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One hot summer day six years ago, an engaged YMCA camp counselor went on a field trip to Greenville Humane Society with her campers.

This field trip started something in that counselor that she is paying for….to this day.

While on that field trip, I (aka the engaged camp counselor) was visibly affected by all of the dogs I witnessed there. I brought my fiancee back that night, and we were expecting to pick out a puppy. Then we went down the adult dog aisle.

In one cage, there was a black and white dog cowering in the corner. He stood out for two reasons. One, he was the only dog not lunging himself at the cage door. Two, he had “Dog of the Day” hanging on the door. The worker explained that this means he was 1/2 price, because he had been there the longest. That sealed the deal for me. Although we had to pull him out of the cage and he ran from Andrew, we went home with Samson that night.

Andrew and Samson had a glorious time living in the little apartment off of Davenport Road until we were married and I moved in. There were incidents, sure…Samson eating 1 pound of chocolate, loaves of bread – whatever he could reach off of the kitchen counters; Samson eating my underwear; Samson snapping the retractable leash during a walk late at night, and a policeman having to help me coax him out of the bushes…but he was still our baby.

We moved out of our apartment six months later, into our house in Fountain Inn. We immediately forked out the thousands of dollars to put a wooden privacy fence around the backyard for Samson. He was spoiled rotten – the king of the castle. No matter what he chewed up or destroyed, we replaced it.

Then, one day, I was driving home from school – I had just started teaching. I passed a place called “Hugs for Hounds” in Mauldin. I decided to stop by, and immediately laid eyes on a brindle boxer mix.  Andrew had been saying for a while that he wanted a brindle boxer. She didn’t have her tail docked…she had been a stray that had been hit by a car and brought in. She was full-grown and very friendly. Stephanie (the owner of HFH) was fond of Sadie, and she warned me that Sadie could be protective over her. She insisted we bring Samson in before she let us adopt her. We did, they did fine, so we brought her home.

That was not my last day at HFH. After adopting Sadie, I spent many weekends up there volunteering. I fell in love with several dogs there, and my heart broke when I heard all of the sad stories behind the animals. I swore then and there that I would never be like one of those families that tossed their dogs aside when they had kids.

One day, a few months after getting Sadie, I was up there and we had the cutest little Jack Russell mix. He was so sweet and loving, and I called Andrew up there to come see him. Andrew came, but Stephanie knew what I was up to. She knew I was a sucker, and she wasn’t going to let me take this puppy who would surely be adopted soon, when there were other puppies there! I could almost see the gears turning when she went and pulled this blond puppy out of the “sick” room. This poor dog could not even stand up because he had been in a wire crate pretty much his whole life (he was 4 months old then). He was cute, and we laughed because he was like jello – he just melted into your body. He fell asleep on Andrew’s shoulder, and that sealed the deal for Max. We took him home that day instead of the Jack Russell mix.

In case you’ve lost count – that’s three dogs before our first wedding anniversary. Samson was 50 lbs. when we got him, Sadie was 60, and Max was our puppy that Stephanie assured us would not be NEARLY as big as the other two. (Had the dogs weighed today, five years later…Samson is 64 lbs, Sadie is 74 lbs, and Max is 94 lbs! Yeah.)

These dogs were our babies. We walked them, took them to the dog park, shelled out another $800 for another fence in the backyard to keep them pinned up, bought doghouses, dog beds, dog crates, an electric fence for when they started digging out of our fence, Halloween costumes, a jacket for Sadie for when it was cold….you name it. We have had several late-night trips to the emergency vet – I’m pretty sure they were all for Sadie – and several trips to our regular vet for various ills and injuries (Sadie getting hit by a truck, Sadie eating a bottle of bug spray, etc.). One day I stormed out of my parent’s house in tears because my dad hit Samson after Samson growled at him….that was horrible. They all used to sleep with us, even!

Then, the REAL babies came along.

I was so worried about how our “fur babies” would react, and surprisingly, they did great. Samson is our anxious, digging, crazy dog, so I figured he would be jealous. This isn’t the case. He immediately became the babies’ protector – lying in front of the pack-n-play, sitting right beside visitors as they held Carlyn or Blakely, barking at anyone he felt threatened by (usually my dad).  Max is still like Jello – he is so laidback. You can do anything to him and he doesn’t bat an eye. Sadie seemed to adjust fine as well…she has always been high energy, but she doesn’t show aggression….to people. Samson is another story!

Like I said before, Samson is very anxious and nervous. Sadie HATES that. If Samson whines too much, Sadie pounces. It used to not be a big deal, but if someone is visiting here, watch out.

I have advertised before to find Sadie another home before, and today I started again, because we didn’t know what else to do.

I know for a fact that the dogs cause me anxiety. We have had a few medical emergencies since the girls have come along, one being Samson’s eye and his glaucoma. He had his eye removed in July after several pricy vet visits and medications – in fact, the ophthalmologist we see for him is in Athens, GA. :/ We now have to continue the drops in his remaining eye, because it’s pretty much certain that eye will succumb to glaucoma at some point. Not only that – he is still an escape artist. He has gotten out of our fence three times in the past week and a half, and he was hit by a car one day. (I wrote about this here on my old blog.) Samson chews up any blanket or bed that is given to him. Sadie loves to eat toys, puzzle pieces, magnets…pretty much anything we don’t want her to. Max doesn’t really do much except annoy us by getting in our way – he can’t steer that big body too well sometimes!

I think I can handle everything, however…except the fighting. My dogs are great 99% of the time…but ugh, that 1%!

It’s ONLY when other people come here, though. If it’s just us 4 in the house, my dogs are perfect….Samson and Sadie will even cuddle if there is no one else here!

I get the tightness in my chest whenever I think about one of them moving out of our house. I also get the tightness when I think of putting one of them down – which is something we talked about a lot when Samson’s eye was giving him so much trouble. In the end, though, we couldn’t live with ourselves for taking away a life for no good reason.

Tonight I came home after grad class, when I had been sending emails all day about Sadie. I had been very distracted during to class thinking about our situation, and I knew Andrew had been thinking about it too. When we talk about it, we know that our girls are our priority…but it’s SO HARD to back out on the commitment we made when we took these animals in.

I notice that I have a problem – when I feel passionate about something, I tend to go overboard. I know that’s what happened with us taking in three big dogs. I felt passionate about shelter dogs and adoption, so I tried to fix everything by taking as many as I could. (Thank goodness our neighborhood has a 3 dog limit, or I might have taken more! Lord help me.) However, I have to learn that this is not in the best interest of anyone. I have been paying for this decision since August of 2005. I am determined to stick it out, but my goodness….!!!!

As of now, we have made a decision – Sadie is ours. She isn’t going anywhere. We have to start being PROactive instead of REactive.  Like I said, I know Sadie’s triggers, and we have got to take care of her before this happens again. I am going to start crating her when people come over (so keep that in mind if you ever come to the door – you might have to wait a minute!). I have also got to be more diligent about teaching Blakely about how to properly treat the animals.

I have to say, again…I have great dogs. As for Sadie, I just watched her snore yesterday afternoon as she was sprawled out in the den, and this morning she bounded into Blakely’s room to cover her with sloppy kisses when she woke up. Carlyn loves her. She’s wonderful…she listens, she’s housebroken, crate-trained, she loves to cuddle…it’s almost not fair that she is now in a house with two crazy little children and two other big dogs competing for affections. She needs exercise and attention, and we have not been good at giving it to her.

Who knew it would be so hard to be a fur baby’s parent?

(You can read more about our struggles with our dogs on my old blog, here and here and here. There are more entries, but you can search if you want.)