By Angela J. Willard (Richards)
for Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
Many pet owners are not pet “owners” at all, we are pet parents and our pets tend to own us. When my children were teenagers, I saw less and less of them and became increasingly attached to our family pets, Joey (a Chihuahua mix) and DJ (our long haired Dachshund). As a mom, I wasn’t ready for my children to need me less and I became a “mom” to our dogs. Laugh all you want, but I know I am not the only one who loves our pets like children.
Several years ago our family moved to Florida, and during the planning I could not bear the thought of leaving our fur babies behind. So, we paid astronomical fees to prepare them for travel and flew them across the country with us. Sometimes I wonder if we did the right thing by taking them out of their environment in Ketchikan, Alaska and moving them to unknown territory in Key West, Florida.
While in Florida, Joey and DJ enjoyed fun in the sun, playing at the beaches, and chasing iguanas. We had to protect their nosey noses from trouble with snakes and scorpions—and other things we don’t have to worry about in Alaska. At one time, DJ had gotten stuck under our deck in the back yard, and my son, Chris, had to climb under and drag him out because he was unable to move—he had been paralyzed by a Cane Toad (of all things). With many prayers and healing touches, DJ escaped death by the toad and lived on to run around enjoying fun in the Florida sun. We, being Alaskans, were unprepared for the dangers that our beloved fur babies would be faced with in such a different climate.
Within a year of moving to Florida, we were faced with housing challenges, like many in Key West are, and had to make the difficult decision to adopt our pets out to new pet parents who were able to provide a stable home for DJ and Joey. That decision was a painful one, but also an inescapable one. We had no other choice.
The people who graciously accepted our fur babies into their lives, made it very clear that at any time we were able to have them again, they were more than willing to foster them for us. But that time did not come. It has been a couple years now since we had to say goodbye to our beloved pets, and now we are back in Alaska. As I look back, I see that I should have left them in their home environment in Ketchikan, rather than selfishly taking them across the country where DJ almost lost his life, and where we ended up losing them completely.
If we had adopted them out before we moved, they would have been well cared for in a loving home with no snakes, scorpions or poisonous frogs to deal with. And they would have most likely still been in our home town of Ketchikan when we returned and we would be able to see them once again.
Even though a piece of my heart went with DJ, and most especially Joey (my baby), I always have the peace in knowing that the people who adopted them were a perfect fit.
I will never forget seeing DJ run and play with his new Dachshund siblings, having the time of his life at the home of his new “Dad”, or seeing Joey in the arms of his new loving mama at the Kmart in Key West. I could see on her face that, like me, she couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, and I had to completely let him go. It was the best thing for us all.
In the past year I have traveled through many states, from Florida to Montana and then back home to Alaska. This was not planned, like many things in life, and I would have had a very difficult time traveling with even just Joey in my arms. Adopting him out to a stable home was the best thing for him, even though for me it was heart wrenching.
I may have been late in making the difficult decision to adopt out our family pets, my beloved fur babies, but in all things, God works all things out for the good.
This article was originally published in the Jan-March issue of Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
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