Dog Gone

I have not always been a dog lover – they used to scare the unholy tar out of me – but once I learned to love a dog, that love was for all dogs – and carried to other animals.

My first dog was a family dog named Patch.  She was an unknown breed that we adopted from the Humane Society in Aberdeen, SD.  There was no happier pet selection than that – she was a wonderfully good-natured dog, great with children by instinct, beautiful and affectionate.  My sister and I loved her – my mom, not terribly fond of animals, grew to love her, and even though she never hunted, Patch was Dad’s shadow and devoted companion.

I remember when it came time for her to be put down – I was depressed.  I was so sorry to lose her, but sorry to see her in the pain that she was in at her old age – I knew my parents were right with the decision.  She had a long and happy life, and given us so much happiness that even though I missed her, I had great love for her that still feels strong today.


My parents got a golden retriever about six months later – and though she is no Patch, Ammie has been a good fit for their home – good hunting dog and devoted companion to my dad.  She doesn’t have the great kid instincts, but listens fairly well to instruction and seems to be learning.

My husband and I also got a dog when we had been newly engaged, a yellow lab mixed with what we later suspected to be cattle dog that a coworker’s dog had just had.  We named him Brian, and we loved him.  He was no Patch – rambunctious, slightly naughty, but always wanting to know you were there to give him a cuddle and love.

He wasn’t perfect, but he was ours.  We were lucky that both Marty and I knew how to handle dogs, and even we had a few issues with training him – he was aggressive with food, borders of our yard, other puppies – and sometimes he would forget himself.  This wasn’t a huge problem until we had our first child, Royce.  Brian had some jealousy initially, and it was clear he wasn’t a fan of the baby, but we thought he was ok – we thought he protected Royce the same as us, that he knew he was Royce’s puppy, too.

When Royce got older and started eating “big people” food, problems arose.  The first time he bit Royce, I wasn’t home – I heard the story from my husband – it sounded like Royce put his hand in Brian’s mouth and must have upset him and Brian clamped down.  The ER trip was a torturous ordeal that ended in screaming baby strapped down to a bed to get stitches – and we were heartbroken.  We thought that it was a fluke and we needed to keep Royce separate from Brian, especially keeping hands out of his mouth.

It was a while later that Brian bit Royce the second time – it was over food.  We didn’t have to go to the ER, and Royce forgave Brian to the point that he’d smile and laugh when Brian was around – but this was different – we had learned he was food aggressive.  Two times seemed excessive, but it was so different, we decided this time that we needed to be stricter with food, with BOTH the dog and Royce.

The third time Brian bit Royce, my husband, my sister Tracie and I all saw it as if in horrible slow motion.  Brian was eating a snack and Royce wanted some too, reached in, and Brian went crazy – bit him good once and several more times up his arm that didn’t puncture skin but left marks.

I had to leave the kitchen and let Marty and Tracie to deal with the screaming child and I went to the other end of the house to cry.  I had spanked him for biting Royce and he bore his teeth at me.  I knew at that moment we couldn’t keep him.  I cried hysterically listening to my child in pain, crying as well, knowing that my love for this dog could not outweigh his aggressive instinct.

We agonized for hours how to proceed.  We came to the conclusion that based on his aggressive behavior not only with Royce but towards other children (whom he never bit) on multiple occasions, we couldn’t bear the thought he’d be in another home and attack a visiting child, potentially killing them – he’s a big dog and can’t control that part of him – we couldn’t give him away, as hard as it was, we needed to put him to sleep.

It was harder than putting Patch to sleep – Brian was a young dog, and when the heat of the moment was forgotten, his lovable, excitable self.  Royce still loved to see him once he’d forgotten about the owie.  I still to this day see a picture of him on Facebook and tear up.  I had several people make me feel guilty about putting him down, but I knew that he wasn’t safe around children – and NO ONE would be in a home completely free from children ever, and my love for this dog wanted me to make sure he didn’t harm anyone out of his aggressive instinct that was out of his control.

This was a few months ago – I have felt the hole of no dog in the house with a heavy heart.  I felt guilty about not missing having to clean up after a dog accident or having to get up to let a dog outside.  I felt lonely that no one greeted me at the door when I came home, and the house felt empty without that much loved extra family member.  Even the cat seemed to mourn his loss.

Now we have the possibility of adopting a dog that needs a home.  The breed sounds less aggressive than the cattle dog Brian had – may even have had some similar qualities of Patch, and has lived with seven children.  I’m very interested in having a dog again, but completely petrified at the thought of it not doing well with the kids – especially with #2 on the way!

Others have had this disgusted look, worried perhaps, when I have mentioned there might be a dog for us. It hurts – I have felt like Brian’s behavior was my fault at times, even though in my logical brain I know it was out of even his control.  Something I was excited about has turned into another source of anxiety.  Marty and I are hoping to meet this dog when we get back from the 4th of July holiday with family – and hoping we can discern if he will be a good fit in our family or not.  Please pray for clarity – I don’t want to take in a dog we can’t handle or turn away a dog we could be good for – and I’m in a place of terrible uncertainty.  I want a dog in my life again, and I hope God is telling me the time is right.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
    -Roger Caras