Last August, less than a year after we put our beloved 13-year-old dog, Andy, down because of cancer, we never imagined we again would be faced with this heart-wrenching decision.
Now our other dog, Buddy, our 11-year-old son's dog that he got as a puppy when he started kindergarten, was having some problems.
He's had seizures for a couple of years and some sight issues, and now he was starting to become aggressive - showing teeth, growling, snarling, acting like he didn't know who we were at times - more and more frequently. We knew something more serious had to be going on.
We sought input from a couple veterinarians who believed he most likely had a brain tumor. It was then determined, for fear of harm to the children and the fact that this once very sweet dog was not himself and likely would never be again, that he should be put down.
The newer additions to the Sweeney family.
Needing time to comprehend this, we decided we would wait a couple of days, until right before the children would be going on vacation to their grandma's for a week, allowing a day or two longer with Buddy. The day before we were to put him down, we went shopping for vacation items in Brainerd. My older son seemed very depressed by that time, and understandably so.
He already knew we would allow him to get another dog if he chose to at some point, but we already have an extremely large, rambunctious puppy at home that friends found for us after Andy was put down. He was finally house-broken, but chewing everything, so puppies at this time are out of the question in my mind. However, obviously, if it meant that much to him, knowing what he was going through, we would probably cave. But we're hoping for something over the age of 1.
This is where an angel stepped in.
While we were heading to Brainerd, for whatever reason, I got to thinking about HART and asked the boys if they would like to stop and see the dogs there, hoping this would give them a glimmer of hope. Even though we would be losing Buddy, there is a dog out there that needed them as much as they needed the dog.
My son said, "Mom, only bad dogs are at shelters." I was quick to tell him that is not true, that there are lots of wonderful dogs at shelters, but they've just had bad breaks in life. After all, our Andy, who was a wonderful dog, was a shelter dog that I adopted when he was 1, after he had three previous homes. He was still quite reluctant, but I knew deep down, it would do him some good to go in. Our younger son was all for it.
As we pulled into the parking lot, he told me, "When I am ready, I want a chocolate Lab."
A staff member walked us into the kennel area and began to show us around. She mentioned the dog in the middle kennel was one of her favorites. He had been there a while, was 1 1/2 years old, house-broken, past the chewing stage and seemed to be very well-behaved, except he could jump very high and out of his kennel.
While almost all the other dogs were barking, there sat a sweet chocolate Lab mix named Chase. He looked exactly like our Buddy except he wasn't black, he was chocolate. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I got chills.
My sons walked up to the kennel. Chase sat there and just stared at them, tail wagging. When my older son walked away for a minute, Chase just sat there and stared right at him, so he returned to his kennel. We then took him outside, and the entire time, he was with the boys. He played fetch with my younger son for a brief time, but concentrated most of his attention on my older son, who was sitting off to the side on a lawn chair. Chase went over and sat by him, trying to climb into his lap.
My older son, who was not saying much at the time, looked up and said, "Mom, can we keep him?" At that point, I about started to cry; I knew things were looking up. We called Dad, and he was all for it, too. However, since we had other things to tend to in the next few days, we put money down on the dog and left until the following week.
When we went to pick him up, as soon as we walked into the kennel area, the little dog who once sat there so calmly when we first came in the first time, was jumping - and I mean jumping - for joy.
And now, several months later, I am sill pinching myself. From the moment he came home with us he has been wonderful. There was absolutely no "transition period." The jumping thing has not been a problem. We are out in the country with no fences to worry about, so he jumps in the bunk or in the pool with the boys every once in a while, and no one seems to mind. He absolutely amazes us. He goes into our older son's room every night to curl up and sleep with him, just as Buddy did. He gets along with the other dog as well. They play and take naps together. They are like brothers.
He is continually cuddling with anyone who will let him. It is like this little dog with so much love to give has always been with us. He also has given us peace with the decision we made with Buddy, one that tore us all up, helping us realize it was the right one and making us feel like he is still with us.
HART, we can't thank you enough for keeping this angel under your wings until he could come to our home to dry our tears and touch our lives.
Ann, Scott, Ryan and Josh Sweeney, Backus
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