Passionate About Fort Worth
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Giving Away Your Firstborn: When Babies and Pets Don’t Mix

I gave away my firstborn this week.

Okay, technically he is a dog, not a child, but all of you dog-moms out there know what I’m talking about right? Before I had an actual, human baby, I had a fur-baby for eight years.

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Our first meeting – 2005

I cried when I dropped him off at the groomer (knowing I would see him just a few hours later), posted his picture almost daily on social media, and loved him fiercely. For years I worried about what would happen when he inevitably passed away. We had spent so many years together, and I had gone through so many things with him by my side (moves to multiple cities, a marriage, bereavement, pregnancy). I knew how much it would hurt when he wouldn’t be there anymore. Never did I imagine that it would end up being my choice. What kind of heartless mother could give up her first furryborn? In the end, this mom had to, and while I feel guilty and miss him already, I know it was the right choice for my family (furry member included).

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Only child – 2010

While I was pregnant, my husband and I talked about the future relationship between baby and Bodie multiple times. Would he love her and protect her? Maybe they would become the next baby-dog pair on Instagram! I may or may not have thought up a hashtag or two . . . . That’s what we hoped for at least, but I think we knew in the back of our minds it wasn’t a likely scenario. Bodie is a terrier with a strong will and not a lot of patience. He is also a mama’s boy, fairly high maintenance (a nice preparation for motherhood), and, at eight years old (56 in human years), he is certainly set in his ways. We read articles on how to handle the transition, though, and took the advice by giving him one of Isabelle’s baby-scented hospital blankets before we came home and introducing the two of them in the front yard rather than in the house (i.e. his turf). In the beginning, it seemed like it might work out.

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What baby? I don’t see a baby?

He wasn’t paying much attention to her, but, at least, he wasn’t reacting negatively to her presence. After a few weeks though, we started to notice he wasn’t just ignoring her, he was shunning her. If we sat on the couch with her, he would give us a withering look and jump off. He would leave the room if she was in it for too long, huffing as he walked away. More concerning was his attitude toward me. Normally, he was always on my heels, following me around the house day and night and jumping in my lap as soon as I sat down. All of a sudden things changed. He wouldn’t come to me when I called and had no interest when I walked in the door or tried to pet him. He was angry with me and clearly depressed about this major life-change.

Well, the months went by and while Isabelle became more interested in Bodie, he . . . tolerated her. We were busy with an infant, yet another move (home to Fort Worth this time!), and building our life as a family so we kept putting off the real conversation of what to do about the dog. We tried to include him, but he just became more sullen and most unfortunately began to act out like he hadn’t since he was a puppy.

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Begging for his attention…

Finally, after Isabelle’s first birthday (and a few growling incidents), we decided it was time to send him away to the country to live out his quiet years (quite literally actually – my sweet mom, who lives on a ranch, graciously took him in). In the end, I know it was the best thing for all parties involved. Although I love him and felt terribly guilty about giving my dog away, our relationship had changed (if somebody doesn’t like your kid, it’s pretty hard to like him . . . no matter who or what he is to you). Also, I knew he would be much happier in a toddler-free house, where he could sleep all day and, most important, be the center of attention again. Last, I couldn’t take the chance that he would someday severely scare or even slightly injure my daughter.

It was one of those choices we make as moms, right? You know the ones I’m talking about . . . those that feel incredibly selfish and un-selfish at the same time? You try to figure out what is best for your children, other members of your family (or community), and what is best for you. Sometimes those choices seem impossible; they can even make you sick to your stomach, but we as moms have to make them every day. I think it’s part of what makes our job so tough, but also immensely rewarding.

P.S. For all you fellow dog-moms out there that are currently shaking their heads and worrying about Bodie’s well being, rest easy. He’s currently lounging on a comfy couch under a ceiling fan and getting his belly rubbed by the lady who’s been spoiling me for 29 years. He’ll survive. 😉

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Life on the ranch.

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15 Responses to Giving Away Your Firstborn: When Babies and Pets Don’t Mix

  1. Melva July 27, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    OMGosh! Hayley, I was shocked to see that YOU wrote this, meaning shocked to see that Bodie was the dog that was given away! And SO relieved to see that he’s with your mom!! Whew!

