Gigi the dog

A question I’ve been getting a lot lately: “What happened to your dog???” I get this question via email, through blog comments, on Instagram, Facebook and in person. It’s taken me awhile to put together my response because it’s a painful one. But today, I’m ready to share.

The Tail of Genevieve (aka Gigi) the Hound

Gigi showed up emaciated and covered in scratches in our friends’ yard in late September. They (and we) tried to locate her owner, but she came with no tags and no one responded to our advertisements with her photo. We took her to the vet to scan her for a microchip and she didn’t have one. Our theory is that she was a bear hunting dog who got lost from her pack and couldn’t find her way back to them. Our friends kept her at their home for a few days and then planned to take her to a shelter as they already have a dog and can’t keep a second. We had a chance to meet Gigi and spend time with her and we knew we couldn’t let her go to a shelter. So, we brought her home! She joined our family on October 3, 2022.

Our friends named her Gigi (for good girl) and we all loved her–the kids especially. She was a perfect dog who loved hiking, didn’t bark and (mostly) followed directions. However: she could not be left home alone. At all.

The Cannot-Be-Left-Alone Saga

We crate trained Gigi (as we’d done with our previous dog) and she loved her crate. She’d elect to go in there while we were home, would happily nap in the crate, slept in there every night and utilized it to avoid our children’s constant attention. We assumed this crate training would also work when we left the house, as it had with our previous dog. It did not.

Poor Gigi had a panic attack every time we left the house, no matter how long we were gone.

1) We figured there must be a behavioral remedy so we sought out a dog trainer who gave us a regimen to follow.

She loved to hike!

Among other things, this entailed leaving the house for brief periods (~30 seconds to start) and returning to praise her if she was quiet. However, we were never able to work up to an absence of longer than five minutes before Gigi began to panic.

We worked with the trainer in person and she was flummoxed by Gigi’s panic response to our absence since she was such a calm, well-adjusted dog around people.

2) Then, we figured there must be a technological solution.

We installed a camera so that we could observe her behavior in the crate and report back to the dog trainer. This did not help. So, the trainer suggested a camera-treat-dispenser combo thingy, which does exactly what it sounds like: you observe the dog through the camera and remotely dispense a treat into the crate if the dog is being calm. This did not help.

3) Finally, we assumed there’d be a medical solution.

And so began the many, many vet visits. We’d already done all of the behavioral modifications/training the vet recommended and so, they prescribed a mild anti-anxiety medication. That did not work. The vet next prescribed a mild sedative. Also ineffective. Next up was a mild tranquilizer. And on and on… all to no effect.

Here’s the full list of techniques we attempted (that I can remember):

  • Long hikes (4+ miles) prior to leaving Gigi alone:
    • One theory was that she hadn’t had enough exercise prior to being left alone, so we hiked her for longer and longer distances.
    • This did nothing to help.
  • She also loved snuggling by the woodstove

    Different crates and different locations in the house:

    • Tried everywhere; did not help.
  • Exciting treats and toys in the crate:
    • The treats would work for the first 15-20 minutes, after which the panicked behavior would set in.
  • A camera trained on the crate to monitor behavior
  • A remote-controlled treat dispenser so that we could remotely dispense a treat into the crate if Gigi was calm
  • Six different prescription medications at varying dosages and combinations. Plus some natural vitamins!
  • A white noise machine
  • The radio
  • Having her sleep in the crate every night (which she did with no problem since we were home)

Ultimately, none of this worked and we could not leave her home alone for any period of time. Ever. If we did, Gigi would have a panic attack and poop and pee in the crate and pace endlessly in circles. This happened every single time we left the house for longer than 5 minutes.

I washed both dog and crate more times than I can count.

We realized that, as an active family with little kids, it’s not tenable for one adult to always stay home with the dog. It’s also not possible for us to take a dog with us everywhere we go. Recognizing that we could not live this way–with one adult always staying home OR the knowledge that we’d return home to a panicked, poop-covered dog–we had to give Gigi up.

Giving Gigi Up

Snuggled in Kidwoods’ lap

After four months of trying to help Gigi learn to stay home alone, we acknowledged that we simply could not keep her. We were heartbroken, but did not see another option. I located a foster-based rescue organization that had a space for Gigi and, after an initial visit, they accepted her. What they discovered is that she does fine alone in a house IF there are other dogs present. They confirmed that she cannot ever be left alone, but that as long as she has a pack–either human or canine–she’s fine.

The rescue organization–and we–share the assumption that Gigi was originally a bear hunting dog, which means she likely always lived with a lot of other dogs. They report that Gigi is now adopted and doing just fine in her new family with many other dogs. It’s painful to write about this because we loved Gigi and wanted to keep her.

However, I also had to accept the reality that creating a family dynamic where either: 1) one parent always stays home and doesn’t attend events with the family; OR 2) the family returns home to an hour+ of work to bathe the dog, calm the dog and wash the crate, is not reasonable or tenable.

During our time with Gigi, we didn’t go to church as a family, we didn’t go to school events as a family, we rarely skied as a family…. and the list goes on. We had to accept that this isn’t the way we want to raise our kids and, it was putting a lot of stress and pressure on us parents, which the kids noticed and were internalizing.

What I Learned

Gigi in the snow

I learned a lot during this brief and tumultuous Gigi experience. Chiefly, I realized that we rushed into dog ownership. We didn’t fully consider the ramifications and we let our hearts get ahead of our heads. I still wish we had a dog, but I’m also at peace with our lack of dog because right now, our kids are my priority. It did not feel like the right trade-off to always leave a parent at home to babysit the dog.

