The Importance of Respecting Boundaries

puppy sitting on floor with toys, looking at camera

An open letter to a family I’ve never met:

Dear Family,

A little over 2 years ago, our family cat Callie died at the age of 17. Because of my allergies, Hubby insisted that we take some time and go without pets for a while and see how it went. My health improved considerably.

The boys have been begging for another pet ever since Callie passed on. Once we saw how much better I was, and considered also how many friends and relatives are also allergic to cats, the idea of getting a dog started to grow. I was pretty opposed at first. Dogs are so much work! I’ve never really owned a dog….I don’t know how to own a dog.

Gradually though, both Hubby and I warmed to the idea. After a lot of searching, prayer, and consideration we chose a breeder this past April. When the late spring puppies were born, we chose just the right one. Let me tell you, she was the cutest one there.

Right around the first of July we requested her and sent in our deposit. I’ll confess that I looked at her picture daily, trying to pick the perfect name. We checked books out of the library and made plans both for the big day when we picked her up and life thereafter.

Then last week, I received a disturbing e-mail from the breeder requesting that I call right away. After 11pm on a Saturday night, I made the call.

Family, it turns out you had visited that same breeder that day. As soon as your car stopped after pulling in, one of your daughters leaped out and ran over to the pen where several puppies were playing. Our little pup was in the group, out enjoying the sunshine of a beautiful day. This was an area off-limits to visitors, but the breeder’s cries to stop didn’t deter your daughter. She jumped over the fence and caused a terrible accident.

I haven’t been given specific details, but in the breeder’s words “our little girl doesn’t look good. Even if she survives, she’ll never be right.” For all intents and purposes, that puppy is no longer ours.

Her name was Gracie, by the way.

The breeder didn’t tell me how long you stayed after the accident, and I don’t know if you understand the extent of the damage that was caused. Apparently one of your daughters wanted to hold another puppy, and you offered to help her do so. That was when the breeder said you would touch no more dogs and escorted you off the property.

I have to be honest here. I don’t understand why you weren’t worried about the injured dog or apologetic to the breeder. The breeder told me she’d yelled and that you appeared to be offended by that. Did you not realize what was happening? That my puppy was so badly injured, and that your girl’s actions caused it? It’s very difficult to comprehend what was going through your minds.

Family, I want you to know that I am not even slightly angry with you. Hubby, the boys, and I all offer you our forgiveness. We were heartbroken over the loss, and I personally am still adjusting to the idea that we’ll never have little Gracie in our home. Even though we never met her, she was loved from afar all those weeks we thought she was ours.

We have been offered another puppy. Picking out a new name is difficult – this puppy is not Gracie. We’ll figure it out though.

If I could ask anything of you, Family, it would be to teach your children to respect boundaries. A fence is a boundary. If your daughter had stopped at the fence, we would have been following through on our original plans and picking up our Gracie next week. Instead, we wait for a younger puppy to be ready.

It’s an awful situation. We’ve lost, Gracie lost, and the breeder lost.

The reason I took the time to write this letter is that I’d like to see some good come out of it somehow. Perhaps you already know the importance of teaching children to control themselves, and what happened last week was just a freak accident. Maybe someone else reading this letter will realize that even though it’s more difficult to hold children to limits, we as parents have the responsibility of setting them. This situation lays bare-in painful detail-what the consequences can be otherwise.

I want to say again: we are not angry. You are forgiven. If by some twist of fate you happen to read this letter and want to contact me, please feel free to do so.

Thanks.

Amy

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who lost a puppy.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

View all contributions by

{ 12 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment


six − 4 =

CommentLuv badge

  • babafisa August 3, 2009, 8:31 am

    Thank you very much for that astonishing article

    Reply
  • Keller Hawthorne August 3, 2009, 5:28 pm

    What a sad story Amy. It’s wonderful that you are so forgiving – it will help heal your wounds.

    Accidents do happen and this was certainly a horrible one. I am not a parent yet, but I will remember this story years from now when I start my own family.

    Reply
  • UPrinting August 5, 2009, 12:27 am

    Hi Amy. You must be heartbroken and missing Gracie so much. Having always been a dog lover, I feel really sorry that you won’t get to be with Gracie.
    This post of yours is applicable really to all the parents out there. There comes a certain point in a child’s life when they have to be taught about boundaries and limitations. It’s the responsibility of the parent to ensure that.
    .-= UPrinting´s last blog ..UPrinting: We’re live on Youtube! Visit http://bit.ly/BcUj6 for design tips, how-to guides, and more! =-.

    Reply
  • Fetal Doppler August 5, 2009, 4:26 am

    Yes when pets are gone, its really pathetic. I also make sympathy with you.