  2. Jbrown July 31, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    What a relief to see Bodie is in a good home! Dogs suffer when they are “re-homed” too much. We got our dog at 4 months and he came with anxiety because he’d be passed around so many times (per a dog psychologist). I think this should be a reminder to all wanting to adopt a dog or cat, make sure you can fit him/her into your life plan timeline. It’s recommended to wait until your dog is 3 before adding a child to the mix, so adopting a pup and planning to have a child in the next year or so is not planning for success. Again, so happy Bodie found a loving home and is thriving. Breaks my heart to see a dog “re-homed” though, I’ve seen the damage it can cause first hand.

  3. Rachel
    Rachel July 31, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    Go you for making such an obviously difficult decision for the betterment of your whole family (including Bodie)!! My heart breaks when I think of how the dynamic between my adopted-during-singlehood dog and me has changed since having a baby. We did EVERYTHING together! And, while she gets along with (and is even really protective of) our children, I know it’s just not the same for her!

  4. Brenna August 3, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Sniffles! i know it must be hard to see pictures of your fur baby far away even when he is happy and you gave him a great “retirement home”. So far my dogs have done well, but this was a big concern for us as well. Glad to see someone showing what may happen no matter how hard to try 🙂

  5. Shanna August 4, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    I kept waiting to get to the part where the dog who loved you for his entire life, I don’t know, like ate your baby or something. At the very least, I expected a snarl or growl or some kind of harrowing incident. But, he SHUNNED her? WTF is this, the Scarlet Letter?

    Please stop patting yourself on the back for striking upon some kind of nonsensical Mama Bear selfish-but-unselfish paradox with the “but my mom has an awesome ranch!” loophole. I have no patience for that kind of claptrap. Why can’t you admit you found new priorities and stopped giving an actual crap about the living creature who trusted you? Just say, yeah, I thought I loved my dog for like 8 years, but turns out he was just a meaningless placeholder for a baby. (Oops!) Don’t try to eek some cutesy story out of it that makes you sound heroic or something.

    Usually I try to find a diplomatic way to say things, but I find this entire post despicable, I really do. And I’m incensed that no one has even gently hinted to you that what you did was maybe not the most honorable thing ever. Dogs aren’t disposable, yeah, even when they merely “tolerate” your toddler. Two thumbs way down.

    • lilouisianagal August 7, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      She says in the article that there were a few growling incidents. If the dog is happy in her new home why are you so miffed?

    • Jen August 8, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

      Amen.

    • Trish August 1, 2016 at 10:35 am #

      You need help. She gave the dog up, it’s her choice, her life..priorities change. A pet will never come before a child… Sorry not sorry

  6. Cate
    Cate August 4, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

    Whether or not you agree with re-homing a pet, you did not see the dog in action. If mom feels that her human baby is in even potential danger, the right thing for her to do is put her human baby at the top of the priority list. It saddens me that a person would even consider placing more value on an animal.
    Good for you Hayley for protecting your child. Dogs are unpredicatable, even when you’ve known and loved them their entire lives. They are still animals who cannot communicate with words.

  7. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth August 4, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    It sounds like both parties are in a happier place. I know this couldn’t have been easy for you, Hayley, but I love thinking about your sweet Bodie enjoying some much appreciated quiet time (nearly impossible with babies!) and all those tummy rubs. I worry about my cat Smitty, who is my first fur baby, and his adorable feistiness becoming not so adorable when those claws or teeth come close to my un-fur babies. Its a decision that no fur momma wants to make, but we do what we need to do – responsibly, and with love – for the good of our children.

