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The dog I almost gave away is the best friend my son so badly needed

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer with a BA in writing from The University of Nevada, Reno. She lives in Reno with her husband, three young kids, an awesome dog and a terrible cat.

I almost gave away my son's best friend

I couldn’t have been more smitten when my husband brought home an adorable little Labrador puppy a couple months after we moved into our first home. He was a tiny ball of soft, cuddly wonderful — like most puppies are — and he made our new house feel like a home. I wanted to spend all day with him, lamenting every moment I had to spend at work. I could never imagine a day when I would tire of him, let alone try to get rid of our dog.

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However, a mere couple of months after we brought home our rambunctious little furball, we found out that we would be adding a human baby to the mix, and everything started to fall apart. Our dog was growing faster and larger and clumsier than I had anticipated. He passed 50, 75, 100 pounds, still maintaining his puppy enthusiasm. He was constantly underfoot, threatening to trip me as my center of gravity shifted with my ever-growing belly. I was too tired to keep up with him, and my husband became the sole person charged with his daily walks. I hated to admit it, but this dog and I were growing apart fast.

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle him once the baby came. I was scared he would trample our newborn during tummy time, even if I were right by his side. I lost sleep over the thought of tiny hands near those giant teeth. He was too much dog with too little attention span. Beyond that, in my hormone-fueled state, my connection with him was waning. He didn’t feel like my dog, and I didn’t really want him around.

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Then our baby came. Whenever our infant son was in the room, he was like an entirely different dog. He was calm and quiet, nuzzling him with his nose if we let him, but otherwise keeping good distance for safety. My reasons for wanting to get rid of him had disappeared, but the truth was, I still wanted him gone. I was suffering quietly with postpartum depression, and just the mental energy of caring for one more creature drained me.

I told my husband that our dog was still too much for me. I couldn’t handle him and the baby. I put an ad on Craigslist reading "Free Dog, Lab Mix, Friendly but Wild." I didn't really expect anyone to want him, not after I told them about his inability to adapt to strangers without mauling them with excited love. Or how he was a whopping 100 pounds and had zero training. Yet the emails came pouring in, same day, and I suddenly had people wanting to come by the house. To take our dog away.

I sat there and cried, leaving emails unanswered. I tried to find the strength to set up a time for them to come meet with us, to see if they would be a better fit for our dog than I was. Part of me knew they probably would be. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t do it.

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I finally replied to all the emails, rejecting each and every inquiry. I simply couldn't do it. When I was actually faced with the prospect of losing him to another family, I was heartbroken and ashamed of myself for even thinking about it.

So we kept him. I was uncertain at first if I would ever feel like he fit into our family, but now I cannot imagine a life without him. As our son grew and my depression faded, I realized that the reason I never felt like he was my dog was because he belonged wholeheartedly to my son. This was his boy. This was who he was put on this earth for.

His dog would lie beside his bassinet, always standing guard. He would patiently trail him as he toddled around the yard, wait for him to throw a ball mere inches away from his face. He would sit happily next to him as my son patted him a bit too hard, saying “guh daw, guh daw.” Now five years later, I find myself watching my son in the backyard, riding his bike as the dog trots behind him, always waiting for him to say “good dog.” And I try to forget that there was ever a time I considered giving away my son’s best friend.

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