Wow, has it really been a month since my last blog post? I’m sorry. There has been so much going on, and I’ve let this go unintentionally.
Just recently, we’ve added a new permanent dog to our household. It’s not the way I thought it would happen, and I am so glad that I hadn’t recently followed through with my desire to adopt and bring home a missing pet search candidate to train, because things might have ended differently for this dog. Murphy was returned to our rescue after three and a half years in a loving home because of a bite that sent his human girl to the hospital. It was provoked- he was grabbed and startled when he got loose while out on a walk, and he was reacting to that fear- but unfortunately, we can’t erase mistakes even when made in earnest.
When a dog bites so severely, there are few options. It is irresponsible to attempt to rehome this dog, even if a rescue deems it “rehabilitated”- stay away from groups that claim that an animal’s aggression is rehabbed and gone, because they are showing serious inexperience with dog behavior. Management and safety will always be a necessary part of that animal’s life from the moment of the bite until the day the dog dies. This leaves the following options. First, the adopter/owner keeps the dog forever, providing management and seeking professional help to work out the cause of the behavior, following any dangerous-dog laws that may encompass their situation. Second, if returned to a rescue group, the rescue may wish to keep the dog forever but this is only humane, in my opinion, if they are providing a quality home environment for the dog, not permanency in a shelter/kennel. The last alternative is euthanasia.
When I picked up Murphy, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen but I was pretty sure we were going to have to go with the last option and had, in not as many words, told the family so. He was reportedly very bad with most other dogs, and we’d seen this during his first stay in our rescue so we knew it was true. He had bitten someone that he had known for many years very badly. There was not much we could do and it seemed unlikely that keeping him would ever be an option. I had run through all the possible scenarios many times in my head on the three hour drive to the arranged meeting spot three hours away. I had come to the decision that if he needed to be euthanized, I could provide that last kindness for him with as much peace of mind as is possible in such a sad situation. Once arriving at the meeting place and seeing the profound love the adopters had for this dog, though, all that changed. The obvious heartbreak they were feeling was a testament to the wonderful dog that he is. After a day of crying and soul-searching while this dog napped at my feet, only one option seemed right and my husband and I adopted him ourselves.
Murphy is good with the dogs, if a little unsure what to think about them, and he has bonded with me, deciding that I am A-ok. He already responds pretty well to me and wants to spend as much time as possible sitting with me. He laid at the gate at the top of the stairs all afternoon yesterday while I was cleaning my guinea pig and rat cages, even napping at one point but making sure that he knew where I was.
Let me back up a bit now. Four years ago I had a dog, Buddy, that arrived as a foster the day before “Matty,” the dog that became Murphy. While Matty went to another foster home, Buddy stayed with me due to his issues. Buddy was horribly insecure and had a history of biting. His saving grace was that he never bit hard enough to really be dangerous. I worked with him for six months before making the decision to adopt him. We had bonded deeply by that time. Buddy’s routine involved classes and training at home to help build his confidence, exercise and socialization, and we used medication, supplements and other measures to help him get over his fears. He was a horribly anxious dog, would pick fights with the other dogs out of fear/insecurity, and was starting to display severe symptoms of anxiety when I was not home (even if my husband was) and during any mealtime. After a year and a half together, we made one last trip to the vet to release him from his suffering. I loved him so much, and was not the same after losing him. Every day had revolved around keeping Buddy happy, and then he was just… gone.
I see a lot of qualities in Murphy that my Buddy had- not just quirky insecure behavior but the good ones, the endearing things that I remember when I think of him. Even when I look at Murphy’s face, there is something there that I see that looks so familiar. Murphy obviously does not have the depth and severity that Buddy had, but his root issues are the same and it feels so… normal… to work with them again. It is strange to think that they became “STAR”s in the same weekend, and are so similar, and now both have ended up with me. Having Murphy here is actually comforting because it feels almost like I didn’t lose Buddy, not completely. Buddy would stand sentry at the top of that gate when I cleaned cages, too, and so yesterday, though I wished Murphy would go hang out with my hubby, there was something in that simple act that made the void Buddy left feel way smaller. I had to say goodbye to Buddy and have always wondered if I could have done something differently, or if there was some other way to keep him here. Euthanasia is a serious, permanent situation that I only believe in as a last resort and though I don’t regret doing what I really believe was the right decision for my mentally anguished dog, I’ll always wonder if I’d done everything I could. I have spent a lot of time learning about dogs and behavior since his passing, hoping I never end up in a situation like that again.
Maybe Murphy is here because we both needed a second chance.