I Put My Dog Down Today

“I put my dog down yesterday. He was not sick. He was not old. I rescued him over 8 years ago. And I put him down to rescue him again.”

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This incredibly heart-touching piece comes from Indrani, a volunteer at Pound Puppy Rescue:

 

I put my dog down yesterday. He was not sick. He was not old. I rescued him over 8 years ago when he was only 2 months old. And I put him down to rescue him again.

Sutter would have been one of the 4 million dogs euthanized in a US shelter that year. But instead, he and his litter mates were rescued by Pound Puppy Rescue, a local puppy rescue. Just days old when he was brought into his foster home, Sutter and his litter mates were bottle fed until they could eat on their own.

Sutter was the most beautiful dog I had ever seen. Deep red coat and amber eyes. Naturally athletic. We were unsure of his breed but a DNA test told us cattle dog and boxer. His herding and hunting instincts were interminable. And from the very moment I got him, something was ‘off’.

I socialized him at home with friends and other dogs until he was fully vaccinated. Then I took him to the dog park 5 times a week, the beach, work, dog friendly restaurants, puppy school, agility training, nose work class. Despite all these efforts, Sutter was hyper vigilant. Never relaxed. Always on edge. He put a dog at the dog park in the hospital. He bit a child riding by on her tricycle. He bit people in our house, the cleaning lady, the gardener and a fireman. He chased the postman down the driveway baring his teeth. Amazingly none of these instances were reported, but Sutter’s freedoms were restricted. I rescued Sutter and it was my job to keep him safe. Inside our home with our family, Sutter was a dream. He never chewed anything. He wasn’t needy. He was affectionate. And quiet.

After my divorce I moved into an apartment, and hired a dog walker. I gave her very explicit instructions. About two weeks into her job, she called me to tell me that Sutter bit the apartment manager. Two days later, Sutter bit a dog. Sutter had three days to find a new home. I managed to find him a place to stay until I could move. I was not giving up on my dog.

Sutter was a management issue. Walking him became more and more stressful. Crossing the street when people came towards us. Pulling him away from children who wanted to pet him. As I became more vigilant, Sutter fed off the energy and got worse. Walking him was no longer fun, it was a chore with the thought, “What’s going to happen next” constantly going through my head.

I tried everything: trainers with an iron fist, muzzles, and thunder shirts, medication. Nothing helped. He growled at everyone that gave him a sideways glance. He lunged without warning. He air snapped. But all the while at home, he was a great companion, goofy happy and chill.

Last week, our elderly neighbor was walking by, and as her back was turned, Sutter lunged, knocked her to the ground and bit her. No warning. What would a dog who has been loved his whole life, have to fear? What is going through his head that makes him so insecure and defensive that he would do this? Again, luck was on my side and our 84 year old neighbor made it through unhurt.

I talked to experts and trainers, veterinarians and shelter staff. Sutter had no chance to be rehomed; it would just transfer the liability from my home to another. I could limit his freedoms even more. Only walking him in the dead of night. I could put a muzzle on him at all times. But then the question of quality of life comes up. Quality of life for him. Quality of life for me.

All this time, for the last 4 years or so, the thought of euthanasia has loomed in the background. And to be brutally honest, a bit of relief would seep through the heartbreak when I thought of it. Relief at not wondering when the next time would be. Relief at not worrying about getting a call from the police or animal control. Relief at not being at risk of a lawsuit. Relief at avoiding the distinct possibility that Sutter could badly hurt someone. Of all the people I spoke with, only one told me not to consider putting him down. Because I would never forgive myself; because I would feel guilty for the rest of my life. That, to me, is a selfish reason not to do it. How would I feel if Sutter put a child in the hospital or killed a dog? The guilt would be unbearable. The guilt that I didn’t do something sooner.

So yesterday, I spent the day with my boy Sutter. I made him a scrambled egg for breakfast and he had the last bite of banana. We took a long walk along the coast, and I let him sniff every blade of grass, and eat whatever tasty morsel I would usually pull him away from. I let him look for mice in the scrub. We watched hawks hunt for their breakfast and stared at the ocean. He rolled in the wet grass and jumped up smiling at me.

