About a month ago, my husband and I adoped an elderly sheltie (Scamp) from the local shelter. I told them up-front that Assumpta, our 7 y/o spayed female DLH wasn't crazy about dogs and that it might not work out, but they were keen for us to give it a try, as the dog had some minor health issues and it didn't look good for him getting adopted at his advanced age. We'd done so well with Assumpta that they thought we might have a good chance of integrating the dog into our home for however long he had left. My husband and best friend assured me that Assumta would adjust fine, but I had this nagging gut feeling that there would be a problem
Assumpta came to us five years ago as a matted, starving stray picked up in the woods by my neighbor (a vet tech who volunteered at the shelter, as well). She wasn't working at their house at all (2 collies and a psycho-kitten), and the shelter was worried about her apparent aggression with kids and other animals, so we were asked to give her a try (neighbor knew I was a cat lover with no kids or pets and enough time to work with the cat a lot). Five years later, most of her issues have gone away (except the problem with kids and animals, though she'd seemed able to briefly tolerate quiet dogs). With us, she turned into a real velcro cat, Ms. Luvvie Kitty: no lap too small for her presence.
The first couple of weeks went okay, just a few little spats. We did everything "right," on-leash intros, totally supervised interaction, safe exits, litterbox, and feeding area for cat. The dog was unbelievably submissive and respectful to the cat, even turning his head away when she walked by him.
Just over a week ago, things started going wrong. Assumpta got very aggressive with Scamp, bullying him every time he laid down. She started shedding like I've never seen, and developed what initially seemed to be hairballs, but after a couple of days, we determined it was a cough instead. Vet said possibly bordetella from the dog, or maybe asthma triggered by stress, and prescribed antibiotics to start, with followup if things continued. Since then, Assumpta's been absolutely miserable, refuses to come downstairs except to use the litterbox and hide under the living room chair. Still some scattered coughing, though less and shorter duration. She's just a totally different cat, almost like she was when she first came to us...hostile, sick, and scared. Now she stands at the gate to the dogs room and hisses at him when he's fast asleep on the other side of the room. She hasn't come up on my lap since the dog came
The dog's going to have to go. It's been ripping me apart making this decision, but the deal was that Assumpta came first. He's such a sweet dog, but he's miserable being either bullied or confined, and the cat is miserable that he's even here. Seems like I've done nothing but cry and worry all week.
Anticipating this, I'd lined up a couple of possible shelter-approved rehome possibilities for Scamp before he came home. Happily, he is going to live with the same neighbor who was responsible for placing Assumpta with us...they have three adult collies now, and they decided that they would rather take him than see him rehomed elsewhere or back in the shelter. So, he'll be living next door, with a bigger yard, built-in playmates (he loves visiting them and playing with the collies), and an experienced, medically knowledgable owner who has experience with geriatric dogs. We're going to pay as many of his vet/food bills as they'll allow, so that the neighbor doesn't get financially strapped, and they said we're welcome to visit, play with, and walk Scamp anytime (also welcome to dog-sit!).
But still, I'm feeling depressed and guilty that I couldn't make this work out. Scamp's a great, sweet dog with virtually no bad habits, but Assumpta just can't deal with him, and it's not fair to either of them to push it any further, because they're both miserable right now, and it's getting worse instead of better.
Scamp's going to his new digs next door tomorrow morning. I'll miss him, but I love him enough to want him to have a great home instead of one with a hostile cat and nervous-wreck people. I hope that the cat returns to her normal self once she has "her" house and people all to herself again (I'll never forgive myself if she doesn't). The shelter and my vet have taken great pains to tell me that it isn't my fault, and that it's not uncommon for this to happen, and that I went above and beyond the call by knowing that I had an appropriate and approved rehome option before adopting.
But...I'm still depressed, and still worrying. <sigh>
Another bit of good news out of all this...I start volunteering at the shelter next week. While I was there discussing Scamp and Assumpta and our options, the director mentioned that she can never find enough cat people, so I said I'd be honored to clean litterboxes, fill bowls, and chat with cats.
So, I'm sad, but sometimes good things happen when other things go wrong, eh? <small hopeful smile>