So over the years we have had several dogs. We had an Australian cattle dog that was with us for 14 years. She was super loyal. I never needed a dog lead with her, she just stayed at my side, or I could call her back any time and she would come to me. We would run a lot, and sometimes that would be next to busy 4 lane city traffic. I was never worried about her running out onto the road, she was just good like that.
Eventually, we put her down because her hips made it hard for her to walk, let alone run. She would do maybe 10 minutes at a stretch walking down the street and her paw would be almost dragging on one foot because the nerve that told it what to do was damaged up near her spine. Anyway, she was a good loyal friend and putting her down was devastating. Like, going to pieces cry your heart out, but this grief settled in a short time and we accepted the situation.
So some years later, we lived in a northern British Columbia town, and we were ready to take on a dog. There was a sign at the town grocery store that said, pups, $300 or something, with a picture. So we phoned the lady up. We went around and had a look, they seemed like cute pups and she said, ‘they are free, I just put the price on to keep away people who aren’t serious’. So we took a puppy. We named him Rusty.
So soon after bringing him home, our kids would play with him in the yard, he was an aggressive pup and seemed to enjoy chasing the kids and they would run away from him, with his sharp pup teeth. Soon enough he had grown into a full size dog. He had a special bond with me. We were practically inseparable. We would take off on adventure walks in the bush, and go to the gun range, rides in the car to the regional city, etc. Every move I made in the house, he would be right there. Up the stairs, down the stairs, around the kitchen table twice, he’d be right there with me.
Rusty having a rest after climbing ‘the bald spot’ trail in Tumbler Ridge BC. We could see our house from up here.
The thing about Rusty was, he was extremely people aggressive. Now, we have two kids who were young at the time, and I never worried about them being alone with Rusty in the back yard, I was actually glad that no one was getting in the yard to mess with my kids. Rusty would tear your arm off. In retrospect, it may have been a bit naïve, as he could have ripped my kids faces off any time he wanted to, but he didn’t, we were all integrated as his pack.
When it came to other people though, it was a different story. He bit the kid from up the street, and caused him to need a few stitches in his hand. I felt awful about that, but the parents were very gracious. The dog was tied up on our property, but my wife did not get a chance to stop the kid before he put his hand in Rusty’s face. He bit my co-worker on the hand. She put her hand out and before I could stop her, Rusty clamped down on her finger. He bit a lady waiting for the crew bus on the ankle. He launched at little kids at the park. I had to muzzle him. Frankly, he was psychopathic. I took advice from some dog trainers, the general consensus was that when it comes to dog aggression, you can only manage it. May be subject to debate, but anyway, I had to make a decision.
It took many months of discussions with my wife etc before making that call. I was bracing for it. I felt that I needed to have a dog in my life. So at a point, we adopted a chocolate lab we named Sally. I drove over to a farm located in neighboring Alberta to pick Sally up. She was a gorgeous brown furball. That’s another story.
So when I was ready, I had the unenviable task of taking two dogs to the vet – one to be vaccinated, and one to be euphonized. It was heartbreaking to say the least. The vet came in, we got Sally up on the table and she got her shots, then it was time to deal with young Rust. He was about 3 years old. The vet administered a sedative so that he would be easier to handle. He had a ‘dangerous dog’ label on the computer system at the vet, because, they had been bitten in the past too. For any procedures I always offered to handle him.
So the sedative started to work. I was left alone with these two dogs in the consultation room. He started winding down, like his panting was becoming slower. I cried. I broke down. The vet came in and kindly asked if I wanted a few more moments, which I did. I allowed him to be led away into the back room while I tried to repair myself to a state of a late thirties man with a sense of personal pride. I took a half hour or so and walked around the empty show grounds across the road. When I was ready, I drove home.
It took me some days to process all of this. At a point, maybe 3 or so days after the event, my wife asked me if I was ok. I was lying back on the bed. I sobbed. Not uncontrollably, just felt the need to release that grief. After that I felt generally better. There was a moment, maybe 6 months later, I had printed a picture of me and him sitting on the front porch. I sobbed again for a short moment. I wasn’t even ready to look at a damn picture.
So time has passed, and you accept what is. Recently we got another addition. A black lab we named Jack Black. At some point, I’ll post something about our two labs. They are genuinely sweet natured dogs.