~ When I wrote this we were one week away from sending our dog Mac Daddy to his new home. Mac has since joined his new family. Re-homing him was the hardest decision of our lives. One we lost sleep over, cried over, and worried about incessantly, to say the least. This is the story of Mac Daddy, a sweet boy who gave us everything he had. ~
Since he was a puppy, Mac Daddy was a member of our family. Shortly after Darren and I moved into our first house together we came across an English bulldog breeder in our neighborhood advertising a new litter. We popped in thinking we’d just pay these cuties a visit and, of course, we fell in love with a little guy named Mac. A couple of visits later and we were bringing Mac home for good. I can’t tell you how we loved and cherished this dog. Mac Daddy, aka Mackie, aka Mooey, aka Moo Moo, aka Pooey Mooey (don’t ask) was sweet, lovable, and loyal beyond bounds. Overall, he was just a hilariously oddball puppy with the most unique, almost-human-seeming personality.
Mac Daddy accompanied us on walks, played with us in the yard, and snuggled with us on the couch (despite best intentions that he wouldn’t be a couch dog he inevitably made his way into the nook). Everything revolved around Mac; everything was intentionally planned to include him. I even made a YouTube channel for him. We loved that boy with all our hearts. Then I got pregnant with Van, and everything shifted almost imperceptibly. I now had this little baby life to care for growing inside me and without realizing it at the time, the dog became that… A loved, cherished dog, but not my one and only baby. When my belly grew too large, Mac could no longer fill the spot in my lap on the recliner he once did. I could no longer afford to take him on walks once I became overdue because he tugged on the leash and I worried I might trip and fall. I loved Mac beyond words but I now had this differentiation between dog baby, and baby baby. A small but also massive difference in my mind. Mac would no longer be the very first priority for us, as harsh as that may sound. It was just true.
When Mac was 2, Van came along and he and Mac were the best of friends as Van grew older. They played together and Van loved him with all his heart, and I believe Mac shared that sentiment based on almost never leaving his side and putting up with a baby’s annoying habits of grabbing and yanking on anything in his path. Countless videos and photos document a life spent in baby/doggy bliss. We cherished quiet snuggle times, as well as crazy laughing, utterly chaotic play times. Van didn’t know anything but having Mac in his life, and Mac was content to have this little butterball companion, especially for his frisky moments.
We moved houses the winter of 2013 and Mac came along for the ride, always game as long as he was with us. Spring of 2014 I found out I was pregnant with Gunnar. Around the same time, Darren was offered a job in West Palm Beach, Florida and after some thought we accepted the unexpected incredible opportunity. Because of relocation complications along the way we spent three months living in AirBnB’s and hotels, but we managed to find places that accommodated dogs because we had Mac Daddy. This was when talks of what to do about Mac began. See, after having Van, Mac developed an over-protectiveness I’d never seen in him before. Visitors to the house that he wasn’t super familiar with he would get overly excited around, and if they went near the kids this would often escalate into jumping up, barking, and even knocking people down or unintentionally scratching them with sharp nails or an open mouth (I feel the need to defend my boy despite his bad behavior – he never bit down or snapped at a person, EVER). One time it was a personal training client that came to my garage, another time it was a friend’s girlfriend he knocked off a bar stool because of its height and his weight, another time it was a house cleaner that came to the house. He scared people, and in turn it made us extremely anxious, exacerbating the problem. This became a sad, unfortunate cycle.
We hired trainers before ever moving from our first house. We spent hundreds on trying to retrain bad habits and we remained consistent, until we had Van. Then consistency wavered as survival with a baby took over. Add to that the change of moving, staying in hotels, and the relocation to Florida and chaos ensued. When we finally left Canada for Florida we had to leave Mac behind with my sister and her husband for a few weeks. We ended up paying someone thousands of dollars (yes, seriously) to drive him down to Florida to be with us. With me heavily pregnant plus a toddler and Darren working well over full time hours plus travel, we simply couldn’t drive him down from Canada ourselves. No airlines we could find would fly English bulldogs into south Florida due to their breathing issues and the liability as a result. We faced a dilemma: find an adoptive home in Canada or commit to Mac and have him sent down. So we committed and brought him down to be with us. We missed him and couldn’t wait to have him back; yet, life was calmer without him, and being so pregnant I was relieved to not have to handle a dog with disciplinary problems without a fenced yard in our rental home while also dealing with a toddler.