It has taken me quite awhile to write about this because I feel like a failure of a dog parent.

I am comforted by the knowledge that when Gigi came to us, she was malnourished and had been living rough in the woods for who knows how long. We gave her lots of food, love and a warm bed. And we got her spayed, all of her shots, and adopted into another loving family (with other dogs!). When I remind myself of that perspective, I don’t feel so bad. But when the kids mention how much they miss Gigi, I feel a little stab in my heart.

The Costs

I wish we could’ve made it work with Gigi and, I will tell you, we spent over $2,000 trying to make it so. $2,373.25 to be exact. I tallied up our Gigi costs, just out of curiosity and here’s what I came up with:

Item Amount Notes
Spaying + foster and adoption costs $600.00 We decided to pay the foster organization who took Gigi for their costs related to fostering, adopting and spaying.
First vet visit, vaccinations, tests, de-worming, microchipping $497.78 Since she’d been in the woods alone for an indeterminate amount of time, she needed extensive vaccinations, testing and medications to de-worm, etc.
Vet visit and medications $227.60
Vet visit and medications $186.60
Food, beds, treats, toys $183.98
Dog trainer $150.00 Sessions with the dog trainer
Food $101.67
Food, treats and toys for Christmas $101.27
Camera & remote treat dispenser $99.99 The combination camera and remote treat dispenser, which we used in an attempt to reward her when she was calm in the crate (affiliate link).
Dog snow booties $37.40
2 XL dog Kongs $35.93 Two of these extra-large kongs in an attempt to keep her calm while home alone in her crate (affiliate link).
Christmas stocking for Gigi $35.00
High-visibility orange vest for hiking $33.25
Camera to observe crate $28.78 We got this camera to observe her crate before we bought the camera/treat dispenser combo thing (affiliate link).
Medication $25.00
Medication $16.00
Town Dog License $13.00
TOTAL: $2,373.25

I’m thankful we had the financial ability to sink this much money into trying to keep Gigi and I don’t regret spending it because it was in service of our desperate attempt to have a sweet family dog. But, it is an eye-opener to the potential unexpected costs of pet ownership.

Our first dog, Gracie, with a baby Kidwoods

Our previous dog–Gracie the greyhound–was cheap by comparison. She cost us ~$930 annually versus the $2,373 we spent on Gigi during her four months with us. Pets are a lot like kids in that respect: you know they’re going to cost you, but you never know exactly how much it’ll be.

This isn’t a cautionary tale to never adopt a pet, but rather, an illumination of the potential costs of welcoming an animal into your life. I think pets deliver an outsized return on investment through love, companionship and general cute antics, but its salient to remember that they are an expense. A significant one in some cases.

Will You Get Another Dog?

Not right now. Honestly, we’re still pretty heartbroken over Gigi and not ready to go down the dog road again. All four of us love dogs (well, Littlewoods remains somewhat on the fence), but it just doesn’t feel practical for our active lifestyle. Now that our kids are older (ages 5 and 7) and the pandemic is in remission, we can actually go places as a family! Pre-pandemic, our kids were babies, then Covid took over, so now it finally feels like we can do family excursions. We go on day-trips to museums, parks, beaches and more. We’ve gone skiing for a full day as a family and taken the kids out to restaurants as a treat. We can spend as much time outside in our woods as we want without timing our entrances and exits to the house to ensure the dog is ok.

Right now, I’m savoring this stage of life where our kids still WANT to hang out with us and find everything we do FASCINATING. I want to feed their curiosity and expose them to arts, culture, food! I want the freedom–financial and otherwise–to do that to the fullest. In light of this articulation of our priorities and values, we’ve decided to hold off on pets for the foreseeable future.

Dog-sitting = The Perfect Part-Time Pet Solution

Two very helpful helpers

To soothe the dog-sized hole in our hearts, we dog-sit for our friends’ dogs when they go out of town! Most of our friends have dogs, so this is perfect. The kids ADORE when a dog comes to stay and it’s a wonderful few days of having a dog. Then the dog goes home. This is great by me! I joke that I’m a dog aunt: I get the dog for a bit, spoil it real bad, then send it home. Also, I don’t have to pay for the dog. This is really working out for me…. ;).


I don’t have a neat little bow to put on this story. I just offer a reflection on the fact that sometimes things do not go to plan. Sometimes you spend a ton of money and time on a dog who can’t stay with your family. Sometimes you break your kids’ hearts. This whole experience is a reminder to me that I’m not in control. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that we couldn’t figure out a way to keep Gigi, but I’m also at peace with our decision because I know it was the best for our family.

Quick Side note on the Recent Vermont Floods

We are ok! Thank you to everyone who reached out to check on us and offer assistance! You all are very kind. I’ll put a full update in my next Monthly Expense Report, but the short version is that, while our town was hit hard, our house stayed mercifully dry. Our quarter-mile long driveway, however, was largely eaten by the torrential rain… again, we’re fine, but talk about another unexpected expense! More soon.

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  1. Having a pet can be wonderful and heartbreaking. I’m glad Gigi is in a home that’s a good fit for her and that you have this peace of mind. While difficult, this is a good outcome.

    You’re so right about the unknowns of pet ownership. I adopted a cat who turned out to have health issues, including severe food allergies. He now eats a limited ingredient, novel protein diet, rounded out with supplements to make it nutritionally complete. I make his food. All in, his diet costs me more than $4,000 a year.

