar situation. I still calculate how old he would be, and my husband's contact photo in my phone is of Radar. It's definitely one of the harder things we've done.

    Reply

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