The house feels a little bit emptier tonight. Today, Malayko, Aneira’s German Shepherd mix, crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
It wasn’t something anyone wanted to do. It was something we had to do, as responsible dog owners. You see, on July 4th, Mac nipped at our Bryony, but later that day also went after the Malamute twice. Each time, fireworks had sounded off, so we figured that was the problem. We told Bryony to leave him alone, that he was an older dog (nine), and not to approach him anymore. Let him approach her if he wanted attention. She said okay, and actually followed the new rule. We kept a close eye on them both. Once fireworks ceased going off constantly, all was well, and we thought we knew the problem.
Until today. Today he went after her again, only this time, he left a puncture wound in her scalp. We didn’t find it until much later (we thought he snapped at her and missed), but we immediately knew that we couldn’t continue to keep him in the house. It was just too dangerous for the kids. So we discussed it with a devastated Aneira, and decided it was time. She wanted to go with me, but we didn’t think it was a good idea. She’s only eleven, and once you see that, you can’t unsee it. It will happen eventually, of course, because we will always have dogs, and they just don’t live as long as we do. But we didn’t think her first time should be with her own dog. So I took him alone.
He had no idea what was coming, of course, while I felt like a failure as a dog mom. He sat beside me in the truck, smiling, tail wagging, happy as can be, watching everything out the window. He’s never been a bad dog. Everyone that visits our house loves him. He was always the one to sit quietly beside you, place a paw on your hand or your leg to request attention, and stay there as long as you were willing to pet him.
The plan was simple: euthanasia. If I couldn’t risk my kids, I certainly can’t risk his being adopted out to another family with kids. I had a hard time explaining that to one of the PIP’s friends, who wanted to take him down as a stray. It would save me money, she argued, and give him time to find a new home. But it wasn’t about the money, although I really couldn’t afford to spend it. It was about being responsible, not just to whoever might adopt him, but to him. He’s never been a bad dog, and I felt that I owed it to him to do the right thing for him, and I owed it to him to be there when it happened. I’ve always hated when someone comes in to euthanize a pet that they’ve had forever, and they drop the animal off and refuse to stay. I get that they may be grieving, but their final act for their pet shouldn’t be leaving it in the hands of strangers, scared and alone, with no idea of what’s coming. That’s how you want to repay however many years of loyalty and unconditional love? That seems pretty cowardly to me.
Initially, the humane society thought they could still adopt him out. The two incidents were isolated (remember, I still didn’t know he’d actually bitten her at this point), and he could be adopted to a family with older or no children. You can’t imagine my relief. We couldn’t keep him anymore, and that hurt, but at least I wouldn’t have to go home and tell my daughter he was dead. In fact, when the PIP called, I told him to tell her he was in the clear.
I said my very tearful goodbyes and let them walk him out to the back. I didn’t want him to see me leave and feel abandoned. Call me stupid, but that was my thought. Mac had been dumped near our rural home in Arizona almost seven years ago, by someone who didn’t want him anymore, and now here I was, doing the same thing to him.
I drove home, only to find out when I got there that I was taking Bryony to the hospital. He’d bitten her, all right, right at the top of her head. It was very superficial, it turned out, and no stitches were needed, but now, once again, I had to do the right thing and call the humane society back again.
Now things were different. Because he had bitten her, even though his rabies vaccine was up to date, he would have to be euthanized, unless I was willing to take him back for a ten day quarantine at the house, something that wasn’t an option. I have two children and three other dogs that live in the house. I couldn’t take him back. Well, the lady told me, she was sorry, but that was the only way to avoid it. Even with up-to-date vaccinations, they would have to do the rabies check.
I hung up, feeling horrible. I know I did the right thing, rationally, but my heart isn’t so sure. I love Mac as much as I love my kids and my other pets. Until recently, he was a sweet, affectionate dog. I have to admit, though, that of all our dogs, if I had to pick the one that was most likely to bite, he was at the top of my list. But we’d never, until recently, had reason to expect it.
Did I fail him somehow? Did I miss some signal? I don’t know. I only know that tonight, one of our pack is at the Rainbow Bridge waiting for the day we come to get him, we still haven’t told our daughter that he is gone, and our hearts are much heavier.
Rest in peace, Mac, Malayko, Miggity-Mac. I’m so sorry. We love you, and we miss you.