    This same cat was also poorly socialized, anxious, and heavily dependent on me for stimulation. It was hard for both of us, and I ended up getting a second cat to help him, which it did (so, so much). Her diet costs me an additional $3,000 annually.

    I love my cats and take pride in giving both of them a happy, healthy home. As someone living alone, they make my home feel full and alive. But I was unprepared for what it took to get to this good place. Fortunately, the cost is something I can absorb, and I have the bandwidth to accommodate their feeding schedules, but this will likely be the last time I take on the responsibility of pet ownership. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my full, happy home.

  2. You did a very good deed in taking in Gigi. And then in giving her up so she could find her best home.

    Thank you for the update. Also, very glad to hear you and your family haven’t been flooded out.

  3. You did as much as you could, and the dog found the right home with other dogs. Dogs are complex creatures and not everyone can meet every dog’s needs. You helped Gigi find the right placement.

  4. Please don’t beat yourself up over this. Not ever dog is meant for every family. You loved her and cared for her and did much more than most. In the end, you helped her find the perfect home for her. How lucky was Gigi to get this. What a hard, but beautiful lesson for all of you as well. Sometimes even when we love something with all our hearts we must let it go!

    The owner of a very anxious dog who we have done all the things for (meds, training, wall repair).

  5. You were wonderful fosters to Gigi and now she has a great forever home. Thank you for saving her!

  6. Girl, you literally did everything you could. I read it all and that’s everything me or my dog-rescue-running aunt would have done. And literally I couldn’t figure out why she was freaking out either! Give yourself forgiveness. You literally saved her and also figured out what didn’t work for her anxiety so that she could be placed in the best home (with other pups). You literally saved her, several times. You went further than a lot of other people would’ve (lots try nothing or like two things and give up 🙁 ).

    And yes, dogs can be expensive…..

  7. You’re really brave to post this and all those questions from readers must have torn at your heart. I’ve been there. It’s an excruciatingly painful decision to rehome, but you did what was best for everyone including Gigi. Much love to you all.

  8. I am truly sorry about your experience with Gigi. We had a remarkably similar one with an adopted Great Pyrenees, and it left our children heartbroken. I can absolutely understand the pain and guilt and sadness of having to figure out the best solution for your family as well as Gigi.

    On another note, I need to add that one of the reasons I appreciate your writing is because it is so data-driven. Which means that I continue to be surprised that you refer to the pandemic as “in remission.” It is not. It is not safe/healthy for anyone, let alone folx with disabilities, to be in shared spaces with anyone unmasked. But people are, which is leading to more infections, which is leading to more disabled people. Surely these are major health risks that undermine one’s financial independence? You can see the disconnect here, right?

    1. COVID numbers are at their lowest since the start of the pandemic. Of course we shouldn’t forget folks who are disabled or immunocompromised (just as we shouldn’t have before the pandemic!) but it’s also not data-drive to imply that the risks of COVID are as high as they’ve ever been.

      1. Cosign. Thank you for saying this, K. The idea that it’s “not safe for anyone to be in shared spaces unmasked” is….wow. Carry on, Mrs. Frugalwoods.

    2. Thank you for speaking up for those of us who are disabled and immune compromised, Casey. I’m not sure that remission is that bad of a term to use, under the circumstances, but the pandemic is certainly not over! Not even close. Kudos to Mrs. Fugalwoods for recognizing that.

    3. Right, right, sure. There is a set of immuno-compromised people who pretty much are never safe to go anywhere, ever. People with immunity issues specifically, and COVID showed us all their daily lived realities, which has been sobering.

      You are saying… what? That no one can ever go out and live their life normally because there are infections around and we all might end up possibly long term ill. Is that what you’re saying? Because that’s… a lot. Are you genuinely suggesting that everyone, at all times indoors wears masks forever and ever.

        1. You have to go down the dog adoption trail soon! The girls need a dog and this will heal them. So please get to the shelter and pick out a dog! Plus your property and chickens need a dog, so please no more thinking of yourself! Thank you!

  9. Thanks for posting
    We have an anxious dog and we had the same thing where during pandemic we weren’t traveling so it did not matter but she stresses out when we board her so we finally have a dog sitter ( expensive ) I love that you dog sit
    That’s such a great option enjoying the doggie then they get to go back home
    Don’t be hard in yourself you did the right thing
    Thank you again for posting

  10. What an experience you had but one that was full of kid lessons…mainly, sometimes things just don’t work out even if you do all the things. That’s hard for adults let alone kids. Gigi needed what you didn’t have, and you needed what Gigi couldn’t give…what a lucky dog she was to have you work so hard for her. Let me be so bold as to suggest an outdoor cat. Our farm couldn’t survive without a good mouser. And they always provided endless entertainment when our kids were young. And did I mention they live outside and are easy?🙃

  11. I foster animals, and that involves dealing with many reasons why an animal isn’t fitting into a home. It is so much better when an owner realizes they can’t provide what that specific animal needs and does the work to let them go to a family that can. I commend you for all these hard decisions. I’ve done the opposite: kept a pet I shouldn’t have kept, thinking I needed to sacrifice, and it was a terrible decision for everyone including the pet. I’ll never make those mistakes again. I’m so glad Gigi is with a pack—some animals really need others to be okay! Good job and good job showing your kids what love means!

