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Giving up the dogs

June 11, 2013
Rottweiler and Bullmastiff

The past few months have been busy and traumatic. The biggest event of the summer (so far) was giving up the dogs. I dropped them off to the Humane Society Last week.

It was a tough decision but ultimately the most responsible one.

The Beginnings: Whittier & Harley

I adopted Harley, my bullmastiff, in the spring of 2009.  I got him the same day that I moved out of the law school frat house and into my first real apartment.

Harley was rough when I adopted him – his ribs were showing and he had stitches and cuts all over his body.

The woman who I got him from hinted that Harley had been used for fighting, but didn’t provide any details.

I had Harley before I had furniture.

That first night we slept on the floor together as a student riot raged in back in Dinkytown.

That weekend was spent putting together Ikea furniture and negotiating the rules of our dog walks. I went to the Gay 90’s that Sunday, and was shot in the back while walking to my friend’s car.

I was in the hospital for about seven hours.

I came home with a bloodied shirt, a torn blazer, and a bullet in my back. Although it had been well over 12 hours since our last dog walk, Harley wasn’t pissed at me and he had not peed in the apartment.

The necessary calls were made during that dog walk – the school, the fraternity brothers, mom. We got back to the apartment I let Harley sit on my cheap new couch and had a good cry.

I found out a short time later that Harley had heartworm. Treatment was expensive and painful, but he survived and we both slowly recovered together.

Adopting the Rottweiler

School and work were going well the next spring. I was busy, but ready to adopt a second dog. I got Harley from, and although he was an amazing dog, I decided to adopt from the Humane Society because I did not want to relive the heart worm drama.
Gertrude was the only size-appropriate dog at the Humane Society, and I chose her immediately after seeing her.
She was overweight and self conscious, but they assured me that she’d come around.

Both of the dogs were apathetic about each other at when they first met, but they slowly became comfortable with our new pack.

The Apartment Building Goes to Hell

My apartment building grew increasingly sketchy that summer. There was a drug dealer, prostitutes and weekly police raids.

The Rottweiler even joined one of the police raids and there was a shooting right underneath my bedroom one night. (Previously the shootings were all outside of the building.)
I decided to take charge of the situation and lobby my landlord to kick out the sketchy tenants.
My efforts were successful and I quickly became the caretaker of the building. I helped the landlord get new tenants, and dove into my new caretaking duties.

The dogs helped me with shoveling…sort of.

Not all of the new tenants were good, but at least the police raids and violence stopped. The new tenants brought another problem however: pests.

Several of the new tenants were young people that were ultimately evicted for not paying rent. These kids usually left their apartments trashed, which caused my building to develop a massive mouse problem. I was killing five mice per day in my own apartment and many other tenants had the same problem.

The most egregious apartment was “the rodent den.”

The rodent den formed when these two hipsters left two months into their lease. Their parents kept paying their rent, so no one was aware that the hipsters had left cat and rabbit food out. When I keyed into their apartment to show it, there were dead mice and shit everywhere.

A bed bug problem was also developing on the second floor, and it was only a matter of time before it would spread throughout the building.

The heat started to give out that winter, and an increasing number of apartments were being flooded by ice dams and rotten pipes that fell out of the walls.

I was busy with work, dating and school, but a move would be in the works soon.

Moving to Nordeast

Tader and I started dating in the spring of 2011. He was living with his parents and I was absolutely sick of my shitty apartment building. Our circumstances made the decision for us – we decided to find an apartment together.

The search was brutal. After a few dozen rejections we quickly found out that most larger apartment buildings have breed restrictions for insurance purposes. The Rottweiler was on every one of these lists.

The only buildings that would accept our dogs were mostly run-down houses and rent-controlled artist lofts (which we made way too much money to qualify for.)

We eventually found a run-down apartment in Northeast Minneapolis to live in.

The Nordeast “apartment” was actually two apartments that are attached, so we figured we could live as neighbors if we ever broke up.

We moved in, my Thomson Reuters internship became a full-time position, and I graduated law school.

The transition to only working 40 hours a week was rough. In law school I had the dogs, 20 hours a week at Reuters, public defender internships, and IRS tax preparation sessions. Upon graduation, my 80-hour weeks were halved, and the enormous amount of free time gave me anxiety.

That is one of the reasons that the relationship didn’t last. Tader took the larger apartment and moved out the following summer. I was left with the back one-bedroom apartment, which was cheap ($400 a month!) but in disrepair.

My focus shifted to work and I was promoted several times. I also went out to nearby Lush Bar a lot, eventually dating a guy I met there.

