Thursday, November 4, 2010

Question: What Would You Do?

I have been training Bonnie to be a therapy & service dog.  She is wonderful at it, she loves people,  especially children.

Hypothetical Question:  

Lets say I have a hypothetical friend who is looking for a dog to work in her practice with children and adults. She would have a wonderful home with caring, loving people & a job she would love. 

If I were to re-home her with my hypothetical friend, Bonnie would go to work with her every day.  She would be this friend's constant companion and a valuable aid her in her practice.

Remember that Bonnie does not get along with Beth.  We have constant tension in our house already & the worry that the tension will escalate into another tooth slashing fight.  She does not work sheep regularly, and she does not really have a job, other than being a happy house dog.  When I take the dogs to work sheep she is left at home more often than not. 

I love Bonnie. I raised her from a puppy and if she were to go I would have a big gaping hole in my heart.
She has a happy contented life with us already.  I do not want to place her.  I am fully committed to her, regardless of the tension between her and Beth.  She has a home with us for life.  No question about it.....

But...would she be happier as a full time therapy dog?

Do I owe her the chance to see?  

What would you do?  Why?  Why not?

Let me emphasize I DO NOT INTEND TO PLACE HER...EVER.   However, I have a problem with guilt.  I worry that wanting to keep her is selfish - and she might be much happier elsewhere where she can be the only dog.  Bonnie is very much a princess - she would thrive in that type of environment.  Is it selfish for me to keep her when I know this?    What would be in Bonnie's best interest? 

Thanks in advance for your time and thoughtful answers!


WalkOn Border Collies said...

I would place her. It sounds like she is not a trial prospect and she does not 'fit' well with your pack. Sounds like this opportunity would be a much happier life for her. I know how hard it would be to let her go, but what would be best for her? Would she be as happy or even....happier in this other home?

Monique said...

I would consider placing her on a trial basis. ie send her for a month and see how everyone felt about it. Either that, or I would arrange to board her with the 2nd owner when I was going out of town for sheep work. "Share-sies."

Tink said...

I don't think placing her on a trial/weekend basis would be fair to either Bonny or the person needing a service dog. I am such a person looking for a female service dog. I lost mine 2 years ago to Lymphoma and I have not been able to find a replacement for her. The bond that is formed between a service dog and it's owner is very tight and deep, it's one of total trust, respect and deep love. The one I had with my dog was a very intense bond that went beyond what I have with my husband or my children. To form such a bond takes time, much longer than a month or weekends. It's a grow process, taking Bonny in and out that process or environment will be confusing and affect her confidence.

I don't know Carolynn, you had the same feelings about Ranger and decided that he is happy with you. I'm not sure about Bonny, I had 2 bitches that didn't get along and life wasn't very fun for either of them being forced to live with one another. At least when we humans have a sister we don't get along with we know she will be off to college someday or we go someplace else to read a book. Dogs have no escape place to go to. They are in a situation you put them in.

Did you notice that Bonny was happier more relaxed when you were away with Beth and Brynn? If so that might be a clue. Have you asked yourself how the arrival of a new puppy joining the pack will impact her?

Pat A said...

Carolynn, That is a hard one. I would try to do what is best for the dog and hope I did not make a mistake. Glyn is extremely bonded to me as is Dan. Both because of surgery have been here longer than most fosters. It will break my heart when Glyn goes but we have 5 dogs and as he grows more, he would not get the attention he needs. He needs human attention a lot. He tries to talk, He admires himself in the mirror and window, and he deserves someone who does not have a half dozen other dogs shoving him out of the way. Think and pray on your decision and do what all loving moms do, do what is best for Beth.

KPR said...

I'd place her. That way you won't have to rename your blog come Thanksgiving.

Hillbilly Betty / Waylon Aussies said...

I think that a trial period where your friend could take Bonnie to work each day for a week or two and see how she likes it would be in order. That way you could gauge Bonnie's reaction to the new job and see how she responds.

I had an instance last year where I waited two years for a pup, got her, raised her, and she just didn't fit. I felt awful, just heartsick. There was conflict, sometimes more, sometimes less, but always conflict. She didn't turn out on stock and I would have kept her as a pet, but she was heartsick when I took the other dogs out.

I ended up placing her in a wonderful agility home and she is thriving. She finally found a place where she fit 100%. Sure, she could have stayed here and been loved, but I couldn't give her what she needed and that was a job that she could love and be good at.