    1. We had a dog like that. When we first adopted him – at age 3 – we had another, older dog and they were companions. Not besties, but companions.

      Time went by, we knew he was a nervy little chap – sausage dogs often are – and he’d had a rough start in life, but I work from home, have 3 kids and so there is usually at least 1 person around, and of course the other dog. So far, so good. Eventually, my old girl went to the rainbow bridge, which made me incredibly sad, but also was not unexpected and THEN the chaos started. If we went out for more than about 20-30 mins, he was screaming and screaming and screaming hysterically, such that our really nice neighbours scaled our wall because they thought he was caught somewhere and badly injured. It was that bad. Screeching until he was hoarse, running in circles.

      We tried meds, we tried various different things, but in the end, the only solution if we were going to be out from more than a fast trip to the shops, was to park him with those neighbours. He was 100% a pack dog, possibly from being locked in a concrete yard for 20 hours a day as a puppy, in all weathers, with just his brother and sister for company and love, possibly it was just his personality. Either way, it became heartbreakingly obvious several years into him joining our family that his general happiness was contingent upon never being alone for more than 30 minutes. We worked around it until we emigrated – by now he was getting on in years and the move would have been a huge, huge problem and stress for him for various reasons – and he went to live with dear friends (underwritten by us re vet bills and issues arising!) who have 2 other dogs and know the score. Apparently he is perfectly happy and the hysteria is no more, even if they’re out for an entire day. He’s nearly 14 now, but in good health and still loves his walks and loves being part of a family.

  12. Our daughter and son in law adopted a rescue who had such severe separation anxiety that he bent the crate trying to get out! They adopted another dog to give him a friend. It helped at first then the novelty wore off. Meds helped a little but moving to the country and installing a doggy door worked the best. He’s an older guy now and still anxious at times but so much better! I agree with another person who said that you were a great foster for Gigi!

  13. Thank you for sharing this-I’m sure it wasn’t easy! I want to let you know that you are not alone in going through this situation. My family went through the exact same thing (rescue dog, tried various training methods, medications, etc. with absolutely no improvement.) We rehomed our dog a year and a half ago. It was devastating and I felt like a failure. I’m still a bit embarrassed about it. But I am confident that we made the decision that was best for our dog, just like you did. I’m sure Gigi loves your family and I’m also sure she’s happier now. It is not only better for you but also the best thing for her. This way she’s not anxious and stressed and can be a playful dog with the pack she needs. Sending good thoughts your way!

    1. I’m sorry you had to go through this as well. Very heartbreaking and such a un-selfish act to do the the right thing for your Puppers.

  14. You gave Gigi a wonderful start and helped her be prepared to have an open heart. Right now I have a dog but it will be my last dog most likely as I enter into retirement. He is a wonderful companion and I am blessed to be part of his life.

  15. Thank you for sharing, and for the wonderful reflection on how a thing that feels like a failure may actually be *the* thing that best serves another (canine or human) being. I think you did good, both towards Gigi and your family.

  16. Letting Gigi go was the best thing for her and therefore you took the hard but mature and loving decision to let her go. You chose her needs overs yours. That’s (generally) excellent parenting and now you all need time to grieve the loss.

  17. Thank you for sharing. Having a dog with separation anxiety is an incredibly stressful and isolating experience. Our rescue dog was similar but not as extreme, and thankfully responds well to medication and has settled somewhat with time and exposure. However, it is still a consideration and constant balance on our life – is it worth giving our dog meds an hour before leaving so we can both go to the grocery store together? Not usually…

    You get criticism both from people who think you’re crazy for doing so much and changing your lifestyle for a dog, and people who think you should be doing more. Very difficult situation and you definitely did the right thing both for your familiy’s quality of life and Gigi’s!

  18. Ooof. I feel that hard. That is amazing you were able to find an organization that actually fulfilled her needs. The hound blends can be really delicate bc they are dogs of utility and to be a pet is a very new concept. I have worked in veterinary medicine for almost 20 years and specialized in behavior. You got lucky that you didn’t have to euthanize her.

    So many, many, many people get dogs (some cats, but mainly dogs) that they completely love and adore but the animals are anything but pets. A pet is a companion that you provide for and they give you companionship in return. You have an ideal relationship even before you acquire the animal. To be clear it isn’t the dogs “fault” ; genetics, breed / type of dog, pre-natal exposures, socialization at 3-12 weeks old, secondary adolescent fear period, and all the interactions in-between is what makes a dog’s personality.

    Some of these dogs become literal FT jobs (like your experience) and I’ve seen dogs fracture families. The expense is just one of the factors but 2k in 2 mo is a hurdle for so many. In the field and with a discounts, an appt with a veterinary behaviorist is 500-600. Add in all the unqualified trainers that charge an arm and a leg but only make things worse because they use archaic and unfounded methods…Then add medications, labwork to make sure the meds are working, supplements (ElleVet CBD is a fantastic but over $120 month), potential equipment (treadmill training anyone?), the time it takes to see if/when which medication/treatment works, let alone all the life that the human is missing out on to just sustain the needs of the dog- it is truly relentless.

    I’ve had a dog like this before and we tried SO much before euthanizing due to behavior. It was so agonizing. We reached out to the rescue that adopted her to us and they recommended a shock collar. That would have made things so much worse! They offered to take her back and told us she’d be living in a hallway in the rescue founders home because there were several other dogs in foster in the house.

