Before I post Jay's essay, I wanted to clarify a couple of things. Jay stated that the girls wrote letters that we never sent, but in actuality, I let them post those letters here, and here. The woman that wanted her dog back was more more crazy than he lets on also, leaving comments about my bad parenting, and sending facebook messages and emails that were above and beyond what any normal person would do. I hate to think about these couple of days because as good people, we were truly torn. Honestly in the end, the only reason I let Ben go back to his original home (where they are still in city code violation and by the way I did not call the city, though I should have.) was because I did not want to wake up some morning to find a crazy lady camped out on my porch. Visions of past experiences with Jay's mother come to mind. There are a couple of other minor details that he fudged to make the essay "nicer" for his teacher, but I can let those go.
All parents are forced to make tough decisions. Amongst many other decisions, parents must choose which foods their children will eat, what music their children may listen to, and what types of television and movies their children are allowed to watch. While these decisions may provide structure and protection, perhaps more important are the morals we espouse and the behaviors we display. My wife and I were recently forced to demonstrate our values with such a decision.
Having recently lost a beloved black lab almost a year before, I was hesitant at first when my wife mentioned getting another dog. Due to my wife’s great powers of persuasion, soon after our first discussion she began looking online for a puppy. She found a few options, but it did not take us long to settle on a golden retriever mix named Bentley. His owners were giving him away because they owned more animals than the city allowed. We were glad to help them out with that problem. A few days later, we drove over to their house. They were a very friendly couple.
Bentley was a good fit for us. He was a very friendly and curious animal, and warmed to us instantly. Our chihuahua, named Dobby, even liked the puppy. That was the sign we were looking for, as Dobby rarely encountered another dog that she didn’t try to eat. We thanked the couple profusely for the gift they were giving us. In retrospect the tears the woman shed were a sign of what was to come, but I think our joy prevented us from noticing the abnormality of the tears.
We took Bentley home and spent two days with him. Both my daughters were completely smitten with the dog. My wife and I gave in and let him sleep in the bed with us for the first night, telling ourselves that it was temporary and just to help him adjust. We were happy; he was happy; life was good. Our family had fallen in love with this dog far quicker than I would have believed possible.
Then the telephone rang.
The number listed on the caller ID belonged to the couple that had given us Bentley. Wondering what they could want, I answered the phone. After I answered, it took a moment for me to understand what this woman was asking of me. She wanted Bentley back. She was crying, claiming that she couldn’t stand to be apart from her puppy any longer. At first glance, this may not seem like such a dilemma. We had just received the dog, and hadn’t really had time to integrate him into the family. At the time of the first phone call, my children were in school. My wife and I talked about what the right thing to do would be. We decided that we would tell our children that we had to give the dog back. It might hurt, but it was morally right.
This was an excellent decision until we actually talked to our children. No parent wants to hurt his or her child. My resolve weakened when the tears started flowing from my children's eyes. The choice became much simpler, either hurt some woman I didn’t really know, or hurt my children. I called the couple back and told them that we were sorry, but we couldn’t take this puppy back from our daughters. From the telephone came more crying, a little begging, and an offer of money. She hung up in tears. After just a few moments her husband called us back and explained that he was worried that his wife might hurt herself over this animal. It was then that I broke. I could not let a human, who appeared to be mentally disturbed, to hurt herself for my family’s happiness. Although it hurt my children, we tearfully gave the dog back.
To help with the grieving process we allowed our children to write angry letters that we never sent. We felt this would allow them to release their anger in a constructive, yet peaceful way. We soon found another dog to adopt. She had been abused and needed a home as much as we wanted a companion. The happy ending makes it easier to know we made the right decision, and hopefully made the lesson easier for our children to learn.