My Zoe Barnes Moment

There’s a scene in House of Cards where Zoe Barnes, the reporter, looks at her leaky apartment and decides that she needs to do better.

She’s a passionate reporter who works long hours. Zoe “networks” with powerful people that live in gorgeous places, but she lives in this dumpy D.C. apartment. It is convenient and she was too busy to care until she breaks down one day.

Zoe Barnes

I am totally Zoe Barnes.

After breaking up with Abo, I started doing freelance advertising work. This spring I averaged 70-90 hours a week between Reuters and my freelance gigs. I was making bank, but still living in this dumpy one-bedroom apartment with two big dogs.

Aside from keeping this old apartment clean, I was also struggling getting my landlord to make repairs. One day I came home and the toilet was flooding from its base.  A plumber did not come out until a week later. He was horrified by the amount of water damage and we discovered that the entire basement ceiling is molded over.

I also dated several professionals around my age. There was never a second date after they saw where I lived. They know I have a good job and education, so they assume that I must be the Hot Mess Express if I choose to live like this.

It was time to move.

The Condo & House Hunt

Like most people who go to law school, I over-research and over-think things a lot.

I researched the hell out of condos and mortgages. I combed the interwebs, interviewed all of the condo owners that I knew, found a real estate agent, and then mapped out all of the dog-friendly buildings in Minneapolis.

The dogs and I were going to upgrade our lifestyle and it was about damn time.

I spent countless hours on Edina Realty and the MLS. I even had the real estate apps on my phone, so I was constantly looking at buildings, pricing mortgages and getting scandalized by association fees.

Epiphany on Memorial Day

Memorial Day came around I had a downpayment saved and a mortgage approval letter in-hand.

This spring’s housing search had also evolved from condos to houses. This is because my expectations slowly decreased as I realized how much a warehouse district condo would actually cost. As the time to make an offer came closer, I grew more conservative and started considering a lot of houses in the exurbs.

By the time I went out of my friends on Memorial Day, I was convinced that I was going to buy a moderately priced home in Anoka County, or some other place 30 minutes outside of town. My friends were horrified, but my mind was made up.

On Memorial Day I skipped brunch and joined my friends at the Eagle. They were trashed from brunch and wanted to nap, so we quickly ended up at a condo downtown.

Everyone passed out, and I was left sipping on some chocolate vodka while looking at an amazing view of downtown Minneapolis.

Of course I did nothing but think of my housing search. I sat there quietly as my friends snored on the couch. I kept thinking about mortgages, rates and neighborhoods.

Something about that pause in my otherwise hectic schedule made me realize that my premise was fucked up– committing to a house in the exurbs or a condo downtown is a mistake at this point in my career. I’m single and extremely mobile. Being able to move for a job or an amazing MBA program is important.

My freelance gigs and even my Reuters job aren’t guaranteed either, so committing to a 30-year mortgage is reckless. Sure, I’m making money now, but that could end tomorrow at the whims of my employers.

Renting was the way to go.

The Rent Search & The Realization

I dreaded looking for rentals because of the experience that Tader and I had two years ago. I basically knew that all of the major buildings in the city have restricted breed lists, but during the next few days I called dozens of newer buildings, houses and condos.

The only places that would take my dogs were condos in the warehouse district that were renting for $1,800-$2,500. That’s out of my price range, especially since the mortgages for those units would be far less if I just bought outright.
After this four month housing process, I came to the realization that the dogs had to go.
I was not going to stay in this crumbling apartment any longer because I can’t find an affordable place to rent with my dogs.

I didn’t expect this to be an issue when I first got them because I happened to live in a building that did not have any breed restrictions. I had no idea that this is rare or how ubiquitous breed restrictions are.
Giving up the dogs was hard, but they are well-trained rescues which I have dropped over $10,000 on during the past few years.
Their health is impeccable, their temperaments are good, and they’ll be re-homed by the Humane Society rather quickly.

I also decided it was better to give them up now rather than later, (for example if I get laid off from my job and can no longer afford a mortgage or a high-priced rented condo.)

The appointment was made, I drove them down to the Humane Society with the surrender fee and a stack of vet papers, and now I live alone.

I’m moving into an apartment in St. Paul this fall, and it won’t have drug dealers, rotting pipes, or leaking toilets.

It was a selfish decision, but also a responsible one given my priorities and career goals.

I’ll consider adopting these dog breeds again at a later date, maybe when I have a husband, 2.5 kids and a mortgage….right now I can’t justify it.


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