    The house literally revolved around the dog. *Literally*. The dog was so athletic, could hop over the tallest baby gates found on amazon and could jump up and look you in the eye even if you were 6 foot. If she wanted your attention while you were sitting at the table- she’d just jump up onto the kitchen table. Couldn’t have family over since most of our family is older. They couldn’t have 50 lbs of energy hurling into them at every which way. We had to put window film over the windows so the dog wouldn’t be visually triggered by the outside. Outside on a walk she would see something and she wanted to interact with- chase after a squirrel or something- and she’d try to scale walls to get to it, flopping down and trying again but injuring herself in the process. It was heartbreaking and incessant.

    Heaven is much kinder to these guys but it is a hard pill to swallow. Remeber that these dogs aren’t thriving. They are in distress. Just like when someone is having a panic attack- you can’t love them out of it. You can love someone out of their anguish, genetics, or mental illness. Rehoming animals is possible but in my experience very unlikely with severe behavior cases. And what is severe to me may be mild to you. If a multi dog household is it- bingo! But most dogs will need more than that. And most people want a pet, not a lifelong project with the goal of being manageable. Owners that get the best results- typically child free, stable but flexible job that may allow them to work at home, compliant with veterinary and cooperative care, financially secure, single, and active- so few and far between. Oh, and super willing to really get into behavior medicine.

    the most longwinded way to say, Mrs FW- you did what you had to do. And that is what you needed to do 🙂
    And if anyone is struggling out there please know you aren’t alone despite if feeling completely isolating. It isn’t a sign of failure or a lack of love. – some do virtual consults — a wonderful read and debunks dominance theory. Helpful for every pet owner

  19. Liz, you did an above-and-beyond job caring for Gigi and rehoming her to a situation that was best. That is thoughtful, caring, and a great example to the girls. Bravo to you. (And I’m so sorry about the accompanying heartbreak….there again, valuable life-lessons for your daughters.)

    Please do update us about the flooding. I’ve been so concerned for Vermont friends.

  20. I could have written much of this myself. My anxious dog is now 9 years old, I’ve spent more time and money on him that I can count. His dog buddy passed earlier this year and he was too anxious with our toddler so the dog now lives with my parents. I am grateful that we had another option where he was comfortable, we can still visit, and they are willing to do all that needs to be done to care for him.

    Even though I know I have done everything I could for him (and continue to do so), the guilt still gets to me.

    It’s been an enlightening decade of pet parenting. We are really enjoying being able to go out as a family for entire days at a time! As much as I love dogs, we won’t be getting another pet for a long time.

  21. I agree with Michelle K., you fostered Gigi and then she found a home. You literally did what so many fostering pet parents do – you just didn’t know that was what you were doing at the time you were doing it. And you really helped! You found out the myriad things that didn’t work, so no one else had to go down that road again. And of course, your family couldn’t carry on with always having one adult at home. That’s utterly impossible.

    We have a female rescue dog who was happy as can be staying home with my retired spouse. When he had to move to a nursing home (health issues), she became depressed and just laid around a lot looking sad, because I work full-time and she was alone too much. So I spent the money and got another dog, a male. It doubled my annual dog care expenses, but it was absolutely the right thing for our female, and was a boon for the new dog, too, who was also a rescue and who’d had a very rough start in life. He was able to find his way in his new home and fit in easily thanks to the female’s lead, and our girl was delighted to have a friend to play with every day. They are best friends now. That’s what worked in our case, and what worked in Gigi’s case was a family with dogs – two happy endings!

  22. While you may have rushed into dog ownership due to the situation, I doubt even a considered decision would have made a difference in this particular case. There likely was no way for you to know that she had this particular quirk. Please don’t let it keep you from getting another dog! Kids and dogs is a great combination, and will create memories to last a lifetime. When you adopt from a rescue group, they can usually tell you a lot about a dog’s personality. However–again–most people who foster for rescues have pets, sometimes several pets, and so even they likely wouldn’t have known about Gigi’s aversion to being alone. I am so sorry you had to go through that. I know it must have been stressful and heartbreaking for all of you.

  23. I’m sorry about Gigi, but when I first read about the breed you adopted and her backstory I feared it would not end well.
    As a dog lover who has shared a life with both mutts and purebreds, I am wary of adopting random strays that are already grown. Even though dog lovers brag about ‘rescues,’ they aren’t necessarily perfect for families. I believe dog lovers should choose dogs/breeds that suit their family situation and sometimes that means buying a Labrador and raising it as a puppy to get the best family dog you can.
    Families must choose a dog that is suited for kids and family life, of course. And rescues may be that. But there is no shame in picking a purebred by a good breeder who has traits and the background that make a successful family dog more likely.
    A good friend had the same situation with a golden retriever rescue that could never be left alone and tore up her crate. I think rescue dogs, who deserve loving homes, aren’t right for everyone.

  24. Do not reduce care of another soul to a dollar sign and call it a failure! Life is messy. Parenting anything/anyone is a labor of love and can’t be captured on a balance sheet. Thanks for trying literally everything before moving on.

    It’s so fascinating that being with other dogs did the trick! Doggie psychology is so interesting.

  25. You did the right thing by being sure she went to a responsible rescue. We rescued a dog who got nippy. We tried a dog trainer. She never nipped at me or the pet sitter – I think she perceived us as leaders because we had control of the food. But over time, all our friends and family experienced the “near bite” as I came to call it. It was only a matter of time until there was a serious bite. We returned her to the rescue and they re-homed her in a great situation. We were totally upfront about her behavior. The person at the rescue said not to worry, if she wasn’t adopted they would keep her forever. I’m at peace with it now after a few years. We won’t get another dog for a long time. We are at the age where we want to leave home freely for activities (young retirees).

