We had a foster dog once, who stayed with us for two weeks while awaiting transport to a rescue group In another state. She was a sweet girl; overweight due to a thyroid condition but also very mellow and easy to incorporate into our household. Although it was obvious that she was very fond of my husband, she didn’t seem overly attached to any of us or concerned when we left the house for the day.
On the day of her transport, I drove her back to our local shelter so she could catch her ride to a rescue. She trotted beside me as we entered the building, and didn’t seem terribly nervous or unsettled about being back at the place where I had first picked her up. Personally, I was pretty calm, knowing that while I would miss her, she would be safe and move on to a better life.
The transport arrived and it was time to take my foster girl out to the van to be loaded up. I walked her out of the building where I was met by one of the transport volunteers. He reached for the leash and I handed it over willingly. That was when my foster’s calm demeanor broke. She looked to him and then to me; the confusion in her eyes was so apparent. As he walked her toward the van, she pulled hard in the other direction, back toward me. I had to turn and walk away, and that moment still haunts me to this day.
In just two weeks, that dog was convinced that she had found her “home.” Her home wasn’t a giant back yard or the most expensive food on the market. It wasn’t a huge house or even an enormous amount of attention. It was a familiar group of people (and dogs), and a familiar routine. That was it. That was home.
I never would have guessed by our daily interactions that my foster dog was so very set on being a part of our family. I knew it wouldn't be an easy transition, but I didn't expect the scene that played out the day of her transport. Since then, I've personally watched many dogs struggle to adjust to life without their previous owners. It's not always apparent at first, but it is certainly there.
This isn't meant to make anyone feel guilty if they end up having to give up a loved pet. But, in those cases where the problem is temporary, preventable with proper management, or could be helped with training, I hope giving up becomes a less common option. As much as it hurts the human, I suspect that our dogs go through a much more confusing, stressful array of emotions at being removed from the home that they know.
To a dog, you are Home. Where you go, is where he wants to go. Moving to a small apartment shouldn't mean leaving the dog behind. It should mean plenty of one-on-one leash time (I've been there and done it myself... very happy dogs). Behavior issues should mean getting in touch with a good trainer and working through them (the next dog you get is going to have its own set of issues too). I could go on and on... and trust me when I say that I do understand there are extenuating circumstances that do make it more humane to part ways with an animal (been there too). But, in most cases, if there is a will there is a way. If you have the will, I would be happy to help you find a way.