I've learned that guilt can sometimes be nothing more than a story in our head. A piece of gum that we just can't stop chewing until all of the flavor is gone. But what you can't argue with is peace. I'm always amazed that when I make a hard choice with my dogs, whether it has been placing one, having one live in the kennels instead of the house, or even having to make the hardest call of euthanasia (old age) - the overwhelming feeling of peace that followed was what let me know I made the right choice.

So do a trial run of it and see how Bonnie does and also do a gut check. If it feels peaceful, then it most likely is right.

food for thought said...

if i thought she could have a better life, i would do it... the mere thought that you question her happiness might be the real answer right there...

MTWaggin said...

I too would consider placing her. Let her try it out ofr a while first and see how it goes. Living with having to manage your two girls forever is stressful for you and for them (even though you love both dearly and have the ability to manage that). What a blessing for her to have a job she loves (and what most of us humans can only wish for!).

Karen said...

I would place her on a trial basis. If it seems to be the best for Bonnie, then it's a done deal. Dogs are amazingly adaptive.

Actually though, I like the sound of 'BCxFour and one more':)

forensicfarmgirl said...

Having just placed a dog that I didn't think I'd ever re-home, I have to say, when the right home comes along, give it a try. My mom lost her dog to cancer and the dog's sister was living with me, but not satisfied. She was happy, but unlike my goofball, Ranger, who is happy with whatever attention I can give him, Ice wanted more. So last week I placed her with my mother where she'll be an only dog. The dog is thriving and my mom is delighted. It's a win-win for everyone.

Give it a try. If it doesn't work out Bonnie can always come home. (grin)

The Border Collies said...

If I had a dog and then got another dog, and those two dogs didn't get along, I'd rehome the dog that came after the one that was doing just fine in my pack dynamic before the first one came along. They give us everything, the least we can do is give them the tiniest modicum of respect back to them in the form of the commitment we made when we got them.

I have other things I'd really like to say, but I'm not going to because you've been a friend. I will only ask you to think: how many of your other dogs will you rehome so you can have a stable of good working dogs and nothing else in your quiver? And will you feel good about it? It's a tough question to ask yourself before you take your next step ... but a necessary one, IMO.

Ally and Eclipse said...

I raise service dogs on a volunteer basis for organizations that place them with people that need them. Some of the dogs don't make it as working service dogs and some really thrive as therapy dogs. I say, dogs need jobs. Whether that job is a loving pet, a therapy dog, a service dog, a search and rescue dog, herding dog, etc. The important thing is they be happy where they are. If you're not comfortable placing her then there's a reason for it, likely more than guilt. If she would strictly be a therapy dog (in this case more appropriately termed a facility dog since a therapy dog is more of a part-time basis) then I think a trial-basis would be a good idea and give everyone a clear picture as to how it would work for her, the woman, the facility and your pack. I wish you well in your conundrum! I know how it feels to give a dog to someone to be a service dog or a therapy dog but it's different because I know when I get them that it will happen!

RYKER said...

I agree with the idea of a trial placement, but if it works out well for them the first month then it is a done deal. No share-sies. You have a lot a great advisers in your corner no matter what you chose.

BCxFour said...

Thank you all for your time & answers. I truly appreciate it.

Sheena asked a question: "how many of your other dogs will you rehome so you can have a stable of good working dogs and nothing else in your quiver? And will you feel good about it? "

That is an excellent question - after I posted this last night I lay awake much of the night thinking about my motivations, examining the guilt I was feeling and asking myself what was really motivating this consideration? How many dogs will I rehome so I can have only working dogs? I don't believe having only working dogs is what is driving this question. Seriously, I look at Bonnie and see a relatively happy dog, but I wonder if she would be happier as an only dog. She can work and with some time & effort she would be a nice little farm dog, but would she be happy doing that? Nah, she can live without sheep. She is happy being my little buddy, she is Ranger's companion when I work the other dogs. She is also John's favorite dog - but like me he wonders if she would be more 'fulfilled' as a full time therapy dog. This morning she was cuddled up on my she does every morning and I asked myself if I could really place her in another home & would I feel good about it. My heart would break and I have to the bad feelings would be coming from missing her and my own selfish wish to keep her despite what may be in her best interest. I don't think I can do let her go. But if it the new home is better than what I can provide..that is where I am torn.