  26. Wow this is so hard. I’m glad that Gigi found a solution. It’s heartbreaking when your pet has anxiety but ultimately you guys did the right thing for Gigi and that’s what counts. It’s not tenable to have a dog that you cannot ever leave. I recently adopted a cat and a dog and they have cost me more in the 2 years I had them than the 21 and 16 years I had my cat and dog prior. Recently we had to have the cat’s teeth extracted and cleaned to the tune of $1,600. First estimate was $600. We paid for it but had to reschedule a vacation and you better believe we invested $50 in cat toothpaste and toothbrush.

  27. After our dog died last year, my daughter was heartbroken (as was I). I wanted to wait a while before getting another dog, but she started asking right away when we would get another dog. I thought dog sitting would satisfy her desire for a dog, but it just made her want her own dog even more. We ended up adopting our new dog after just 2 months. We love her, but she’s had some unexpected health issues come up and we’ve spent thousands of dollars on her in just the year since we got her, and had to make some temporary lifestyle adjustments dealing with health issues, couldn’t travel for a couple months this spring while we were trying to figure out her condition. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, but in the end I don’t regret it. She’s a really amazing canine companion; the calmest puppy I’ve ever met, a great cuddler and snuggle buddy, but also can be full of playful energy!

  28. I’m so sorry to hear about Gigi. We dog lovers know the pain of losing a dog, regardless of how or when they leave our lives. I am sure Gigi is MUCH happier now. We rescued a Golden Retriever from a hoarding situation. We have to work with her a lot, too! We even had her at a training camp for 2 weeks on site! She wasn’t much better when she came home. So, she is on an anxiety drug. Thank god we have no kids at home. She is doing ok, but we don’t trust her around anyone. She’s caged when we have company : ( – You absolutely did the RIGHT thing for your family! Gigi is where she needs to be! I have a lot of respect for the hard choice you had to make.

  29. This made me cry because it almost happened to us with our cat. He was a stray that someone else took in, but she couldn’t keep him as her existing animals didn’t take to him, and I know it broke her heart to give him up. I send her updates every few months to let her know how he’s doing.

    We poured a few grand into him in the beginning because he also had separation anxiety and would get UTIs when we would go out of town, which we do at least monthly. Considered getting another cat to be his buddy but ultimately figured out he’s a great traveller and we take him with us instead! But there was definitely a period where we thought it wasn’t going to work and I cried so much during that time. It’s so great you know Gigi is in a perfect home now, and it furthers my resolve to keep in touch with his original rescuer to let her know how he’s doing.

  30. Thank you for sharing this difficult story. I’m sorry you were pressured into doing so.

    Much love <3

  31. I’m so sorry about Gigi. It sounds like you did everything to try to make it work. I adopted a dog that didn’t fit in with his original family, and I am thankful everyday, because he has become my soul dog. It was such a gift that we received him. I hope Gigi became someone else’s soul dog, and know that you were a part of that. Dogs know when you love them, and I’m sure Gigi knew you loved her.

  32. I have no idea is this would work but I would have tried to take a video of the human members of the family and played it on a loop on a small TV facing the crate. Maybe Gigi would not have felt alone and not had a panic attack.

  33. I’m very sorry it turned out this way and agree you did all that was reasonable. I’m glad Gigi found her perfect home and hope one day the perfect dog comes into your life, when the time is right.

  34. Sorry about Gigi. You tried everything! Want to mention Trusted Housesitters. We travel and do free dog-sitting in exchange for free accommodations. Win win win! We love dogs!

  35. It’s unfortunate that the right decision isn’t always the painless one. I’m sorry it wasn’t a happy ending for you – I know we give our hearts to our pets. But it sounds like it was a very happy ending for Gigi. And even though you couldn’t overcome her panic attacks, she must have been thrilled to be with a loving family who cared for her again after having been lost and starving and alone. You were the way that she got to her forever home, and you sent her there well-nourished and fully recovered. You were WONDERFUL to her – even to the point of being willing to take on sadness so that she could be happy. No shame and guilt required.

  36. Our dogs were strays that wandered into the yard as puppies. They were strictly outdoor pets. We never let them inside. Our property adjoins 800 acres of wooded wetlands that our animals could wander at will. They had heated outside lodging in the winter and seemed very happy. They were the apex predator at over 100lbs so weren’t at risk of being injured in the woods. We didn’t replace them or the outdoors cat when they died of old age. Even outdoor pets require feeding. Too much trouble if you travel like we do.

  37. I had a similar experience with a dog that was always wandering off our 10 acres. Turns out she was bored and needed to have a job. I re-homed her with a family who had a small sheep farm. She was so happy with them, had a day job and kids to snuggle with at night. I can still see her smiling face as she drove off with her new family. Win-win. We were sad but she was happy.

  38. You did a beautiful job with Gigi. How lucky she was to find your family, and to now have her new pack. I am sorry for the pain the situation caused, but know that from an outside observer, you handled it all perfectly.

  39. We hope you will have another rescue soon! It is needed for the family to heal and protection for your home. I hope you are supporting the place that took her in and participate in their efforts to get support of the community. Sending blessings!

