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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Point/Counterpoint: You Decide

Norlene is 67.  Her husband died from a heart attack last week, leaving her in emotional and financial disarray.  Her world has been turned upside down.  She has her own set of health problems; she is frail and unstable on her feet.  Her primary exercise is from a treadmill.

Norlene's husband left her with a five-year-old miniature Schnauzer named Bailey.  This was very much her husband's dog, his baby, and his companion.  Norlene had little to do with her, although the dog did sleep in bed with them each night.  Bailey has no leash manners or training, and is stout enough that Norlene can't comfortably or safely walk her.  Bailey barks a lot when people come over, which is happening a lot since her husband passed away.  Norlene has a friend who comes over and walks Bailey outside three times a day.

Norlene's trying to decide whether to keep Bailey or re-home her.  She says, "I love Bailey, but...."

The decision is never easy, and there is no right or wrong answer.  But what do you think?  Some day you or a relative might be in this situation.  It's worth thinking about...ahead of time.

POINT:  Norlene should re-home Bailey
This poor woman has enough on her plate already.  She never personally bonded with the dog the way her husband did.  She's not even a "dog person."  Caring for Bailey is a physical struggle, since Norlene can't even walk her outside (and doesn't want to).  The barking is an agitation that Norlene doesn't need right now, as she's trying to sort out her life.  Bottom line:  both Bailey and Norlene would be better off if Bailey were re-homed.  It should be easy for Norlene to find a really good, loving home for Bailey.  There are organizations ready to help screen prospective owners and place her in an appropriate setting.  Bailey will live a fuller, richer life elsewhere, getting more exercise and unconditional love.  Norlene will be freed to pick up the pieces of her life without being burdened by the dog.  There is no reason for Norlene to feel guilt or obligation to keep Bailey, particularly if she can provide her with a better life elsewhere.

COUNTERPOINT:  Norlene should keep Bailey
It's been only a week since her husband passed away.  Norlene should not make any hasty or radical moves for a couple more weeks, given her fragile and emotionally desperate state.  When thing settle down, she should choose to keep Bailey,  and she'll probably develop a true love for her.  Bailey is the one heartbeat that still ties her to her departed husband.  Without Bailey, she would be totally alone.  Chances are, she and Bailey will finally bond more closely than ever.  She can get in-home training for her and Bailey, and help mold her into the dog that she can live with and enjoy.  The dog will also give her reason to get up in the morning and reason to start walking outside.  This will be physically and emotionally good for Norlene, and Bailey will live a good life in her original home environment.  Bailey sleeps in bed with Norlene now.  To be without her at this time could be really awful, making the impact of Norlene's loss even worse.  Bailey will be a true comfort and blessing to Norlene as time passes.

Worth considering:  "Re-homing Bailey" was my first suggestion to Norlene.  It is the less emotional, more hard-nosed  and streamlined approach, which I often tend to take.  On the other hand, "Norlene should keep Bailey" is the idealistic approach, but I know it's totally possible and potentially life-enriching for Norlene, if things go the right way.

What do you think?  By the way, Norlene is my sister-in-law.
Feel free to leave comments.


kwalton said...

I agree that Norlene should keep Bailey and see if she and the dog bond. They do say not to make any major changes for one year after losing your partner. Bailey is still young enough to learn some manners. And, every time Norlene looks at Bailey, she'll think of her loving husband. I say Keep the Dog.

Now, after a year if things aren't working out and Bailey is too much for Norlene to handle then Bailey deserves a loving home that will give her the training and discipline she needs. She's a cute dog . . . she wouldn't have trouble finding a nice home for her.

Virginia said...

If she can afford to wait to make a decision, I think she should wait. Since Bailey's needs are presently being met, she does not apparently need to make an immediate decision.

She can always re-home Bailey at a later time. What she cannot do is "un-home" Bailey should she choose to do that. Since she is your sister-in-law, it is possible that Bailey's manners be addressed when Norlene is up to it in a few weeks.

If Norlene is never up to it, having someone address them may help somewhat (she should be able to at least address the barking in the house).

Beverly in Yakima said...

I agree that she should take her time making a decision. Keeping the dog for now will not hurt and she will be able to change her mind later. If she gives it away she may regret it and won't be able to take it back.

JO said...

We oversimplify the dog question by asking if this owner should or should not keep Bailey when there is, in fact, the option of making NO decision right now. Norlene is caught in the wake of devastating loss, and aside from crisis management dictated by laws and emergency financial concerns, she should NOT be making major changes or choices during this time of emotional turmoil. I fear that her dilemma will become reminiscent of cases we see frequently where I work: the newly bereaved arrives with a truckload of the departed’s clothing, camping gear, tools, and books “for donation to someone in need.” In the survivor’s mind,ridding one's self of the deceased possessions constitutes getting on with one’s life – closing one door, to open another.

Grief is a lengthy, complex, albeit natural process that’s often ignored and avoided in the interests of feeling better quickly and “moving on.” While Norlene could have a strong support system OUTSIDE of the home, Bailey might, in fact, be the one constant providing stability INSIDE during this time of mutual transition and readjustment. Both, after all, have suffered a traumatic life event.

It’s a given that Bailey needs training. Norlene’s involvement will provide a healthy diversion from balancing her personal needs and legal responsibilities while realizing rewards of Bailey’s interest, trust, respect, and affection. If after a few months she simply cannot tolerate Bailey, she has the preferred option of re-homing a well-behaved dog, rather than a crazy one.

Mommy Holiday said...

Jane- I have just recently found your blog and I have really enjoyed reading it. What did your sister in-law decide? Its been nearly a year now.