We loved him. Before we had our son, and even before we got married, Levi made us a family. We planned our evenings around taking him to the dog park and our weekends around which hike we would take with him. His bowls were filled with nothing but the best food. Pictures of him dominated our social media pages. Family decisions were made with equal consideration given to me, my husband and our dog/best friend.
When I became pregnant with our first child, we didn’t consider Levi the family pet—he was the older brother. And when we brought our son home from the hospital, our eyes welled with tears as we saw this 60-pound ball of energy slowly sniff out his new family and lay down his giant head next to our sleeping baby. Any hesitation we had about turning our family of three into a family of four completely vanished.
That serene scene lasted all through our son’s first winter. When the frozen and uninviting ground thawed out in spring, Levi continued to be the loving and watchful older brother. He continued to be our companion and friend. But he ceased to be himself.
Levi no longer showed any sign of excitement when we took him to the car, because he knew he wasn’t going to the dog park. He didn’t bother following us to another room when we got up from the couch, because he knew our hands were full with the baby. We saw the silly playfulness that defined Levi drain from him.
We knew it was our fault.
This loyal and loving dog easily would have gone on pushing his needs lower down the totem pole for the sake of his family, for us.
While we still loved Levi like family, fed him the best food and shared pictures of him alongside our son, we no longer planned our weekends and evenings around him. We planned everything around daycare pick-up and managing a crazier household on less sleep.
And then: We made a family decision that didn’t just not include him, but called into question our ability to give him the life he deserved.
As much as we loved Levi, we couldn’t sacrifice his happiness any longer. This loyal and loving dog easily would have gone on pushing his needs lower down the totem pole for the sake of his family, for us. But we couldn’t allow him to do so. After several agonizing months of trying and failing to rework our schedules in order to give him the same level of attention he got before we became parents, we made the tough decision that enabled him to have the best life possible. We found Levi a new home.
As much as it still hurts to not have our pup with us, we don’t regret our decision.
There were many moments in that first year of parenthood that left me feeling guilty or like a failure, but few as raw as this one. Not only did I lose my best friend, I felt like I’d failed one of my babies. I had judged plenty of others who rehomed pets when they became parents, claiming that I would never be able to do something like that. Not to my Levi—he was family.
But I had to admit that I couldn’t be everything to everyone. Life had undergone a complete 180, and the new me had to put my son above everything and my needs below those of the ones I loved. That included Levi. So I had to accept that my sadness and guilt were part of the package that improved Levi’s quality of life.
As much as it still hurts to not have our pup with us, we don’t regret our decision. One of the wonderful qualities of Levi is his capacity for love, so we have no worries that he hasn't bonded with his new family. We know that he is just as in love with them as he was with us. We also know that the love he is getting in return isn’t confined to that brief window after work between the baby falling asleep and us passing out. We know he is also being given adventure instead of just giving comfort.
And knowing that Levi is happy is enough for me.
One of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make is also one of the best.