When we first moved to Minnesota, we decided to bring a dog into our family. We went to the local humane society and picked out a sweet boy. We named him Buster and he made his way into our hearts. For the first couple of weeks after we adopted Buster, Jack was terrified of him. He would climb on the couch, chair, table - anything that would keep him off of the floor. He rarely wanted to be in the same room as Buster. But, then he slowly came around and started loving Buster. He would give him hugs and play with him and talk to him.
The next part of this story is really difficult for me to write. In doing this, I am admitting that my child has "issues." That there is something wrong. And sometimes that's hard to put into words.
As autism began to rear its ugly head and Jack's behaviors became worse, some of his aggression was taken out on Buster. I won't go into too much detail here (for fear of being judged), but let's just say that Jack's actions toward Buster went far beyond how any "typical" 4 year old would treat a dog. It was more than just "rough-housing." We talked to teachers. We talked to therapists. We talked to friends. We tried every piece of advice given to us. Nothing worked. It just got worse.
Several months ago, we put out a plea to our friends on Facebook. We asked if anyone might be able to provide a good home for our animals (we were having the same problems with the cat, too). One of our friends offered to take Buster into their home.
So, last Friday, we loaded Buster up in the car one last time and drove out to the country, where his new family lives. He had previously spent some time with this family, so he was familiar with them. We had talked to Jack all day about where Buster was going and that we weren't going to pick him up and that he was going to live at a different home now. We never told him that we were doing this because of his actions - I wasn't about to make him feel guilty for the dog going away. This was already hard enough on all of us. We weren't quite sure if Jack was understanding what would happen, but tried to do our best to explain it to him. Jack had picked out a toy for Buster to keep with him - a stuffed kitty. I told Jack that Buster would play with the stuffed kitty whenever he missed us, and that he would remember us.
As we drove away from our friends' home, Jack was quiet. I asked him if he missed Buster. Then the tears came. He cried. And cried. He said he was sad about Buster and wanted him to come to OUR house. I cried. (I'm crying now.) I am sure that part of his crying was exhaustion (it was a loooong day and late night for him), but I know that he really felt that emotion of missing Buster.
The next day, I went to Target and found Jack a big stuffed dog. I brought him home and told Jack that he could give the puppy a hug whenever he missed Buster. Jack named him Horton (we were in the middle of watching "Horton Hears a Who" when Jack named the dog) and he sleeps with him.
Life is actually quieter in our house now. There is a lot less stress about Jack's mis-treatment of the dog and the constant discipline surrounding that. We don't have a dog cowering in the corners when Jack gets wired. Jack is doing well. He talks about Buster sometimes, but not too often. He doesn't seem sad about it anymore. It is one less thing for us to worry about right now. We know we made the right decision - but that definitely didn't make it any easier.