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Sibling Rivalry

When my husband and I got married, we decided to start a family right away. So, we adopted a beautiful white fluff ball we named Topangah. She was the apple of our eyes for about a year. When she decided to start chewing the paint off the baseboards and eating our living room blinds, we knew she was tired of being an only ‘child.’ After scouring the internet for a few months, we found the perfect brother for her. His name was Alex, and he was living in a country-style sanctuary in Iowa. She was high maintenance with an attitude, and he was a little more rugged and sensible. We thought they were the perfect match. We filed the adoption papers and once approved, we brought him home. They have normal sibling quarrels. They refuse to share. They fight over whose head can be in the food bowl and who runs faster when they race, and they have never-ending competitions of who can shout the loudest. A little sibling rivalry is healthy.

The rivalry, however, became worrisome when Alex developed jealousy issues. He growled, snarled, and tried to bite anyone (including Topangah) who came near me. For a few days, I wondered if the only option was to return him to the sanctuary. The thought seemed crazy; he didn’t come with a receipt and a return policy. He was a living, breathing animal and a part of our family. Months went by; he was still uneasy, but started to be accepting. Acceptance turned to like, and like turned to love. When we decided to expand our family again, we were worried that Alex would regress to his jealous behavior. Fortunately, he loves the baby as much as he loves his big sister.

Though jealousy was the issue in our household, there are many reasons people want to return an animal. For some reason when it is a pet, we don’t feel we have the time or resources to teach them a new behavior. It seems easy to walk away. But their mental health is just as important as their physical health. If you are unable to fix the behavior, try seeking assistance from your veterinarian. I still feel guilty for thinking about returning Alex. All we wanted was a happy, healthy dog. All he wanted was love.

Carrie Higgs
Marketing Research Analyst
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