On Letting Go

I’ve taken joy in watching Laika open up over the last four days. In that time, I took her from never having worn a leash and headcollar to walking politely and responsively. She had no prior training whatsoever, and yet by yesterday, she sat and came on command and was picking up the fundamentals of clicker training. She was beginning to understand that my leaving her sight did not constitute abandonment, and had become relaxed enough to goof around in the snow. Though not particularly motivated by food, I discovered that she will do just about anything for a kind word and a head rub; it was for those that she learned from me fastest and most enthusiastically.

However, she has intense anxiety when left alone longer than a few minutes. The only night she did not howl and cry incessantly was the night I slept in the same room with her. I can be with her much of the time, but I nevertheless have responsibilities in places she cannot follow. Her presence made the cats nervous, and she still didn’t quite know how to react to them. At various times, she barked, growled or ignored on sight of them. Consequently, she had to be strictly confined to the lower level of the house and could not be left unsupervised when uncrated.

Even as I have delighted in her presence and progress, my partner has become steadily more upset. He finally told me last night that he had become terrified for our cats, to the point that he’s had a hard time being around her without the fear of disaster intruding on their interactions. She’s a few months shy of two years old, and though she’s spent 18 months of that off the streets in a shelter, we have no real way of knowing how she regards cats or whether she will ever be trustworthy when unsupervised around them.

Spencer, the man who orchestrated her rescue, came to get her late yesterday afternoon. She wiggled delightedly and leapt without hesitation into his truck.

He feels intensely responsible for her and her long-term well-being, and he and my partner have agreed that it’s best she go to a home without cats where both adoptees can give her their unreserved attention. Having spent four days in her constant company, watching her sunny personality come out and a sharp intelligence applied to her training, this came as a blow to me. I am already attached to her, and we had begun to bond. I’m unashamed to admit that I was a mess last night.

But.

I recognize that it’s about what’s best for her. Spencer has the right of it. I can get her trained up like nobody’s business, but without my partner’s confidence, my house won’t truly be a home to her. My relationship to my partner and responsibility to my cats has to factor in: if they’re miserable or at risk, that’s a serious problem. If we can never trust her around our cats, it’s not fair to anyone to live tense, segregated lives. What my partner and I have learned about her these last few days will ensure a better placement, enabling Spencer to better evaluate potential homes. He’s already got a dialogue opened with another interested couple. While I’m concerned that settling in with me only to leave so soon will intensify her anxiety, a committed home can work through that. Spencer is committed to ensuring Laika gets the best possible home; she is not going to end up in another shelter, a poorly trained problem dog, or euthanized before her time.

And so, reluctantly, I bid farewell to Laika. I look forward to hearing that she is happy and loved wherever she ends up.

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