Go with your gut. Use your head. Follow your heart. Well, which is it?

For the past few months, I’ve been taking care of a little dog with special needs named Sawyer. After being apparently thrown from a vehicle, the 3-year-old Shih Tzu was found on the side of the road, in a dire condition. He was brought in to the emergency rescue and had his remaining eye (he was already blind in one) removed.

I don’t have a ton of experience with dogs. I grew up mostly with cats and well, cats, you don’t train. I experienced the power of rescue dogs with my first dog Taylor, nearly 7 years ago, where she opened my eyes to how much need there is in the world for people who are willing to take on the “leftover” pets–the ones who deserve just as much in life as the purebreds and snuggly pet-store puppies.

When Taylor died, she sent me Oreo, another little one-eyed, terrified Shih Tzu with some incredible abandonment issues. Over the last year, Oreo has come out of her shell and hopefully, has been given the life of her dreams in our household. Once again, a rescue dog has taught me patience, compassion and empathy and has given me a determination to make a difference.

Sawyer entered the picture, newly blind, confused and scared. He has some serious control issues over his things and his space and expresses his feelings through an occasional growl or snap. I know that many of his incidents are a reaction to my own behaviors that he does not understand and it’s me that needs to learn how to communicate with him and make him feel safe so he can let down his guard. When he’s not being overprotective, he’s a snuggle bug. He walks around, gently bumping in to the things, searching for your hand and cuddling at your side. He may not be an easy dog–but he’s a dog that still deserves every wonderful thing that a dog could want in life.

And now, I’m faced with a decision. The situation with Sawyer has been temporary. We’ve been fostering him with the intent of deciding if we could provide him the forever home he deserved. I thought for sure, after this amount of time, that I would have answers. Are we the right family for Sawyer? Can we make this work? Are there things about our lifestyle that ultimately are not a good fit for quelling his aggressive behaviors?

When it comes down to willingness of putting in the work, no problem, I’m there. If we’re talking about patience and love and commitment, check, once again. But what about Sawyer? If he stays with us, would he be “settling” for us without having a real choice? The only thing I’m sure of is that I have no idea what the right decision is for everyone involved. Is there such a thing?

All of the advice that people give about approaching tough decisions seems to conflict this time. Am I supposed to go with my gut, use my head or follow my heart? In a situation like this, I’m not even sure which is which. I believe in advocating for those who do not have the voice to advocate for themselves; but sometimes that involves actually making decisions that they cannot. Every day we make decisions. Every day we affect the lives of others.

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