Then, we took him to the vet. We went into the quiet room and spent some time with him. The tech came and gave him a shot that made him sleepy. Even then he was strong, he refused to go to sleep and jumped up several times, walking like a drunk. We finally convinced him to lie down on the blanket. We pet him and kissed him and gave him treats and hugged him and told him we love him so much. The vet came in and injected him with some bright blue medicine, and his breathing and heart slowed down. His eyes remained open and we talked to him gently, telling him to go to sleep. Then he was gone.

My pain was excruciating, and it still is. And maybe my friend is right. I may never forgive myself for playing God and deciding Sutter’s time was up. And the rescue volunteer in me is calling myself a hypocrite of the worst kind. How can I save a dog, only to euthanize him when he was still so vibrant and healthy?

I will likely struggle with these thoughts for many years to come. And I will always miss Sutter, the little puppy that I rescued. But in the end I know I saved him from himself.

 

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Update – one week after posting:

It’s been a week.

I am reeling from all the support I am getting from strangers far and wide. I wish I could respond to each and every one of you, and I hope that those whom shared their own stories can feel my big, virtual hug.

I didn’t write my story to share it, I wrote it for myself. Catharsis. And it was cathartic. But then I got to thinking, despite the sensitive topic, perhaps there are others who have gone through the struggle, who are going through the struggle, who may have to go through the struggle. I had no idea so many people put their dogs down for reasons similar to mine. And some people were forced after a final harrowing incident. People have been sued. People spent thousands of dollars digging themselves out from the aftermath of their dog’s actions. Dogs have been taken away by animal control and euthanized by the authorities (my biggest fear).

I was playing Russian Roulette. But with a big red dog.

I am also reeling from some of the cruel and hurtful comments. I know I opened myself up by posting my story on a public forum. I was actually a bit wary as I clicked the ‘publish’ button on the WordPress site. I voluntarily made myself vulnerable to the rude, cruel, condescending, judgmental, holier-than-thou people that I know are lurking about. But still, my open wounds started to bleed.

To the people who asked why I didn’t just buy a house with a big yard: What a nice idea. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country. Buying a house with a nice big yard for Sutter would cost at least a million and a half dollars. Even if I could afford that, in a practical sense, a nice big yard is not all that a dog needs. When I was married, I had a nice big yard. Sutter never went out there unless he had to go potty. He would rather hang out on the couch inside.

To those that asked why I waited so long to put him down: The situation was not as cut and dried as it seemed. Sutter did make contact with multiple people and dogs, but the incidents were always spaced apart by months or even years. After each incident, I tried new remedies like a muzzle, medication, a new trainer, better management.  I admit I was in denial, and I admit that I let my guard down. He seemed to be calming down and getting much better. During the last incident with the old lady, Sutter was seemingly ignoring her altogether. He was sniffing something off the path, and she was walking by on the other side. Sutter lunged and jumped after her as she had already walked by. He was lightening fast and there was zero warning. I regret that this happened with all my heart. And I am so lucky that the lady was okay even though she fell on her face. That was the wake up call. The thought of Sutter being taken away by animal control, and the recollection of all the past incidents, and the recommendations of several trainers, behaviorists, the vet, my attorney, family and friends, led me to the conclusion that enough was enough. I had already moved once, and I recently bought my condo. I loved Sutter with all my heart, but the realization that someone could be hurt very badly, I could be sued, I could lose everything, was a dark cloud hanging over my head.

Why was he allowed so close to people? Why did we let him come into contact with anyone on the walks? As someone stated, it is impossible to control the world. Do you realize how many off-leash dogs are around all the time? And how many toddlers run around wild, not listening to their parents’ calls to come back?

To the people who said we should just keep him inside at all times: Sutter loved his walks. He would stand at the door, wag his tail and smile, waiting for his walks. I walked him. A lot. At 8 years old he did not need as much stimulation and exercise as he did as a young dog. But I walked him a lot to keep his energy down. I got up at 5am every morning and took him out for 45 minutes, rain or shine. Then after work, I took him for 3-5 miles. Every day. Sutter would no longer thrive had he been on house arrest. And he still needed the exercise.

