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What I Learned By Saying Goodbye to Elliott

April 9, 2013
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The accidental ear flip. My absolute favorite Elliott look.

We said goodbye to Elliott on Saturday, and it was hands down the hardest moment of our relationship.

I remember thinking about tough moments the weekend that I moved into R’s place. It was, ironically, one year ago to the day that we returned Elliott to the adoption group. All my things were strewn about the small, one-bedroom apartment in non-organized piles. R’s things were uprooted from their prior rightful places and forced into their own mounds that made no sense. Just as R was attempting to finish the IKEA dresser that would hold my overwhelming collection of clothes and I was marrying our combined book collection into a color and size-coded system, we both lost it.

  • “Oh my god this is hard!” I said. 
  • “I don’t know what to do next,” he said. “How do I figure out what to do next?”

45 minutes later we were sitting at the bar closest to our newly shared space, drinking an ice-bold beer. That’s when I remember thinking, “okay, good. That was hard, but we found a way through it, and it was the same way, and I still love R, so we’re probably going to be okay…forever??”

I now know that those brief moments of frustration were rookie league compared to the “hard” of giving up a new puppy.

The first two days with Elliott seemed promising. He was fearful around us but well-behaved on the many long walks we took and responsive to treats (especially grilled chicken). We could sense – as we’d been told – that this puppy had been through a lot. It was like he didn’t quite know how to be a dog, but we felt that same connection to him that we had the first afternoon we met, so we continued to believe that we could be the people to bring him out of his shell.

By day three, things settled into what would be for the next five days, and those things were not good.

The more Elliott attached to me (something we were told would happen based on his past experience with women vs. men) the more aggressive he became toward R. Elliott’s crate aggression (confined spaces make him nervous based on his experience living with a hoarder) made it so that we could not leave him without considerable destruction to anything in his path. Elliott’s leash aggression (he has never been socialized to other dogs while on a leash) made it so that we could not take him anywhere other dogs might be. And, because he had grown up with a large outdoor space and other dogs, our one bedroom apartment made him anxious. He didn’t know where to be. He didn’t know what to do.

I want to be very clear that there is a world in which we could have moved heaven and earth to rehabilitate this dog. It is possible. His issues are common among dogs with his background. And that’s exactly what made it so hard to decide that we couldn’t be the people to help him right now.

We felt guilty. We felt selfish. We felt frustrated. We felt confused. We felt a dozen more emotions that we’ve never felt as a couple before, but somehow we never felt angry with each other. 

There was silence. There were tears. And there were whispers (because we didn’t want Elliott to know that we were talking about him), but somehow there was never a cross word between us. 

I don’t know why we both loved Elliott so much, but we did. We had a special connection to the little guy that transcends explanation, and frankly logic. But ultimately we had to make an adult decision for our lives and his. He needs more serious care than we can provide, and we need a dog that works better with our lifestyle.

45 minutes after the adoption group came to pick Elliott up we were driving out to meet a friend and share an ice-cold beer. That’s when I remember thinking, “okay, good. That was really hard, but we found a way through it, and it was the same way, and I still love R, so we’re probably going to be okay forever.”

But this time there wasn’t a question mark at the end of that thought, and I have Elliott to thank for that.

P.S. the little guy is now with a foster family that has extensive experience in rehabilitating abused animals, a much large space, and other dogs for to help him learn how to behave. #TeamElliott!


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