Do you remember those TV “After School Specials” about growing up? In 30 minutes or less a kid was presented with a tough life lesson about lying or “doing the right thing instead of the easy thing” and once they did the right thing everything instantly improved for them? Well yesterday we did the right thing by giving Navi a new home, but we are still feeling crappy about it.
Of course keeping Navi wouldn’t have been easy either. He came to us in 2012 with a lifetime of suffering packed into the tender 10 months of life he had in this world. Born on a Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona, by the time he made it to the Summit County Animal Shelter he had a BB pellet lodged in his hind quarters and damaged ear drums (possibly from someone firing a gun next to his head). He had a lot of issues and did not trust people. We worked with him a lot (A LOT) and managed to desensitize him from some things and helped him form healthy, trusting relationships with (some) humans.
He never truly trusted the human race though and definitely did not like children. When we started this new chapter in the sailing world everyone that knew him asked how it was going to work. We didn’t have answers but we were willing to try. For the past year we have done everything to make this new life work for him. Lots of love and encouragement not to mention treats and long walks on new trails. We kept him from as many triggers as possible. And, iff I’m honest, our days revolved around getting him what he needed more than anything else.
But it wasn’t working. He didn’t like life on a swaying, rolling, noisy boat. He didn’t like meeting new people in new places every other day. He didn’t like going back to the boat after being on land. And it broke our hearts. Over and over—each time he would turn away from the boat and beg to stay on shore. And then once we got back to Port Townsend and had the truck in our lives again all he wanted to do was sit in the truck. He liked being able to get to shore easily and frequently and loved walking the marina and checking for new smells and scraps. He also loved chasing the seagulls! All of which reinforced his message—he wanted to be on land.
We were caught in a situation where keeping him meant watching him be miserable but the idea of giving him up was equally as miserable. But, since we weren’t wiling to give up on the boat life and head back to land, it became clear that we had to give him up.
Can you hear our hearts breaking?
For months we looked for a new home. We went to shelters and found out how they work. It quickly became obvious that shelters weren’t the best option for Navi. We talked to some locals. We talked to some of you. We found Facebook pages for animal rescues in our area. Then we did searches for Shepard rescues (thanks to a dear friend Cyndi who recommended that option) and found a great organization called “RescueMe”. We posted a photo of Navi and waited. Within days we started getting flooded with emails and phone calls. Overall I think I talked with over 30 people. We found three that sounded like they could be good fits for Navi and his needs. We met each of them at off-leash dog parks where Navi is happiest. Two were good options but one of them backed out after getting a promotion and realizing they wouldn’t have time to spend with Navi. That left Sue—which was fine by us because she was a great fit.
Sue is retired and lives in a nice RV traveling to different Washington State Parks/Historic Sites in the Port Townsend area. Spending 2-3 months in a park at a time, she lives a quiet life and doesn’t have kids or grandkids. The combination of growing up on a ranch in Montana and serving in the army gave her an easy alpha personality around animals and we liked her right away. She had rescued Shepards in the past and understands their particular peculiarities. Navi took to her right away and let her touch him in a way that he usually doesn’t allow strangers to do. It also really helped that she was crazy excited about including Navi in her life. It was really quite sweet.
So we slept on it. We talked to Navi about it. And then decided Sue was the one.
Yesterday we snuggled for a long time in bed with Navi in the morning. I cried. Then we took him on a long walk in the National Forest letting him run and smell everything possible. I cried. I took a million photos. And I cried. Poor Rob. He was trying to not think about it and just wanted to enjoy the day with Navi but I kept crying and saying things like, “that’s the last time he’ll jump in the truck”. It was a hard day. But then we got to Sue’s place and Navi was excited to see her. I swear that if Sue had had a tail she would have been wagging it like there was no tomorrow. We gave her all of his the dog stuff (which was a lot) and said our final goodbyes. I didn’t cry. At least not until we were in the truck and driving away. Then I lost it.
Sometimes I think this new life has asked too much. But then I think about all that sailing has to offer and how much we will grow through this experience and I know it’s worth it.
Waking up this morning I had to find a new reason to get out of bed. Before it was always, “where is Navi?” Over the course of the day I’ve realized there are a lot of other things Navi provided. For instance, if Rob and I were not getting along Navi gave us something fun and neutral to talk about. What are we going to talk about now to help us through the hard stuff? And now what reason will I have to say “no” when Rob wants to take the boat out on a rough weather day and I don’t want to go? Before I could always decline because “Navi wouldn’t like it”.
I guess the answer is that we will have to continue do the right thing and not the easy thing. I’ll have to get up and find my own joy in the day. We’ll have to tackle the tough topics head on. And I’ll have to stand up and say “no” for myself.
But maybe, just maybe, some day doing the right thing will be the same thing as doing the easy thing. Until then I’m going to get a stuffed animal and cuddle with it.