    Reply
  • Lucy August 5, 2009, 3:40 pm

    Im so sorry about Gracie. It is true with our children though. My son gets really excited. I am constantly pulling him back and telling him to chill out. People tell me that I am to hard on him but the end of your article makes me feel better. Kids do get excited and they dont understand sometimes. We have to be their brains in their moments of uncontrollable bliss so accidents like this dont happen.

    Lucy

    Reply
  • Being the Change I Wish to See - Sherri August 6, 2009, 3:36 am

    Amy,

    I am so sorry for your pet losses. We are and have been dog owners our whole lives. I’ve only lived limited periods of time without a dog. I rescue dogs from shelters or who friends end up with who can’t keep the dog. Others in my family get their dogs from breeders, but I have decided there are enough unwanted dogs in shelters who need a good home. There has never been a lack of selection of breeds, mixes, sizes and ages.

    I prefer dogs who are over 8 months old (past the chewing stage, but still trainable). We have two of about equal size, and they are great company for us and for each other. I’ve never had a pair that play so well together and love each other as much as these two.

    I am glad you forgave the family that caused the injuries to the puppies, but I am angry. Allowing a child to harm animals, innocent or not, is not acceptable, and the parents of the child fell down on more than teaching respecting boundaries. At a strange place, the child should have been made to stay with a parent and retrieved as soon as she wondered off, before she could get into trouble.

    The loss of part or all of a litter is a horrible thing for a breeder to have to deal with. Not only are they financially harmed, they are far more emotionally harmed because it is their job to protect those young pups. The mother of the puppies also suffers depression over loss of any of them.

    One of my sister’s dogs was a breeding female, and lost one puppy in her last litter, probably due to her age. It had been a difficult labor, and Brooke ended up having an emergency c-section. Gidget had severe congenital heart defects and failed to thrive. Brooke (mother) was spade and given to my sister and brother-in-law for being such good owners of the puppies they purchased from the breeder. (They currently have 3 dogs). It was extremely hard on Brooke when she lost one. She still had six healthy pups, but she mourned the 7th, and it took her a few months to want to be part of the family again. She nursed her pups, but the breeder had to do more to make sure the pups were nurtured until they were weaned. My sister went to visit Brooke every day that she was at the breeder’s for the 8 week whelping and weaning period. The breeder said it seemed to help Brooke immensely to have a mom of her own to lean on.

    Knowing so much about the breeding process and dogs’ emotions makes me a lot less forgiving of anyone who would allow harm to come to puppies.

    Even when my son was really young and not well-versed in boundaries, it was our job to keep him out of trouble. But he also had a natural gift for knowing animals must be treated gently. I never had to teach him that. He asked before touching any animal, and did what he was told when he was allowed to touch, hold or interact with animals. In school, before I started homeschooling, he was one of the primary student caretakers of classroom animals throughout his school. There was one child from each grade who made sure all the school’s animals were cared for properly. They reported to the science teacher and worked under her.

    I wish you luck with your new puppy, and while this puppy will never replace Gracie, it will be its own bundle of joy and happiness for your family. Having had and lost many, each dog gives you something special about him or her that no other dog can give.

    Sherri

    Reply
  • Jesse August 7, 2009, 4:03 am

    It has to be hard to revisit the concept of boundaries with an incident like that. That must have been very hard to go through but I hope that the new puppy goes great with your family.

    Reply
  • jobs in gandhinagar August 19, 2009, 7:27 am

    Its a really sad story. To forget someone, the lovable one is not so easy from an incident like this.

    Reply
  • Roxanne August 22, 2009, 2:25 am

    So sad story , teaching our kids their boundaries is an important thing to do. Thanks for your story,we will take this as a lesson for us parents.

    Reply
  • morris September 3, 2009, 4:21 pm

    hey great artices. Very helpful.

    Reply
  • Amy September 8, 2009, 11:57 pm

    babafisa, thank you. 🙂

    Keller, it’s encouraging to know that people will take the message to heart.

    UPrinting, well said. 🙂

    Sherri, I was definitely upset and cried a few buckets of tears. But carrying anger about a situation that was already over with before I even learned of it would only hurt me. So I wrote about it in hopes of bringing good somehow. The great news is that we have our new puppy now and she’s just perfect for us. I don’t like how it all worked out, but I’m confident that God got us just the right baby for our family.

    Jesse, thanks. She’s doing well…we’ve had her a little over 2 weeks now.

    jobs, that’s very true.

    Roxanne and morris, thanks to both of you as well. Happy to have you here. 🙂

    Reply