If I wanted only a good stable of working dogs I would have placed Ranger long ago. Both Ranger and Bonnie are my heart dogs - that is their job now...I am not sure I will feel good about anything I choose to do...guilt is a nasty thing, but oh so necessary. Dammit.

KPR said...

Sheena also said: "I have other things I'd really like to say, but I'm not going to because you've been a friend." I would like to think that my friends would be the first ones to tell me things ... because we're friends.

I also don't feel it matters which dog came first when deciding if a dog should be rehomed. If one of the dogs fits into your pack dimensions better than the other, why keep the one that stresses, simply because it was there first? Hyperbole.

Making the move from mainly rescue (which is where most of the pet people are) into mainly purebred stockdogs is a seemingly natural, although potnetially hypocritical, transition that many people make, have made and will continue to make -- despite the opposition from the rescue world.

Do what's right for Carolynn and Carolynn's pack. She is the only one who needs to sleep with herself at night. (Thank God, 'cause I ain't sleepin' with ya!)

manymuddypaws said...

I think that from the sounds of it she is happy just being. Not all dogs need jobs, and most dogs are just happy being house dogs. :)

I have one that is perfectly happy without a job (well, except for the very important job of fun police, and lap warmer). I love him to death and wouldn't dream of placing him- even if it would make him "happier." I think that the term Happy is relative. :) Vito may not always be super happy to be left at home when i am off doing agility- but he loves his walks, and playing fetch, and hanging out under my feet.... I think that is enough happy....

Anonymous said...

I would look into what being a therapy dog entails. I have read that therapy work can be stressful on a dog. They do feel and interact with those who need the therapy and it can take be stressful to them. If this is true, will this truly make her happier?

I also know of a large pack of dogs that had some terrible pack dynamics. A new puppy was brought in and when she "came of age" became the queen of the clan and that was pretty much the end of the pack problems. Something similar could happen when your new puppy grows up.

I don't think it's bad to have the Ranger/Bonnie/keep your husband company pack and the herding sheep dog pack. Having been involved in agility over 10 years now, I have the old folks pack, that stay home more often and the younger, let's party pack. I just make sure the old folks get love and attention in other ways now.

Jen said...

I've been lurking around your blog for ages, and have never commented before but feel compelled to, tonight.

I have a therapy dog. He's amazing and special and truly my heart dog, as well. I take him visiting and it's the hardest thing he has to do in his life- an hour of visiting anyone for him is harder than agility or flyball and exhausts him. So, why do I do it? Because he loves it and he's good at it and people need it. But, it is ultimately difficult work. I couldn't ask him to visit longer than an hour at a time as it is so draining.

And, I have a house dog as well. She doesn't get to go to flyball or agility as she's retired with bad hips/knee problems. She's a crazy, high energy lab and she'd love to be running sports. However, she is happy hanging out, going for walks/runs and playing fetch when she's up to it. Just because she doesn't have a job like the other two in the house doesn't necessarily make her any less happy, I don't believe. It really is a relative term.

Ultimately, you have to decide what's right for you and your dogs. What is in the best interest of you and Bonnie?
For me, despite my love of dog sports, I would never give up any of my dogs, even if they couldn't run anymore. Even though my lab and my jack russell don't always get along, I wouldn't give either of them up. But, that's just me. I feel for you, as you have to make a very difficult decision!

Debra Kay said...

There is a huge HUGE difference between rehoming a dog in a responsible environment that is good for the dog and dumping it on the street to fend for itself. I sometimes feel that people don't always draw that distinction.

Unlike people-animals don't cling to the past. If Bonnie is comfortable with this new person-she will likely enjoy being with her, and she may even have a preference.

Yes-animals do bond, but remember, canines are pack pack animals, not bonded pairs like humans.

I see a lot of human baggage in some of the comments. My advice is be a good pack leader and make the best decisions for everyone....which would be my advice if we are talking about human kids too...LOL.

Put her in on a trial basis and see what happens, and if she is happy, the new person is happy and YOU are happy-who cares what anyone else thinks?

Ann said...

I think when I was "younger" in dogs, I would have taken a hardline stance that you owe it to keep the dog you committed to. Somewhere along the way, I developed more of the "keep the oldest, rehome the youngest, if it doesn't work out." More recently, I've moved to viewing rehoming dogs as a good thing, if that's what is best for the dog and the household.

