"This is Jessica," I answered.
"Yeah, I need help with putting my dog to sleep," he responded.
"Um, ok, that's not exactly what we do; you'd need a vet to do that, but I could perhaps console you on this process, or offer some input maybe?" I said.
"OK, or could you rescue my dog?" said the caller.
"I don't know, maybe. Tell me about the dog." I said.
"OK, he's a red nosed pit bull," answered the caller.
"Ok, age... neutered?" I inquired.
"He's about 4 years old and he's not neutered. The thing is: he's become aggressive-like with my wife and our kid. He won't listen to them and it makes them nervous. He only listens to me," said the man.
"Hmm, we don't have a foster at this time..." I started...
"So you can't help me. No one can help, I've called all different rescues. I put him on Facebook, no one wants him," said the man, calmly, yet clearly frustrated.
"Yes, yes. I understand. The thing for us is: this is a very small rescue. At any given time I may have 2-3 active fosters, and that's including me. And none of my fosters are equipped to take in a strong adult dog with known aggressive tendencies. And I'd love to be able to help this dog, to have the resources and appropriate space for such a dog, but I can't personally take in a dog that could endanger my own family." I shared.
"I understand," replied the man.
"So, as terrible as it seems, and it is, I think you're on the right track in considering humane euthanasia for your dog. It's just one of those things, like 'sometimes life sucks,' and there are worse options than euthanasia... dumping your dog in an unfamiliar place for example," I said.
|stock image, man walking alone|
"I'd never do that," he interrupted, "I love my dog."
"I know you do. I can tell you do. And your dog loves you.
-You're a good dog owner. Don't think for a minute that you're a bad dog owner. With these things, we learn from our experiences. Take what you can from this, and apply it to the next dog you have (eventually) to help assure the dog doesn't develop aggressive tendencies. You can't put your child at risk of being bitten, or worse. And if you took your dog to a shelter that would even take him in, he'd likely sit there for days before being put to sleep, in a room, by people he didn't know, perhaps having to be restrained and/or sedated with a long pole- that's brutal. It sounds like you've ruled out all other options, and now, you're going to have to be really strong, find a good, compassionate vet, and be present, there with your dog in his last moments. And I'm so sorry." I said.
"OK. I truly appreciate it. Goodbye," said the caller.
|stock photo of a red-nosed pit, like the man's dog. They're beauties!|
Guys, calls like this are brutal. Calls to the rescue/my cell phone come in waves- on some days I may get a half a dozen calls, on others I get none. Very often I'm called on to help. Very often I'm unable to help. When I can help, I do. And sometimes helping comes in the form of listening, and offering knowledgeable, experience-based, objective feedback, as was the case with this caller.
-This gentleman could not afford professional training for his dog, and it was clear by the tone of his voice and his responses that he'd be trying to figure out some solution for a period of time.
And shortly after this chat I had an intuition that the man had started the call off by asking for help with euthanasia in the hopes I'd be startled enough to say, "oh no, we can't have that happen, let me take your dog in!"
And believe me, I wish I could've said that. But it's not just me here, I always (thankfully) have a family and other pets to consider.
-It was a strange sensation, knowing and feeling exactly where this caller was after having talked with him. -He knew internally and instinctively what was likely coming for his dog, but he still couldn't quite grasp it. It felt like he was going through the motions of 'trying to figure out what to do about his strong dog that was acting aggressively with his young family,' until he talked with me. He was saying the word euthanasia but wasn't really there yet in his mind; it was all very surfaced. And it was my job in this case to make it all a little more real. And like I told him, that sucks. And sometimes life can be so hard. I told him that this would likely be one of the hardest things he'd ever have to do.
And were I less experienced in rescue and animal welfare, I would've likely (gently) berated this man, saying something like, "had he been neutered from a young age, he may not have developed these tendencies," or "if you can't afford behavior modification, then you shouldn't have gotten a dog in the first place," or "your dog is part of your family, and you stick with family through thick and thin."
But I'm not a 'newb' in all of this. I've heard about and seen firsthand cases where kids' faces have been partially ripped off by a family dog... and such cases aren't even typically involving such a strong breed.
Sadly, it only takes a quick google search to turn up several cases of dog attacks killing children:
And guys, I could feel how much this gentleman loved his dog, and know that this dog adored this man. This dog was loyal to a fault to his owner, and they enjoyed their daily walks and what not. I'm sure that losing his dog will feel just like losing a best friend or a child. It is absolutely brutal. But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, everyone's first priority should be safety.
Dogs are family. Dogs can be man's best friend.
But they're also animals, and animals at times can have undeniably-strong instincts that can be hard for humans to comprehend. -Comprehend it. Dogs need to respect humans, and vice versa to keep everyone safe.
Author's Footnote: on 07/11/23 my friend and rescue helper, Holly Hood, reached out.
She had read this blog and wanted to assure me that, 'losing a child cannot be compared to losing a pet.' I told her that I'd add this in, and that of course I hate that she has to know this pain firsthand. Holly lost her 12 year old daughter to complications related to asthma in Dec., 2021. ~God rest and keep Skyla's soul in eternal, rejuvenated glory.