What about a muzzle? For a dog like Sutter, quality life would surely suffer. He was a highly sensitive dog, and a muzzle bothered him to the point of catatonia.

And yes, I know that cattle dogs are not for everyone. And yes, I know that cattle dogs need free space to run and play. They are working dogs and need to be kept busy. Sutter was abandoned in a box mere days old. I had no idea what his breed was when I adopted him. He had a short nose and floppy ears. At about 4 or 5 months old, his ears popped up and his nose got long. Even if I knew he was a cattle dog, I could not predict that I would get divorced and be forced to move out of my home. Things happen to people. And I did everything I could to keep him with me, even when he bit the apartment manager and got evicted.

What about medication? Sutter had blood work done and medical exams and there was nothing ‘wrong’ that the vet could detect. We tried anti-anxiety medication which did absolutely nothing. We tried sedatives which did nothing until the dose got high enough for him to be a zombie. Neither were good solutions.

What about finding a home with lots of land or a no-kill shelter? I wonder if any of the people saying I should have just found a new home would have taken on a 60 lbs, high energy, unpredictable dog who lunges and bites dogs and kids and people without warning. And as for ‘no-kill’ shelters…very few of those really exist. Even ‘no-kill’ shelters kill. They kill when a dog is sick or aggressive, to make room for others. A sensitive dog like Sutter, scared of loud noises, not happy around other dogs and strangers – what would his life be like locked in a cage like that? I honestly don’t think just being alive is enough. Doesn’t one also have to experience joy?

I was accused of not spending enough time with him. I was told that he needed to be with me 100% of the day, every day. How dare I leave him at home when I work. I was berated and told that I was the cause of his anxiety and violence. People hoped that I didn’t have children, and said I should be sterilized. I need a “kick up the backside”. I saw comments like ‘every dog can be trained’, ‘you didn’t try hard enough’ and that I have just given permission to the world to kill healthy dogs. Someone told me that they hope I see his face every day and suffer. I lied to my dog, gave him a great day, then killed him. I am a piece of shit. I am an asshole. I am useless and worthless. I will go to hell. The dogsnobs blog dedicated a whole blog post to me, my bad decision, the mismanagement of my dog, and what an idiot I am. Selfish, evil bitch. I should go fuck myself.  And my favorite, from dear Star Mitchell: I should go kill myself.

So yes, I am grateful for all the support, but I am a human being with feelings and the desire for people to respect and be kind to me. Of course, with the events of last Monday, I am grieving, regretting, questioning, wishing I could go back in time. So for now, I am going to lick my wounds, and take a walk to the coast, where my Sutter Puppy and I walked every day.

 

448 thoughts on “I Put My Dog Down Today

  1. You shouldn’t own pets if you put them down for being a little difficult. I had to put my dog down today because he couldn’t stand, kept having severe seizures, and his eyes looked dead. I would preferred to have him around a few more years. Kill yourself, so you don’t have to put another pet through this.

  2. Any situation like this is heartbreaking. I lost my sweet, beautiful boy Charlie to a situation like this. No matter what you do, you will never feel you did the right thing in your heart. There will also be a question if you could have done better. Having support is very important, I never told a soul and it is slowly killing me. Maybe I deserve that. But in Sutter’s case, you give him everything you could to help him. And because this world treats animals the way they do, you knew what awaited him if you just tired to wash your hands of the situation. I use to be a person who felt that you never had a reason to put a healthy animal down. I now see that each situation is very different and never cut and dry. My heart is with you. I know the pain. It will be 2 years on April 8th and I still cry to this day for him and others. May you find peace and comfort during this heartbreaking time.

  3. Holy crap. This story is disgusting. So the dog had behavior problems and you had to put him down for that? If you had a mentally disabled child whom relied on you 24/7 would you do the same? I’m sorry, but you’re just selfish. I quote this commentary:

    “I have a dog who is not very accepting of new dogs or people. It is hard to walk her or take her out in public when there are lot of people or dogs. I have never even thought of putting her down. I just don’t walk her or take her out when I am afraid of her lunging at someone or trying to bite someone. I keep her indoors, take her out later in the night, exercise her indoors. I would be devastated if I have to put her down without deemed medically necessary. If you love your dog so much you have to find a way to keep him/her alive and safe.”