  40. Oh man, that was so so hard. I will share an (extremely unpopular) opinion based on my own experiences with several dogs. Our adult rescue dogs were MUCH more difficult to integrate into family life than puppies. We had a number of adult rescue dogs over the years and they were all very hard in various ways. One of them was so anxious we had to get another dog just to mitigate her anxiety and it only worked partially. I know I’ll get a lot of criticism, but we’ve decided we would never again take in an adult rescue dog. I’d consider a rescue puppy, but there aren’t many of them available. I’m currently raising a purebred Shih Tzu who I got at 10 weeks old and the difference between that experience and our adult rescue dogs is like night and day.
    Of course a Shih Tzu isn’t a good fit for a family that hikes! There’s a reason that Labradors are so well-liked in rural New England! And I so understand your reasons for not wanting another dog. And if you disagree with me, that’s ok. Your experiences are your own. Wishing you and the family so much love in your grief over poor Gigi and I’m glad she found a home that works for her.

    1. Thank you for sharing this perspective. I adopted an older mutt and I get lots of dog park cred for it lol but I hate it when people give shade to those who buy puppies. My next dog may well be a puppy, and the organization I adopted my dog from fosters the dogs and screens applicants for someone who will be a good fit for the family- made sure she was a good fit for me, and I’m a good fit for her.

  41. As usual, you do an amazing job talking about difficult life situations. We had to rehome a dog after working with him for 6 years. It was excruciating, and we still avoid telling people if necessary because of the stigma of “giving up on” a pet. Thank you for sharing! We now foster parrots who have been surrendered and are waiting for new owners, and having surrendered a pet in the past helps me do so without judgment toward those who need to do so.

  42. As a dog lover who has quite a few rescues, I totally see how this played out. I too have a sensitive soul living at my house. He doesn’t like other dogs, but doesn’t like to be alone. We have 2 cats and he feels better unless they are not right there with him, them his behaviors get the best of him. I swear he is my last dog. But that is because he hates other dogs and who knows how long he will be with us. It is just a difficult situation that never really ends. But I too cleaned up dog, crate and poo. Even with treat ball inside crate with a blanket draped over it and soft music playing.

  43. You did not fail Gigi. You saved her. She is now in a great home that suits her needs and she is so lucky she found you.

    1. This is so sweet. +1 to this comment! So sorry it ended this way, and I hope you guys and the kiddos are feeling a bit better about it now (we experienced the death of our cat four months ago, and our 4-year old is still very sad about it). You did indeed save Gigi and were amazing foster parents for her.

  44. Thank you so much for sharing this story, as difficult as it was to share. I’m glad it had a happy ending for Gigi and you definitely put her on the path to a good life!
    It’s helpful too to know what financial committments we’re potentially making to pets.
    It’s important that people see these stories to offset all the cute dog pictures/ videos on social media, which don’t show the full picture of pet ownership.

  45. Also it’s so interesting that she just needed a “pack” to be happy. I inadvertently un-crate-trained my dog during the height of the pandemic and when I started going out again she hated to be left alone in her crate, although she slept in it at night and didn’t freak out as badly as Gigi, just barked a lot. I am still trying to re-train her but I found if she’s blocked in a room she’s fine.

  46. It sounds like you and your family were the crucial link in the chain needed to get Gigi to her forever home!

  47. I think you and your family did a wonderful job with Gigi. She was lost, found, rescued, loved and placed in a forever home. God used you and your family to help GiGi get to where she needed to be. Job well done!

  48. Heartbreaking, but you know what? You aren’t a dog-momma failure, you’re a savior. You took Gigi in and exhausted the avenues, save for what the rescue determined which was adopting yet another dog. She’s in what it likely a much more suitable environment now, so you got her back to health and in a great place.

    The dog-sitting is perfect for the reasons you stated! We have 3 dogs currently and every.time we travel, it’s stressful for me based on the dynamics of two of them and one being very high-energy w/her own “stuff” after we adopted her when she was 6 and had a questionable past. We love them all, but I want to stick to 1 once we get to that point naturally and then dog sit and/or foster. Fostering is another good option as every rescue org I know will take the dog if you’re traveling, but it’s a much larger commitment than pet-sitting and you and kids need to get used to doing a service as getting attached can be a downside. 😉 Anyway… thank you for giving Gigi such a chance. You’re not one of the, “we had a baby so the dog much go” or “we realized we don’t have the time” people… thank you for that!

  49. Had a very similar experience with our first dog Buddy. He had major anxiety about being left alone because his previous owners moved away and abandoned him. Those early years were so hard and if we had had kids at the time I am pretty sure we wouldn’t have kept him. He did eventually mellow out but it took YEARS. So sorry about Gigi. From following you all these years I know you and your sweet family did the absolute best you could to make it work out. Hugs!

  50. It really sounds like you did what was best for GiGi. It’s not realistic for someone to be with a dog 24/7. It wasn’t fair to keep her in a home setting where she didn’t have other dogs present. I give you kudos for recognizing that and finding a home for her where her needs were better met. Xoxo

  51. I had to add our story. My son bought a gorgeous Doberman. His job, upon graduation, involved too much travel. Kenneling became costly. We kept him for a year while deciding. We rehomed him through the breeder. He’s in a great home, and, now married, my son and wife have a nice lab. You gotta do what you gotta do. Some lessons are just a little more expensive. Blessings to you and your family.

