As I sit here in the early morning hours on Christmas eve, I stare at the lighted tree feeling a combination of anger and sadness. Just over a year ago, I went to the local animal shelter with the intention of adopting a dog.
Searching online led me to the shelter in search of a medium-size shepherd mix. My drive to the shelter was a mix of excitement and apprehension. I was excited to finally find a dog that seemed to be a good fit and apprehensive at the thought that she might well be taken before I got there.
After arriving, I hurriedly walked the kennel looking for her. She was a little skittish at first not knowing how to react to my offering a treat to her. She took a defensive stance as she took the treat from my hand. But, after a few minutes, she warmed up to me and the warning on the cage that she may bite lost all meaning to me.
She was found wandering a county road emaciated and very fearful. The month or so at the shelter had done wonders for her physically, however, she still exhibited what the shelter called “food aggressiveness.” In other words, she may well bite the hand that feeds her.
IT was apparent that the dog was previously mistreated and used by some unscrupulous backyard breeder as a money maker. This piece of shit human being beat her and used food as a weapon to force her compliance in their operation. Then once she was no longer useful in the production of puppies, these assholes “threw her to the curb.”
In the hour there with her, I fell in love with her and knew that I could show her the love she never received and in return have the faithful family protective companion I always wanted.
After telling the staff that I was interested in adopting her, I waited while the staff retrieved her file. In the meantime, I spent more time with her, alone. The more determined I was to bring this girl home with me. Finally, a staff member arrived and pulled me into another room to show me her file, while the family wandered around the shelter looking for kittens to play with.
The staff member opened the folder and warned me about the photos I was about to see. Photos of the hand of an employee who suffered injuries from this dog. The employee suffered multiple bites/puncture wounds while placing a food bowl into the kennel. I was that I “didn’t really want to adopt her,” and, that I would probably suffer the same fate if I took her home.
Confident in my abilities to rehabilitate her using lots of love and proper training, I would not be swayed in my decision. I would be taking her home that day.
It took about seven to ten days of allowing her to explore the house on her own before she became “comfortable” around the family. However, she was indeed physically aggressive when it came to food. After a few nips to my own hand, I learned to quickly place the food bowl in her kennel and move my hand out of the way. Any movement at all around her kennel while eating was met with an aggressive stance and vocalization indicating an imminent attack.
After another week or so, I had trained her to move to the back of the kennel while placing the food bowl inside. Although that lowed the risk to me (I NEVER allowed either one of my boys to participate in feeding her) when placing the bowl, once she started eating, all bets were off. As the next few weeks went along, as usual, she played with everyone and became very attached to me. When next to me, she was very loving but wary of anyone who came near me. She became very protective of me and was suspicious of everyone else. She would always sleep next to me but was always aware of what was going on around us.
Training her was going well with all the normal stuff you want in a dog. She was becoming more obedient and controlling her on walks was going well. She followed verbal commands from me at home and in public. However, she still was overly protective of me. It got to the point where I was becoming more concerned about this as days went by.
During our time together, she and I went almost everywhere together. She was my JEEP buddy. She was never aggressive with anyone. She seemed to like being around other people but, would never stray from my side. The trust and love continued to grow between us. In spite of this, her overly protective personality was a growing concern.
It was apparent that she was emotionally/psychologically “damaged” by her previous experiences. Perhaps, in her “mind” she felt that she finally found someone who would love and take care of her and that she would behave to protect that relationship.
The warning signs continued to accumulate. When out in public and even in the home, she would give the “stare” at anyone who came near me. Sometimes, even snarl at family members. I tried everything I could glean from every source of information to end this behavior. but, to no avail.
The end came one evening while I slept on the couch. As usual, she laid next to me with her head on my legs. Then with no warning, I felt and heard the dog jump and bark. Then the cries of our 9-year-old. He had come out of his room to show me some school papers. He thought it would be funny to shake those papers in my face in order to startle me. The dog didn’t see or understand the humor. She was startled, interpreted the situation as a threat and lashed out.
She bit our son in the forearm. Although he didn’t require a trip to the E.R., he did receive a couple of puncture wounds that required dressings. At first, I was angry at the dog and locked her in the kennel. I realized that had it been our younger, smaller son, it would have been his head at that level instead of his older brother’s arm.