  4. I just put my dog down this week after my dear sweet 7 year old chow chow Simba bit my 2 year old daughter in the face. He caused 5 stitches and scrapes. It was the last straw and happened when my daughter was loving on him.

    Even still, I am beyond sad and sit with regret that I could have kept him isolated from my daughter. Maybe if I hired the best behavioral trainers… I don’t know. We have another baby on the way so it made the “separate the child and dog until she is older” impossible.

    He had hip dysplasia diagnosed at 6 months and was in pain. He didn’t mean to do it and never went after my daughter- it was a reaction to her touching him directly. Even light touches scared him from my unpredictable 2 year old. We taught her well but even being directly by us at all times when touching him didn’t seem to calm him.

    Even so, he was not vicious. It would have been beyond his capability to adapt to a new family, if we could find one- or sit in a shelter. I couldn’t do that to him. I also didn’t want it to not be my choice.

    Even though it was my choice to put him to sleep, I cry daily and mourn deeply. I miss him so much. He was a good boy. I hate the decision I made.

    Thank you for sharing. This was comforting even though I’m still beyond sad.

  5. Melanie,
    I know it has been a while since you’ve posted this, but I am just so scared of doing the wrong thing. My baby boy of only 1 year has become more than aggresive. We rescued him about 6 months ago off the street and since then he has become my best friend. At first he was the sweetest, most loving little thing, but I know I am scared to be alone with him.. It started about 3 months ago when out of nowhere, he snarled at me. Since then he has started showing behavior that he has already grown out of; chewing up EVERYTHING, pooping EVERYWHERE, and completely ignoring me and my roomates when he was told to do something. While this was annoying and very stressful, it was managable… But nothing helped. We tried more excersize, more attention, more stability and foundation. We tried trainers and behavior professionals, but none of this worked. About 3 weeks ago the aggression hit. He growls at anyone or anything that comes near him (including me) he constantly tourments the other dog and his started biting. Today he attacked our other dog and ripped her throat.

  6. Dear Melanie,
    I was really hesitating if I should write a comment on Your blog, because I did not want to open any wounds, that are still healing, And I don’t even know, if You still check the comments from time to time and if You will read this, but…I am going through the same situation as You were. We have adopted a puppy from the shelter with my wife when we were expecting, and he was the nicest one I have ever seen (I am really sorry, but I do not want to write his name). We had previously trained 3 dogs in our family, two of them were stray dogs and this was the fourth. From the start he was a bit problematic, a lot more than the others, but we still loved him and tried to give him everything. Long walks in the woods, socialization with other dogs, lots of love and training with professional trainers and behaviourists, we even bought a flat with a small garden, so he can go outside whenever he wanted. From time to time, he had surges of aggression, but I was still able to manage him. But lately, things got worse and he attacked my wife out of nowhere. For those, that think that it was our fault, that we provoked him somehow I must say, that my wife is the sweetest person in the world, loves him very much and was even defending him after this. Since the incident, he was not the same. Even before, he was on the edge the whole time, and now he is oscillating between a very good and very unpredictable and aggressive dog. I have tried many things to help him, we wanted to cure him, but everything failed. I could not risk the life of my child and health of my wife, if he had another breakdown. I had to put him down and .since the decision I was not able to sleep, work and think of anything other. I am going through a lot of pain, regret, guilt that I could have done something better, different. I feel like I am the most terrible person in the world for betraying him. But I know, that he was suffering as we were, and that he was very confused and even if I hate myself for this decision I know, that its the right one. I am still coping with this very badly and finding Your blog did not decreased my pain much, but at least I know, that somebody understands. I wish You inner peace, and I thank You for Your bravery and exposing Your soul by this blog. Stay strong

  7. I recently got in some serious trouble and faceing 10 years in prison.
    Its killing me that my dog and i may be ripped apart.his name is felon and he came into my life 11 years ago a tiny puppy with his eyes still closed .i bottle fed him and sang lullabies at night.
    Ive looked for a place for him to go but had no luck and it breaks my heart and is killing me that i my have to put him down.
    Hes been by my side for 11 years. He is the perfect dog and i feel guilty and ashamed. I feel like im worthless and that i should be the one who deserves to die not him.