  8. Shannon
    Shannon August 4, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    Hayley, I know this feeling all too well. Except I did NOT rehome my first baby when he showed the signs of jealousy and aggression. I kept right on snuggling him and pretending everything was fine. I even ignored the shunning and snapping at my toddler. I told myself “Oh, that’s so good..he’s at least warning him that he doesn’t want him that close.” My toddler never pulled his tail or was aggressive toward him because I did NOT allow it. I, in a way, protected my “first furry born” because he was there first. Then, it happened! As my toddler went to pet him one day, he snapped and bit his mouth HARD. Blood was everywhere and the screams were piercing. I can tell you from experience..it’s NOT worth it. It’s not worth it to see your toddler’s mouth swollen and pierced for at least a month following the incident. It’s not worth it to not only have YOUR heart broken when it happened but to hear your toddler ask “Why don’t he yike me anymore mommy?” and “I don’t want him to yeave. I yuvv him.” I trust your mommy heart sweet friend. You knew what was best for your sweet baby, and as a mom, that is our first priority. Your second priority was to find a loving home that would love and cherish Bodie just as you did. And, you did SUCH a great job at finding him one. He is happy and loved. Thanks for sharing your heart and the sweet pictures. 🙂

    • Josh October 5, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

      Had the same thing happen with our child, we kept a dog for too long and he was bitten. It made things so much worse when we had to rehome due to the bite. Luckily for us the bite was on his arm vs. the face. 🙁

  9. Jen August 8, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    I’m also not falling for this self-congratulatory bullshit. Hope you feel good about yourself for giving up so easily. I’m glad the poor dog is with your mom, but at 8, any transition – even to a happy home – would be torture on the poor guy. So many people think of pets as a convenience. If they’re not fitting your ideas of what you think they should do, out they go. Who gives a shit if he was shunning her? He is a dog. Not a human. It’s okay he’s not on the couch being manhandled by a baby. I hope you never get another pet.

  10. Anna Harrison August 9, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    Here’s the deal. I used to be super judgmental when people would give up their pets willy nilly. Before I had kids, my parents adopted a Beagle, who was super cute and kind, but way too much energy (and shenanigans) for my parents and especially my mother who has Parkinson’s Disease. I cried for days when they gave her away, but Bailey was SOOOO much happier in the country roaming the open plains and playing with new dog friends. Consequently, she proved wonderful and snuggly company for her new owner (who shortly thereafter) lost her husband to a massive heart attack. Now as a mother, 2 of my girl friends have children who have been attacked by normally docile dogs. TWO! The dogs gave no warning before lunging at the children’s faces. When dogs shun or growl, those are warning signs. I adore my Beagle and my Rottie mix, but I’m always diligent when the children are nearby even though they have never growled or bitten my children. We can’t judge a mother who does what is best for her pets and children. Similarly, a dog who is sullen at home will likely be way happier in another home. It’s surprising to me that this post is getting so many angry and judgmental responses. I wonder what the response would be if your dog seriously injured your child and you’d ignored warning signs?

  11. Josh October 5, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Great article! I love the end photo showing your puppy enjoying himself in his new home.

    We went through the same scenario a few years ago, we had a dog that seemed to love our son when he was first born. She treated him well whenever me or my wife was around – no matter what he did to her (2 year old grabbing a dog a little too tight, and she was fine – and yes we would stop him if he was being too rough with the dog) One day when I was at work – my wife left the room for just a few seconds and that was all it took as he apparently was sitting next to her rubbing her – my wife looked back and realized as soon as she was out of the room the dogs attitude had changed towards our child (dog was always pleasant with me or her around) – next thing she knew our two year old had been bitten on his forearm. I loved that dog but she was rehomed pretty fast as we knew that muzzling or kenneling her whenever we couldn’t be with her and the kid at the same time was purely unreasonable and unfair. I was the 30 year old guy trying to hide the tears when I walked away from her for the last time – it stunk, but it was the RIGHT thing to do – not the emotional feel good thing to do. Dogs are fairly resilient. When our kids grow up we don’t think it’s unfair to send them to college where they know no one – they adapt, our animals can too.

    Our new dog is amazing, about 4-5 months after we rehomed our other dog we found our new dog and were better prepared – it took him several months to adjust to us (plus he is smaller and couldn’t hurt a fly if he tried so it’s great for our smaller kids) he was rehomed due to a family moving to a place with no pets – he is really happy and follows my wife everywhere. My kids are safer. And we plan on having him for his lifetime. I really believe we made the right choice for our family and we are all happier and safer because we made that choice.

    Once again, great post! I enjoyed reading it!

    Keller Poop Scooping Service & Pooper Scooper Company

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