Some of you know how desperately Jared and I have wanted a dog for a long time.
Our first year and a half of marriage, we lived in an apartment with the only nearby grassy area being across a busy road. Not fun to take a dog there to relieve itself in the dead of winter.
Now, we live in a more dog-friendly apartment with grass and trees around, and easy access to the bike trail. Our work schedules are even dog-friendly. I'm off during the summer and Jared works from home.
Naturally our desire to add a canine to the family has increased with our current situation.
We looked at tons of dogs, both online and in person.
We researched breeds that work well with apartments. People tend to think that only small dogs can do well in apartments. Not so. Greyhounds, Great Danes, and St. Bernards are a few of the many larger dogs that can handle apartments (with plenty of exercise, of course).
Our apartment limits us to a medium-sized dog at the max.
So, we found a precious Whippet mix named Hans at a shelter in Indy. Whippet was a breed we were very interested in. Whippets, similar to Greyhounds, are a medium-sized dog that can handle apartment life if they get plenty of exercise. They have bursts of energy, and then they crash. And they love to cuddle. LOVE it.
It was hard not to fall in love with him. He cuddled with us right away when we started petting him at the shelter! He had the most gorgeous puppy face, gentle demeanor, and he looked like he would be tons of fun.
However, that night Jared was reading more about Whippets and he read several horror stories of Whippets killing family cats! They're sight hounds that were bred to catch and kill little fluffy things back in the day, so sometimes even when a Whippet and a cat live together in a home for months and are used to each other, the cat might run for whatever reason, which can trigger that natural instinct that's bred in them to chase and kill cute little fluffy things.
This had us concerned. Naturally.
Honey is our baby. We would be devastated if anything bad ever happened to her. We had her even before we got married.
But for as many horror stories we heard about Whippets and kitties, we heard just as many positive stories of Whippets and cats living in perfect harmony.
I mean, you never really KNOW until you KNOW. Know what I mean? Sure you can say that these are the "typical" traits of the breed, but sometimes the breed isn't the be all end all of how the dog will behave.
We called the shelter and shared our concerns. They were very understanding, but didn't know Hans's cat history, so they took him around to all of their cats: ones in cages and ones that just always live there and kind of roam. They called us back and had great things to say about how he behaved. He apparently ignored them. Yet, they said if we wanted we could adopt him, bring him home, and we could take seven days to see if it would work out. If, within that seven days, he wasn't gelling, we could bring him back and get a full refund on our adoption fee.
That had us feeling a little better.
With that security option, we went ahead with the process. We didn't want to miss out on a potentially awesome addition to our family!
We bought all the doggy supplies you're supposed to have ready to go: crate, crate bed, leash, harness, treats, toys, etc. We were excited!
Sunday, we picked him up from the shelter.
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were awesome.
We started teaching him how to sit.
We learned he's apparently housebroken. He had no accidents at all! But he farted a lot.
We took him for lots of walks and had him walking nicely on a leash by Tuesday.
He didn't know how to play with toys or fetch, but he started learning.
He was our shadow. He just wanted to be by us. And, of course, he wanted to cuddle.
For most of this time, we kept Honey in our room with all of her things (food, water, litter box, toys), but she's such a social cat that loves to be around people that she would just cry because she was lonely. We would go in and spend time with her when we could, but we felt really bad.
Everything we read about introducing dogs and cats said to keep them separate for a time until they get comfortable with each others' smells and stuff. And it can take time. Several weeks, or even months in some cases.
But I guess we kind of deviated from our plan and started introducing them in a controlled setting. Hans would be on a leash held by one of us, and the other would hold Honey. They would see each other from a distance. It was clear Honey was not thrilled but she would tolerate being in the same room with him if he stopped paying attention to her, which he did.
Wednesday, we had Honey out most of the day and she would lay in her favorite spots. We just kept a close eye on Hans, and thought things were going well.
I don't know what I was thinking.
They were having a stare-down. It was the first time Honey had been bold enough to approach him and see what he was all about. Well, I had this brilliant idea that during this little standoff, I would pet Honey as if to say to Hans, "She's a part of our pack. See?"
Well, the second I put my hand on her, he LUNGED at her, teeth bared, growling and trying to bite. Of course, she hissed and swatted at him a couple times, but getting swatted at by a declawed cat is like being beaten by a bag of cotton candy.
Instantly, I grabbed Hans and separated them, but he was in attack mode. I got him out of the room as quickly as I could and hoped that wouldn't happen again.
Jared heard it from the other room, but didn't realize how serious it was until he saw the same thing happen a few minutes later when he went to pet Honey.
By that time, the red flags were going up like crazy. It didn't take us long to decide that this wouldn't work for us. Even though we had both bonded with him and had been saying crazy things like, "Our kids will know Hans," we knew that he couldn't stay.
Kitty came first. We love her soooooo much. She gets first priority.
So with a very, very, very heavy heart, I loaded Hans in the van and headed back to the shelter. My friend Vanessa was kind enough to come with me since she had the afternoon off. That would have been way too hard to handle by myself. Jared had a ton of work to do (YAY!!) and going to this particular shelter and back takes an easy two and a half hours.
I had to fill out some paperwork explaining why I was bringing him back and I just cried. I felt like the worst person in the world. The worst.
My only consolation is that he went back to a no-kill shelter.
But I remember his sad eyes looking up at me. He was probably so confused.
Maybe I'm silly to be so emotional about this, but it's hard not to be. For just a few days, he was a member of our family.
And now I have a doggy-shaped hole in my heart.
We are still in the market for a dog. Not sure which route to go. On the one hand, we could get a puppy of a cat-friendly breed (maybe a lab), or we could get a dog that has a definite cat-friendly history.
Anyway, that's what happened. And that's where we're at now.