Later, even without the received “input” from my girlfriend, I knew that the dog had to go. She was too protective of me during times I couldn’t control. The people I loved, the people she played with WHILE I was awake, were in danger at other times. The fact that she only trusted and protected me, made a danger to everyone else, even those who lived under the same roof. I had to find her a new home.
I searched for weeks for a new home. I kept coming up empty. The county shelter refused to take her back because she had been with me beyond the “30-day” period after adoption. I called every dog rescue in the State and was turned down with every call. I did everything I could to place her somewhere where she would be safe and well taken care of. I failed her.
I was given the ultimatum to remove her from the house. I was even “advised” by my girl’s family to remove her or they would never visit our home again because of the potential danger she posed. I was left with only one option.
I was agonizing over the only choice I was left with, she had to be put down. I couldn’t place anywhere and I couldn’t allow her to be placed with a family where she would, in fact, injure someone else which result in the same fate for her.
The morning came when I could no longer run from what I must do. It was a gray day, clouds hanging heavy in the sky. I grabbed her leash and she came running upon hearing the jingle of the chain. She looked excited for a moment but sensing something was wrong, sat and dropped her head. I attached the leash and we walked to my JEEP. This time, she hesitated before jumping into the passenger seat.
After pulling out of the driveway, she must have sensed something was very wrong. She kept nudging my arm with her nose. She hung her head over the armrest draping it over my arm. I started talking to her. I told her that I loved her and that she was not a fault for her behavior. I wished that I could find the people responsible for the damage that was done to this creature. I questioned my judgment in adopting this animal knowing that I ignored that voice in the back of my mind that this very moment was a possibility.
As I continued to drive, her head never left my arm and her eyes never left mine. With tears in my eyes, I continued driving with tears in my eyes when we finally reached our destination, a largely undeveloped area near my home.
I’ve known for weeks what her fate would be. Through no fault of her own, her life would be ended because of some piece of human trash damaged her beyond any hope of recovery.
We arrived at a very secluded area popular with people with offroad vehicles and those who enjoyed target shooting. As I led her from the JEEP, she stayed close to my legs and kept looking at me. I could tell that she was apprehensive as she kept bumping into my leg as we walked off-road into the brush.
After a short distance, we stopped and sat down. I hugged her and told her how much I loved her and that I was so sorry for my failings. Sorry that I failed at helping her overcome her fear and distrust of people. To me, she was a good dog. If I lived alone, she would be with me until one of us died. But, I didn’t live alone. I have a family that I love more than anything and I had an obligation to protect them. And that obligation was the ultimate obligation that a man can have.
As I stood up, she rose up and sat beside me. She looked at me then looked away. The following is a graphic description of what followed. Be warned.
Standing behind her, I drew my pistol and pointed it at the back of her head. I was actively sobbing as I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. I realized that I missed when she jumped and cried as the sound of the gunshot scared her. She jumped around pulling on the leash. I got her to calm down and stood in front of her. She was shaking, cowering, and looking into my eyes. even as I put the barrel of the gun point-blank to her forehead, she just there as if to accept her fate.
On the drive home, I cried uncontrollably barely able to drive. For days I cried. I killed this animal who was nothing but loving, loyal, and, protective of me. She didn’t deserve this outcome. I do believe that those who mistreated her all those years in the name of profit and those like them, do.
Some of you will decry my act as cruel and inhumane as those who abused her. Why? Because “I” put her down instead of a veterinarian? I could not and would not allow myself the luxury of deflecting responsibility for her death. To sit and play the game of plausible deniability rationalizing that it was me administering the drugs to kill her. My action was my way of facing the outcome of the decision I made the day I adopted her and was arrogant enough to believe that I could or would make a difference in this dog’s life. It was all about me. My desires and want I wanted with no concern for future consequences.
I endorse and encourage pet adoptions. I just hope that my story becomes a cautionary tale for others to think clearly before they adopt. I will live with this for the rest of my life. I am frequently saddened by her death. Forever in my heart, Forever haunting me.