  52. You can put a bow on this story—-you saved Gigi’s life and got her into the perfect home. Trouble is, four months and over two thousand dollars was a high cost to you…..I do not know what to say, except that so many pet owners haven been down this road—including me: You find yourself thinking that if you try hard enough, you can fix whatever is broken. And sometimes, you can, but—as in your case—maybe not the way you wanted to. Feel good about what you did for that poor dog!!! She won the lottery, because in other hands, her story would not have ended so well.

    Have you ever written about pet insurance, and compared the options? Or put together some frugal ideas for petowners? Or even how hard it can be to do what you did—take on a high-risk animal that needed a lot of help. The kind of help can often be very hard and expensive to find.

    At the same time, Americans spend incredible amounts of money on their pets. Maybe more than they really want to or should? If you ever covered this as a how-to-save-money topic, I confess I missed it. Sorry, if that is so.

    In any event, thank you, as usual, for your great writing.

  53. I am very sorry to hear about your experience. Heartbreaking. I am a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer and one thing I can say is that most of the advice people get about helping their dogs who are distressed when alone is ineffective and incorrect. For instance, many dogs with separation anxiety also have confinement anxiety so crating, as you discovered, is not the answer. Separation anxiety is the #1 researched canine behavior disorder and it’s still not known why some dogs develop it.

    It *is* known that separation anxiety is a panic disorder, similar to a panic attack in a human, and usually responds to anti anxiety medication and systematic desensitization with a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer.

    There is hope for dogs like this and I urge folks to reach out to a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer if their sweet dog panics when left alone.

    I am so sorry sweet Gigi could not be helped — I know the distress and heartbreak this can cause in a family as I was there myself with one of our dogs, and it’s experienced also by the dozens of clients I’ve worked with on this issue. So sorry for you all.

  54. I know you did the best you could for Gigi and happy she has a good home now. But after finding out the reason for her behavior I wonder why you didn’t get a companion for her and keep her yourselves.

    1. Getting a companion won’t necessarily fix the problem. I was told that my dog could just transfer their issues to another dog potentially.

  55. This has happened to me as well, with one dog and one cat. I was heartbroken over both. Like you, I had to reason with myself I did everything I could in both situations and both animals were better off when I had them versus how they were when I got them. Writing this even after years of both events happening my heart still aches. Like most people/animals you fall in love with, when the relationship ends for whatever reason it hurts. Best Wishes.

  56. Thanks for this update Mrs. Frugalwoods. What a heartbreaking experience, but you’ve totally done the right thing – for your family and that sweet dog!

  57. I’m so sorry this experience was so painful. It sounds like you did exactly what was right for both your family and that sweet pup. Thank you for sharing.

  58. My very first dog (a greyhound!) Was like this. All the training I could do, and as a single person, I could devote everything to this dog, was not enough. She learned how to break through her first crate, go out a window, and I found her on my front porch when I came home one night. She could open my front door when she was desperate to find me. Shortly thereafter, she broke her canine getting out of a steel crate. I always said that I would never get rid of a dog, and she was my first so I felt like a failure. Stressed and heartbroken every day. My rescue that I got her from was so kind. They knew everything she and I had been through and had tried and they were able to find her a new home with a work at home parent and another dog and I heard that she did very well. I’ve had other dogs with more mild separation anxiety that I’ve been able to work through but my first was just not a dog that I could fix and her life with me was so full of highs and lows. I still think of her and the 4 months we spent together. I’m so sorry that it didn’t work out and just wanted to let you know that I really get it.

  59. One of the reasons I have cats is because I can leave them all day and they’re fine. They also are terrific for dealing with rodents and I can’t imagine living in the woods without them. Once the Kitty Korner Cafe is up and running again, you may be pleasantly surprised by the friendly fuzzies looking for homes. If allergies are an issue, some cat foods deal with it well. There are also breeds that are less irritating.

  60. I think you’re a very responsible pet family. Yes, pets are expensive, but worth it! Your pet sitting experience sounds like being a grandparent. We love and enjoy our little grandchildren and then send them home!

  61. I’m sorry you couldn’t keep her. I’m glad she had you to rescue and foster her, and I’m glad she’s found her home with her pack. I understand sadness and some grief both towards GiGi and in sympathy with your girls, but why would you be embarrassed or ashamed? Are you embarassed that you can’t wave a magic wand and control the universe? Ashamed that, despite trying absolutely everything, the universe said ‘Plot Twist!’ ? If you had just turned her loose and left her to fend for herself, sure be both embarrassed and ashamed. You did nothing wrong. We need to stop teaching our daughters to take the blame and apologize and feel shame and embarassment about things that are not their fault.

  62. Oh my heart, this is exactly what happened to us with a hound dog we adopted. We ultimately had to give him up and tried so many of the same things you did. At one point we contemplated adopting another dog to keep him company and that’s when we realized we had to give him back and he wasn’t the right fit. Followed by so.many.tears and feelings of guilt and inadequacy. We think he was a hunting dog and had lived with other dogs outside so if he was alone in a house he would flip out. My heart goes out to you, it was hard to give him back and our kids were devastated. I also learned that separation anxiety in dogs is INTENSE through the experience – it’s not just a silly little label, it’s very real and legitimate. We eventually found our perfect dog and now I can’t imagine not having her so hang in there!

  63. Gigi was lucky to have found you and your family. It is heartbreaking when you put time and effort in to and animal and it doesn’t work out.
    I am glad that she is happy and found a good home that works for her. Giving her up wasn’t easy but doing what was best for her shows the love you all had for her.

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