If Bonnie would be happier as an only dog and a working therapy dog, then as hard as that would be, I think that's what I would do. A month trial period seems like a fair deal to me. You trust this person, or you wouldn't even be posing the question, so let her take Bonnie for a month and see what happens.

I have been lucky not to have dogs who want to kill each other, but I have had a dog here or there who causes tension with everyone else. When the dynamic changes and that dog is no longer affecting the harmony, the relief is great, even if the sorrow for their absence is great.

You've got a lot of opinions here, and Jodi is the funniest. Good luck in your soul searching. You'll come up with the right answer and even if it's hard on you and John, Bonnie will thank you. . . and probably everyone else will, too.

Amy said...

Another thing to consider is you have another female joining the pack. You already have two that don't get along. This in of itself could be a recipe for disaster. Not at first, since you'll have a pup . . . but as she matures . . . how is she going to fit into the group? Bitch fights are the worst, and unfortunately, I do know of cases where they have fought to the death.

I think the most important thing to do is always, 100% of the time, to put the best interest of each individual dog ahead of every other consideration.

I don't know you, your dogs, your home, your way of managing the dogs on a daily basis, so I cannot give any type of advice. I'm just throwing out things to think about, based on my own experiences. Your mileage may vary!

Diane said...

When we got to meet your dogs, Bonnie was my favorite- and Leah's. She does seem to be extremely happy around kids from that short experience. I think if I were in your situation, I would consider re-homing her, but not on a sharing basis. You would, of course, get her back at any time in the future if there was a reason. It sounds like this would be a situation that ultimately would make everyone happier.
But I can understand your feelings- we rehomed two cats and they and their new owners are doing extremely well. And the cat fights here are gone!

Erin O said...

I'm a little late in this, but I would do what is best for the dog. IF it seems best for her to live in a nice home that is not yours why not.

I know is very difficult to live with dogs that don't get a long. You are about ready to add one more dog. It maybe be more peaceful for Bonnie to live in a different situation. I don't think it is selfish, in fact I believe it is a selfless act if you truly believe somewhere else can provide Bonnie a happier life.

It is a hard one and I have been there.

fulltiltbcs said...

I am horribly late on this (blame being sick)...but I rehomed a dog, she ended up in a home that was MUCH better suited to her...she is happy...and for me that is what mattered. :)

The Border Collies said...

"I would like to think that my friends would be the first ones to tell me things ... because we're friends."

Yes we are friends, and I expressed my feelings to Carolynn privately because while she is generous enough to accept them in the spirit of concern they were offered, I certainly don't expect the same consideration from random internetz people. I don't think our conversation needed to be further muddled by armchair quarterbacking from The Mass Opionate.

Having said that, I DO think it matters what dog came first and I DO think we have a responsibility to the dogs we committed to by not trading up constantly to fulfill our own hobbies. Bonnie didn't ask Carolynn to please keep bringing home female dogs that would stress her out and make things difficult for everyone. Carolynn made that decision for everyone, and the solution is not to toss Bonnie away because Carolynn chose to add dogs that aren't a fit for her _existing_ family.

"Making the move from mainly rescue (which is where most of the pet people are) into mainly purebred stockdogs is a seemingly natural, although potnetially hypocritical, transition that many people make, have made and will continue to make -- despite the opposition from the rescue world."

I don't think this transition is anymore natural than puppymillers who sell used up breeders at auctions to acquire more breeding stock, sport dog people who produce border collies that are not good representatives of the working tradition of the breed, or pet owners who buy puppies and give them away when they get a little older so they can have new puppies. It's all the same thing in the end - it's the selfishness of people who want to satisfy their own needs and view the dogs as vehicles to do that rather than living creatures who depend on us for their survival and happiness. The only real difference is how the people involved justify it.

Carolynn has the rest of her life to acquire more dogs - Bonnie will only be on this earth for a short period of time. There are a zillion dogs in shelter and rescue for her friend to acquire as a therapy dog that don't already have homes that care for them.

My personal rescue ethics aside, I try to live my life in such a way that I don't abandon any of my beliefs to satisfy whatever urges I have that don't jive with those beliefs. I don't abandon friends because they don't jive with my new friends. And I don't abandon my dogs because they don't jive with my new dogs, or my hobbies, or whatever. Perhaps other people can adjust their moral compasses differently.