Once being in Florida, sadly, Mac’s quality of life decreased significantly. No longer with any support from family or friends (we knew almost no one) to drop by and care for him when we weren’t home, plus staying with sitters he didn’t know during our long trips home to Canada, we struggled with if we could sustain life as it was with him. Add to that his disciplinary problems, and we decided we owed him another go at training. So we enlisted the help of one of the most esteemed dog trainers/veterinarians in the state. We did some retraining and he was prescribed Prozac. Yes, Prozac. I was baffled that a dog could benefit from this, but it seemed to help. Mac, always lazy, became even more docile in general around the house. Yet his over-reactions to guests remained pretty much unchanged despite the training and Prozac. We considered re-homing him (a nice way of saying giving him away) yet again, and more seriously. A tipping point – there were many that we’d experience, recover from, and almost forget about before the next came – was shortly after Gunnar was born. We had a new nanny and Mac had always been fine around her, until he wasn’t. One day while she held Gunnar he jumped up, barking and nearly knocked her over – all as she held my newborn baby. After this, I swore we had to give him away. But time passed, and we started leaving him outside whenever our nanny came over – a temporary band-aid solution. We’d leave him outside anytime we had people over, which wasn’t often because of how guilty we felt. The situation wasn’t ideal but it was work-able for us, and sad for Mac. This became the trend.
A few more incidents later and here we are. As I type this we are one week to the day away from sending Mac to his new home. It’s been a decision I’ve cried over countless times, and even as I write this I can hardly see the computer screen as my eyes fill and I try to choke down the emotion. Mac has been there for our family through everything. All the trials and tribulations and great times life has brought us over the past five years, Mac has been there for us. He stayed up for the ragers we threw before we had kids. He snuggled with me and was the companion I needed after injuries and my surgery this past summer. He’s given us everything he has. But what Darren and I have come to realize over the past months is that we are no longer giving him all of us. We are no longer being there for him. He’s no longer getting what he needs. We’ve selfishly done what’s best for us emotionally and kept him with us, when what he needs from us now is a rational decision. To give him a better home. Some people will read this and think we are awful for ever considering giving our dog away. They can’t imagine doing it themselves. To them I say I hear you, and It’s a kindness. Mac will be content with his new family – a family with the capacity to give him even more attention, a family that already has a bulldog buddy ready and waiting for him, a family that knows the breed and is ready for its inherent challenges and Mac’s specific ones. Darren and I will miss Mac horribly, we will yearn for his warm, heavy body next to us on the couch, we will miss his loud snoring that has become so soothing over the years; we will wish we’d never given him away. Those times are inevitable and they will hurt badly. All I can hope is that Mac won’t feel our absence and instead will be overwhelmed with a new, fulfilling love from a family with everything to give him.
Giving away our dog is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, painful decision. The hardest decision of my life. If you read this and say we’ve failed, I’d agree with you. In fact, I’m the first to say it. It’s one of the biggest failures of my life, and I’m so sorry for it. But what’s more important than my pride or selfish desires is Mac’s quality of life, and this is for the best. It may sound like I’m trying to convince someone I’m doing the right thing but the truth is I’m trying to convince myself, and I doubt that will stop. Because these are the things I tell myself every day, every moment, as we approach giving him to his new family. Years ago, I hate to say it, I’d have judged someone for doing what we are doing. I wouldn’t have understood. I wouldn’t have dreamed we’d be saying goodbye to the dog that’s seen us through it all. But here we are. We will miss that squishy face and those soft jowls beyond words. Goodbye Mac Daddy.