It’s the blog I’ve been dreading to write.
Today is Indy’s birthday. He’s 10.
And I’m not with him this year to celebrate.
Here’s what happened.
A lot of people have been asking me—mostly leaving comments on Instagram or Facebook—about Indy. Where is he? How come you’re not posting photos of him anymore?
For years, my smiley shih tzu-silky terrier mix, found in a cardboard box at the Hawaiʻi Kai Dog Park, was a social media star. He was beyond adorable, with those bright eyes, floppy ears and wild tongue. Instagram gold.
He was my faithful companion, shadowing me wherever I went. When I cooked, he was nesting between my feet. When I showered, he was waiting patiently outside the tub. I was almost never without Indy by my side.
Then I got married, moved into a new home with a new dog (my husband’s), got pregnant and had a baby.
Things changed—and things with Indy changed, too.
He became very protective of me, more than usual. He didn’t like my husband getting close to me at all. Several times he lunged at him, growling and clenching his underbite. Seconds later, though, Indy would be apologetic, almost crawling toward my husband with his tail between his legs and licking his face. It was strange—and stressful.
We lived like this for years, always mindful of how we interacted around Indy, always worried he would become aggressive. It was rare—but it still happened.
Once the baby came, though, I knew I had to get serious about this. The deal was if Indy ever got aggressive with our son, I would need to find a new home for him. And that, at the time, was not an option to me. I was going to do everything, try anything to make this work.
And I did.
I hired dog trainers. I exercised him more. I gave him CBD-infused treats. I read everything I could online and talked to other dog owners will similar situations. He was what’s called “resource-guarding” me, the way some dogs growl or snap when you get too close to something they consider valuable—rawhide, bones, food and, yes, even a person.
I talked to vets, to more dog trainers, to more dog owners, to friends. We separated him from the family, keeping him in one room while we were in another. I couldn’t risk anything happening to my son. But I hated seeing Indy gaze at us from behind a closed gate, wishing he could be near us. It broke my heart, but I didn’t know what else to do.
And then it happened.
Landon walked over to hug me while I was sitting on the couch in our living room. Indy had been lying on the couch near me. It all happened so quickly. Indy darted toward my son, growling and baring his teeth when my husband grabbed Landon and pushed Indy away.
Of course, Indy felt horrible about what happened. But my husband was done.
That night, I frantically texted a friend of mine who had been dealing with the same resource-guarding issues as me. I explained to her what happened and that I needed to rehome my dog. I was devastated. She empathized.
But she also had an idea.
Her neighbors were looking for an older rescue dog to take in. In fact, the woman had taken off from work that week to browse the local shelter for a dog. And she had a thing for silky terriers.
It was perfect.
The couple came over to meet Indy. Indy took to them right away. The deal was made: I would drop him off on a Wednesday for a week. Just to see how it would go.
That was back in February.
I can’t even write this without crying uncontrollably. I miss him every single day. I hate that I’m one of those pet owners who had to rehome her dog. (About 6 percent of households rehome their pets, mostly due to behavior and aggression.) It’s embarrassing. I thought I could figure out what to do, how to fix this, make it work for my family. And I couldn’t. No matter what anyone tells me, what experts say, what I’ve been told by vets and what I’ve read online, I feel like a failure. I failed Indy.
I wonder if he misses me. I hope he doesn’t think I abandoned him, that I don’t love him. I wish I could have explained to him what was going on. I dropped him off one morning, watched him run into the backyard and drove away. I cried all the way to work that morning—and have cried every day since.
But I couldn’t have found a more perfect family. I know he’s loved and take care of. They walk him for miles every day, dote on him, play with him. He’s even acclimated to their chickens. And the new owners created an Instagram account, where they post photos and videos of Indy regularly. So I still get to “see” him whenever I want.
But I miss him so much. I still think he’s going to greet me at the door. I wait for his happy barks and his pawing at my legs. Sunny, my other dog who has been with Indy from the day I brought him home, still comes to the front door every morning to see if Indy is back. And Landon often asks about him. (He think he’s helping the couple exercise. That’s what I told him, anyway.)
Tonight, in fact, Landon asked me about Indy. “I’m never going to see him again,” he said. I just teared up. I hope that’s not true, but I couldn’t promise him anything, either.
He’s safe, he’s happy and he’s well cared for. He’s in a home that’s full of love and happiness. I love him enough to know that this is the best I could do for him, that his happiness is far more important than my own. But it still hurts every time I think about it.
I know I did the right thing—for my family, for Indy—and I know he’s in the right home for him. I hope that someday I’ll come to peace with my decision, that I’ll stop crying and feel OK about it.
Maybe in 2021.