I've tended to be pretty scathing of people who rehome dogs for reasons I consider ridiculous. For instance, having moved into rental properties with dogs multiple times, I look at notices stating that folks can't take their dogs with them with great suspicion. For me, the saying "a dog is for life" has been a very closely held part of my personal code.
But earlier this year, a friend made the decision to return a dog to his breeder. And I feel like it might be time for me to change my mind about rehoming.
My friend has fought long and hard for her dog. She's a dedicated dog person, whose dogs are well trained, well groomed and very much loved members of the family. But it's been evident to her for almost a year that something is wrong with this dog. His health and quality of life have deteriorated. She's tried everything she could think of, sought advice from many experienced breed specialists and trainers. But eventually she's come to the heart breaking decision that she isn't giving the dog what will make him happy and healthy and she needs to look for another option.
She had a range of pretty crappy options open to her. I don't think she ever considered just dumping him at the pound. She also didn't do what many of us would prefer - the "rip off the band aid quickly" option of taking him to the local vet to be euthanized. Instead, she drove many hours to return him to his breeder. The breeder is going to investigate to see if there's a medical reason for the dog's changes, and then make a decision about whether he can be treated or does need to euthanized. My friend will not get a say in that decision, but has to come to terms with whatever the breeder feels is the right decision. She's giving up control to allow the breeder to find out whether there's an issue that might need to be weeded out of their blood lines. She's helping develop the knowledge of the breed.
Added to the stress of saying goodbye to her beloved dog, my friend is also concerned about what our community will think of her decision. And that's made me rethink my position. I know the details of this case, I've listened to the agonized debate go back and forth, I've listened to her torturing herself with blame, second guessing and regret. I know that she's come to the best choice out of a bunch of awful options, but I'm in the privileged position of hearing the inside story, so it's easy for me to trust her judgement. Her worries about other folks' opinions is both pointless and distressing. She's naturally afraid that she'll lose respect from people she cares about, simply because they haven't heard all the details of her journey.
What if the people that I've scoffed at had similar legitimate concerns about their dog, just without a responsible breeder to help them learn about their options? What if their rehoming choices were as carefully debated, but I assumed they were just dumping an inconvenience? I guess my saving grace is that I've never passed comment to anyone. How awful would it be, to be coping with a deteriorating situation, get guilt tripped into keeping a dog who is better off elsewhere, and shutting up and putting up because of fear of judgement. That could rapidly lead to a problem becoming a disaster.
My friend could have kept her dog. She could have buried her head in the sand, denied the problem. As the dog continued his largely silent battle with pain, he would have eventually become grumpy and maybe even snappy. She could have muzzled the dog every time they went anywhere or restricted him to never leave their yard again. She could have forbidden her children from having friends over, and struck fear in the heart of the neighborhood. But she faced up to the realities, she weighed up the risks, and she made a very brave decision. Regardless of whether people agree with her or not, regardless of how much it hurts her to surrender her fur baby, regardless of losing control of the situation. I hope that I would be as brave if I was faced with the same dilemma.