I Died Today

  Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.

 - Hermann Hesse

Photo courtesy of Robyn Arouty Photography

Photo courtesy of Robyn Arouty Photography

Recently I had to help a client make a very difficult, painful decision.  She had a adopted a pit bull a few years ago, and though the dog was very active, her family had been doing quite well with the dog.  Then a year ago, they adopted a Benji-style dog.  Things went downhill.

It wasn’t lack of effort that was the problem – they were working well with the PAW Method.  There was plenty of Activity and Work going on in that house.  They were giving it all with Piloting as well.  The problem?  This dog, who we’ll call Colby, had an infinite well of money in his Piloting Piggy Bank.  I would get frequent reports of Colby testing them (he was), and they needed to get more money out of his bank (they did).  But some minor occurrence would shake them. He growled.  He resource guarded.  He “protected” the children in the house from their own friends.

As far as Colby goes, there was nothing wrong with him.  He was the perfect dog, just like almost every dog out there.  His problem was that he really sucked at being a human.  The human world was confusing to him.  He had his little pack to protect, and come hell or high water, he was going to force his little 30 lb body into action to do it!  He saw threats to his pack everywhere:  even within his pack.  He didn’t growl or snap at them because he hated them.  He did it for the same reason I would smack my daughter’s hand as a toddler if she reached out for a boiling pot of water on the stove:  I needed her instant attention to stop her from doing something incredibly dangerous.  That’s exactly what Colby was doing.  Keeping the family from doing “stupid” and “dangerous things, like, say, going for a walk where he wasn’t in charge.  Didn’t they know all the threats that are out there?!

Colby’s family was struggling with him  They seemed to love him infinitely, but it was extremely hard to like him.  I found out that the shelter he had been at had seen him returned 3 times.  They wouldn’t say for what reason.  It was rapidly becoming apparent.

Things culminated in an almost tragic way.  One of the daughter’s in the family had a friend over.  As the friend was leaving, she leaned over to tie her shoe, and Colby attacked, biting her on the arm.  Not a bad bite, but a definite bite.  Now choices needed to be made.

They asked me if they could rehome him…,maybe to someone without kids.  Problem was, this wasn’t only happening to kids.  He was bullying everyone, and it did include nips and bites.  We talked about priorities, and what home could possibly be safe for him.  The answer was none. They talked about putting him down.  Then at the last minute a friend of a co-worker stepped up and said she’d like to take Colby.  She loved him….for three days, until he bit her daughter who was visiting.  Colby was returned to his family.

The family made the very, very difficult decision to let him go. They said goodbye to him yesterday.  He was surrounded by people he loves, instead of in some scary shelter.  He had a good life, which was extended beyond what was expected because of this family.  He was loved.  At his very last breath, he was still loved.  How wonderful to live a complete life like that.

The family received a lot of pressure from a family friend to do anything but end Colby’s life.  Their suggestions included putting him on Facebook, and at least trying to find him a home.  A dog who has proven over and over that he is a dangerous dog. Who was unpredictable.  Hawking him out on Facebook would be one of the most irresponsible things ever.  At that point, it’s no longer about Colby’s well-being.  It’s about getting him a home, feeling good about a dog not dying, and then washing your hands of the situation.  Well, there’s another one I saved!  If this individual was hell-bent on posting a dog on Facebook to save, then how about this one:

Cienna, currently available at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.

Cienna, currently available at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.

Cienna has been available since February.  She’s a great dog!  Well-behaved and sweet.  Or what about Little Bubba?

Little Bubba, a truly wonderful, easygoing dog who is scared to be in the shelter.

Little Bubba, a truly wonderful, easygoing dog who is scared to be in the shelter.

These are safe dogs.  Dogs with no bite history, let alone multiple incidents.  Post them!  The only difference between these dogs and Colby is that the friend had an emotional attachment to Colby.  In a world where there is an overpopulation of dogs, emotional attachment is only detrimental to rescue.  Love them all, but realize who can be helped and who can’t.

Colby’s owners did a very brave and selfless thing:  they chose Colby’s well being over their own emotions.  Colby needed to go home.  His forever home.  They finally let him go, with dignity and love.  They actively chose to let him cross the rainbow bridge instead of having their hand forced through terrible circumstances.

I sent them a link.  A different set of circumstances, but the same outcome:  a difficult choice had to be made.  I Died Today follows a dog named Duke through is last day on the planet.  You’ll cry, but you’ll also realize that no matter how a dog is let go, it’s always with love and tears.  Circumstances are just that:  circumstances.  How we act, through self-interest or through real, true compassion is entirely up to us.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


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