This is a photo of our old friend A. We found him at the Oregon Humane Society when he was six months old, and we took care of him for six years. After an incredible amount of heartache this week, our vet agreed to take him and find an appropriate home for him.
Here are some things I can tell you:
- I miss him and feel incredibly sad that we weren't able to care for him in the way he needs.
- I've had a constant, throbbing headache for the last four days.
- After his aggression escalated this week, I was ready to put him to sleep because I felt we all deserved peace. I did not feel equipped to find the right home for him, and -- after this week -- we were unable to keep him here until we could rehome him.
- I am humbled and grateful for our vet's compassion and willingness to take him on as a special project. She's equipped to understand his complicated needs and find a home where he will thrive.
The thing about A is this: He has tremendous energy, is unable to play nicely with other dogs, and --when he is amped up -- he doesn't listen and can't be controlled. We did okay with him with our large, fenced yard. Keeping him in the yard was a constant vigil, but we did pretty well. A couple of weeks ago, however, he found a weak spot in the fence and kept getting out. D kept fixing it, but A became more confident and began climbing up and over 5-foot fences. He also began climbing trees near the fence, perching on tree trunks like a goat and then jumping over the fence.
Over the weekend, he got out like this (five minutes after D fixed the fence again), and attacked a dog walking across the street. It was a frightening situation. The other dog was on a leash, but A would not back off despite the neighbors' efforts. He was just berserk, and my usual efforts at distracting him weren't working. Finally the neighbor man got hold of A by the neck and brought him over to me.
In the five minutes when this was going on, I realized these things:
- I don't have the strength to yank him out of a fight like my neighbor does.
- There is no way we can keep him in our yard if he's climbing trees to jump over our fences.
- If a child had been walking with this couple, their dog would have tried to protect the child, and A would have gone straight through the child to get at the other dog. When he gets in that fenzy, nothing but brute force will stop him.
- I am unable to risk the next violent encounter. I am unable to risk the next aggressive act. I love the dog, but I can't let him hurt anyone or another dog.
So I spent a lot of time calling shelters and hitting road blocks. Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter said they couldn't take A if he was violent, and they told me to contact our vet for euthanasia. Okay. I understood. When we went to the vet to explain what had been going on and to ask for help, the vet pushed back. She didn't want to euthanize him. She said she'd keep him for a couple of days while we explored other options.
I didn't sleep. I kept making calls. The OHS was no help. They were too understaffed, and from what we could understand from their online materials, we didn't believe they would take him anyway because he wouldn't pass behavioral tests. I felt sick. I kept calling people, leaving messages, hearing people say, "Well, we can't help in this situation," while this beautiful dog that I love was sitting in a crate at the vet's office. I wanted resolution and peace for all of us. I was overwhelmed. He couldn't come back here. I didn't know how to find that special, strong family who could work with him. D and I were having some really hard arguments.
Finally, D went to the vet's office again to explain that we kept hitting road blocks, and we didn't know what else to do. And she said she'd take him.
We're grateful. I'm humbled. I'm mad at myself for not being able to handle this dog. I have a lot of experience with dogs, but this one scared me too much, and I never was able to manage him in the right way. I feel mean... how could I give up on a dog? I feel protective of E and other children because A's aggression was escalating. I know myself, and I would not be able to live with myself if my inability to control A led to any person or dog being hurt.
I am exhausted from thinking and feeling so much. I am exhausted and relieved that someone we don't know very well (the vet) helped us because we've had a lot of shit happen to us recently, and we've felt pretty alone with it all. For her to take over responsibility for him... it's a huge thing. I'm exhausted and wrung out from helping E understand why A has to go live somewhere else. She had a horrible nightmare last night about it all and had to sleep with us... but she was so distraught that she was in physical pain and couldn't calm down until after midnight.
I say to myself, "It's right for me to understand my limits and to see clearly the danger that was on the horizon. We did the right thing." But that doesn't stop my head from throbbing.
And now we are dogless. Heartbreaking.