  8. I just want to thank you for your courage to post your and sutters experience. My heart is breaking I have a baby who I got at 6 weeks when he was found locked in a trunk in 90+ degree weather in Texas. He is almost 3 years old and only gotten worse I cannot walk him because everyone around here walks theirs with no leashes and there are kids everywhere. He spends 90% of his time when the kids are home locked in a kennel because he lunged at my 3 year old twice now. He loves me to death but trusts no one else he is afraid of everything and has to be sedated to even be put into the car to go to the vet. We started taking him to the vet that is a block away so I can just walk him there and they sedate him when we get there. He has bit every vet he has seen even through sedation he manages to get mussels off, he was fixed at 6 months and it didn’t help at all. We have hired 10 yes 10 different trainers, and rehabilitators and nothing but feeding him separate has managed to change anything. I cannot go on vacations with my family and I can hardly leave the house. I have to go back to work but I can’t leave him alone with my kids and a baby sitter. He is my baby but he is killing me and him slowly and completely with his aggression. I have tried shelters(only non kill) and rescues and no one will take him. I would feel beyond awful if I gave him to someone else and he hurt or killed someone or something. Or if they in turn hurt him. He wouldn’t do well without me and I fear the day a child walks in my house and he is roaming free. He is also a cattle dog mix but by far not my first. I have 2 other dogs 1 full cattle dog and a pit mix and I would trust them with my life but Scooter would kill someone given the chance. 2 of the vets I have seen told me I need to put him down as well as a lot of the trainers he has seen and rescuers or they tell me I’m clearly doing something wrong, I was even accused of horribly mistreating him as that was the only excuse for his behavior. As I’m watching him cuddle up by the fireplace he looks so comfy yet on edge as my kids giggle up stairs. Ive come to the conclution all the experts are right and it is my only option.

  9. Did time heal your heart? On Sunday we put our sweet Penny to sleep around 1 a.m. after a horrible fight occurred between her and our smaller dog. This was the last of many many fights that continued to get more aggressive and more damage was done with every fight. We “rescued” her in 2014.. we could tell from the first day she was with us that she had been abused. Scared of everyone and everything.She had begun to growl at our 2 year old son when he got near her. She had a history of biting people. I am currently living with so much guilt. I was the only person in this world she loved and I feel as if I betrayed her. I find myself going standing where we buried her at all times of the day. I just keep replaying the last minutes of her life in my head.. all I could manage to say was” I’m so sorry.” I have slept with her collar every night. I feel as if I will never forgive myself for doing this to her.

  10. i am so sorry for what you went through. i had a similar situation with my Aussie. i kept her for 15 years, went to trainings and had to be extra vigilant all the time. all of this took such a toll on me that now i wondered if i should not have ended her life sooner. and that doesn’t make me a horrible person. don’t let anyone guilt trip you, you sounded like a wonderful owner. i see so many people who get dogs they never walk, who leave them all day alone because they work and that to me is cruel. not what you did!!
    after Coco died i still had my other Aussie and he became such a better dog after Coco left. i was fortunate to have him all by myself for 2 more years. he was 15 years old when he passed away a week ago. i found some of the posts cruel and ridiculous. sometimes a dog simply cannot be rehabilitated. i remember going to training with a dog trainer who had a german shepherd. he had trained this dog so well that this dog would never have dared disobey him. yet, in class, i saw this dog bare his teeth at someone. i believe this dog was still a threat despite the most intense training. praise yourself for all the hard work you did and wish those who blame you a peaceful day.

  11. Thank you I needed this. We’ve had many many incidents with our dog and I’ll break my kid’s hearts but it just needs to be done. So beautifully written.

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