Crib notes: 5th Child (the sequel)

By From page A5 | February 08, 2012

Julie Samrick

I’m not proud to admit it, but we’ve given away our 6-year-old lab. Some of you may have remembered the Christmas letter Dillon wrote on behalf of our family last year.  We adopted him when he was 3, thinking, perfect! He’ll already be trained and ready to play with the kids! A puppy would’ve been too big a responsibility back then, too much to train with two kids of our own still in diapers.

Not being around children much as a pup, Dillon wasn’t molded into a “jump in the pool and splash with the kids kind of dog,” which was my first lesson in skipping the puppy phase. When the kids went outside to play with him, he’d bolt back inside through the doggy door faster than he’d wolf down his food at meal times and when the kids played on the floor with Dad after dinner, Dillon was right there in the mix, wanting Daddy’s attention as much as anyone, even giving a low growl when the kids got on his nerves. He wasn’t fitting into our family according to plan.

Dillon may not have been that into the kids, but he was the epitome of “man’s best friend.” I always thought his perfect life would be riding shotgun in a pick-up truck, desolate, with only a master by his side.

My husband said I worried about Dillon’s psyche too much. “He’s a dog,” he’d say when I’d go deep about Dillon’s needs, wants and desires, realizing I’d missed the warning signs that he wasn’t the best match for our family.

Dillon could get neurotic when we left him alone, like the first time we left him to go to the Bay Area for the day and we came home to a “Please STOP the Barking!!!” note taped to our front door.

Fast forward three years and out of the blue my sister in Sonoma called to say her friend’s parents had lost their yellow lab six months before and wanted another dog, but not a puppy. Did I know anyone? I couldn’t do that to the kids. Or could I?

The more I heard about Dillon’s prospective new family, the more I knew it was kismet. In their 77-year-old hands, Dillon would “never be left alone.” They warned he might even be rubbed too much, sitting in the glow of the fireplace by their recliners each night. From that day forward Dillon would take tractor rides with his new owner instead of drives to the kennel with us. In short, the son assured me Dillon would be in doggy heaven with his parents.

But then I worried about how the kids would take this news. I immediately thought of the genius of my own mom when she lovingly convinced me that giving away my ginger colored (for all I know feral) cat I’d found to my paternal grandma would be the noble thing to do.

“Kids, there is an old man who is looking for a dog just like Dillon,” I said, then explaining what Dillon’s new life would be like. My heart fluttered. I felt like Mommy Dearest. I imagined them all as adults, lamenting that I’d given the dog they’d had for three whole years away.

“OK,” they all said in flat unison. And then, “Can we get another pet?”

The night Dillon left I ran outside with my camera like the most eager paparazzi to take some parting shots. I called to the kids several times to ask if they’d like to say good-bye too.

Today Dillon is raising an older couple’s spirits and he’s getting the attention he deserves. I’m still getting over how much more I have to sweep and mop with him gone, and the kids are now jockeying for a guinea pig.

Julie is the mother of four young children and a resident of El Dorado Hills. See more of her work at

Julie Samrick


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