Sunday, May 4, 2014

You Wanna Hear About the Worst Day of My Life?

I have always loved animals.  All kinds, all types.  Every shape, every size.  But dogs have been and always will be my favorite.  My favorite books growing up were written by James Herriot.  All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful.  And my personal favorite, James Herriot's Favourite Dog Stories.

We got an enormous black lab, Artemus, when I was just a babe and it must have made quite an impression because even though he died when I was only three, I retained a significant amount of my memories where that dog was concerned.

Shamus May 2014
Over the years came Duke, Merry and Cyd.  It's easier for me to remember moments in history by what dog was with me at the time it happened.  I can tell you story after story of each of these dogs and the impact they had on my life growing up.  But today isn't about them.  Today is about Shamus.

Whenever you rescue a pet, you never know the complete extent of their history.  That's the risk you take.  Sometimes that risk pays off.

The first night at home we got some pretty strong indicators that Shamus had some psychological scars.  He growled threateningly, raised his hackles and took a protective stance over me when my husband came back into the room after a few minutes away.  This would repeat in the middle of the night if Shamus forgot that Cap was supposed to be there.  After a week, this stopped.  But he was always fearfully suspicious of strange men.  Never women.

Charlie and Shamus
Oh, that dog was sweet.  He followed me all over the house, loved on me and my boy all the time, and became a huge part of our lives very quickly. The housetraining, the militant walking, the crazy obsession with squirrels and rabbits, all this I could handle.  Those things seemed easy in comparison to his apprehension and distrust in men.  I knew it would take time and diligence for him to know he was safe with us.  That whatever happened to him before would never happen again.

This is the part where I get on my soapbox and rail against individuals who treat pets with cruelty.  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!  I mean, for real?  How big of a badass does it make you feel to have a perfectly wonderful dog be jumpy and jittery around people?  I swear, if I could get my hands on the guy who owned Shamus before he went to the rescue shelter I would give him a good throttling.  Because he didn't just hurt our dog, he hurt our family.

After a long day
No matter how much you try to protect a scarred animal from reopening old wounds, accidents can happen.  We tried to warn people that came over that he was special and we were working with him.  To be gentle, to not make threatening moves towards him, especially if it was a man.  Most of the time, Shamus was quick to move past his fear and greet the person approaching as soon as I gave him the go ahead.  He trusted me.  He understood that he was safe with me. 

Then there was an incident.  It was an accident.  It wasn't his family that did it, but nevertheless, Shamus felt betrayed and responded accordingly.  It came too soon into his new life with us and I couldn't stop it.  I noticed the change in him and it concerned me but I hoped it would pass and we could go on with our lives.  Then yesterday he bit my boy.  On the head.  It was the first time something like that happened but I knew... I knew he had to go back.

Shamus checking the yard for squirrels
Here's something to know about me.  When I love, I go hard.  I'm all in.  I had two boyfriends in my life and married the second one.  And I loved this dog.

But the risk of it being worse next time is too much.  If I was a single gal, living alone, I'd pour myself into trying to rehabilitate this dog.  Because he's sooo worth it.  He is such a good dog.  I love him deeply.  But I have a child.  And he's my priority.

So I made the decision that I knew I had to make though it was the hardest to carry out.  I took him back to the farm today.  I cried the whole way there.  I cried even harder on the way back.  Ugly crying, shouting, snot flying, voice breaking.

It's amazing the size of the hole that a dog can leave in your life.  How empty and quiet my house is now.  How even though we only had him for five weeks, he was one of my closest and dearest friends.  How he pushed me to try and be a better human being than I was the day before.  He was, without a doubt, MY dog.  Mine.  And I was his person.  We were besties.

Best dog ever
I'm so sad.  And angry.  I'm angry at the man who broke him.  I'm angry that I couldn't love him enough to heal him.  I'm angry that it feels like I failed him.  And then I'm sad again.  So very sad.

I hope he gets placed in another home soon.  One that will love him like he deserves and can help heal that wound that he never asked for nor deserved.  He was just the best dog ever and I'm going to miss him so much.  I have to have hope that he's going to end up in a better home.  I have to.  Because without that hope, I would truly fall apart.

Questions you might have after all of this:
Yes, my boy is fine.  Didn't break the skin but left a large bruise.
My child is not mean to animals.  He doesn't pull ears or tails and he's actually very gentle with pets.  He woke up Shamus and Shamus decided to instill a pecking order.  An inch to the left and it would have been his eye.
Up until aforementioned trigger incident, they got along fine and were actually buddies.