Leaving behind the family dog on our move to California

Leaving behind the family dog on our move to California

By Karina Rook

This was a tough one...

Molly was our miniature Labradoodle puppy that we bought when our son turned 5yrs old. She had been our pet for over 5 years when we decided to leave Melbourne and move to the Silicon Valley. We are dog people anyway, but Molly was perfect for us. Smart, cute, soft, and not too needy. We did a lot of research selecting the breed and breeder and had her flown down from country New South Wales because we wanted the best family dog ever, and she was.

We held a family ballot to choose her name – the kids wanted ‘Coco’ and we wanted ‘Molly’. Because we’re mean parents, we got our way by rigging the ballot!

When we announced the move to our kids, their biggest concern was whether Molly would be joining us. We told them we hadn’t decided that yet, and wanted to give it thorough consideration, but we’d let them know as soon as we had decided. It was the decision that we put off as it was so painful, but two months before the move date we made a list of pros and cons:

Keeping Molly

  • hassle with customs
  • limit house hunting
  • left alone all day
  • trauma of journey
  • limit holidays
  • cost of food/trimming/vet
  • quarantine 3 months upon our return

Giving her away

  • some confusion for her
  • more trauma for kids
  • giving up ownership, can’t take her back when we return
  • new family may not like her anymore

Finally, we agreed that Molly would have a better life if she stayed in Australia. Her new family had spent plenty of time with her and we felt confident they would be wonderful owners. It was excruciating telling the kids, lots of howling and tears, and a general feeling of sadness for a few days. I warned the teachers at school what was going on at home so they could understand the melancholy moods. I cried a lot, especially when I looked into her trusting eyes.

As the handover date approached, we prepared ourselves by creating a folder all about Molly for her new family, recording her food, favourite activities, medical history and obedience commands. It was a grieving process, but gave the kids confidence that all relevant information had been passed on. We did the handover about two weeks before our departure to allow time for the new family to change their minds, and also to allow us to process our grief before setting out on our new adventure. It also saved Molly the trauma of seeing our house being emptied as items were sold and packed up.

After the handover, we were pretty busy getting ready for the move and saying goodbye to everyone. In fact, even after we arrived in California, Molly has not been mentioned too much. I’m sure we all think about her when we’re sad, or see other Labradoodles being walked along the street, but the pain was manageable. There’s been no temptation to buy another dog just yet – I think we enjoy the utter freedom of taking holidays at short notice and only thinking about ourselves.

I don’t miss picking up dog poo either……