Day 361- Personal Responsibility
Today I helped kill a dog named Fred and it was a shitty decision to make, but the proper one in context of the situation I found myself in.
I’m staying with my friend Patricia and helping to shoulder some of the responsibility for the dogs that are under her care. It’s the least I can do since she is putting me up and also because I love dogs. She has been rescuing dogs in varying capacity over the past 17 years, having found permanent homes for hundreds in addition to collaborating with other rescuers to save hundreds more.
Since I met Patricia in January she has been steadily working to get out of dog rescue and get back to her painting career, but has found it a challenge because once people know you rescue dogs they provide an unending supply. As of today she has the following 26 – Beau Beau, Pounce, Sister Girl, Teddy, Nobel, Hambone, Pretty Girl, Lou Loose, Pretty Boy, Chubbers, Gum Drop, Jelly Bean, Mazy, Loredo, Abe (after my cat), Lucy, Geena Davis, Gretta Garbo, Hobo, Scout, Lobo, Little Bit, Fender, Fred and Priscilla.
For a number of reasons all of these dogs live in her home under the pack philosophy – that is they are put in kennels for feedings and when she is away from home, but otherwise are free to move about as they wish in her home and fenced in yard. While at times it can be frustrating it is also a lot of fun and allows Patrica to see how the dogs will interact with other dogs and humans in a low structure environment.
In general the pack works well together, leading to well adjusted dogs that are easy to place. Occasionally, Patricia will come across dogs that are too damaged or dangerous to rehabilitate and she chooses to have them humanely euthanized under her watchful eye and expense as opposed to dumping them on someone else to deal with.
The day before she drove 300 miles to pick me and my gear up in Comfort someone decided to dump two dogs in her front yard. A beautiful, but malnourished 80 pound Mastiff we named Fred and a healthy looking black, Flat Coated Retriever we named Geena Davis. Fred kept Patricia up all night barking, but she still came to pick me up (thanks for that). She told me about them as we drove back and her concern that Fred may be tough to integrate into the pack because Mastiff’s are a very protective and powerful breed of dog.
Fred seemed to be doing okay with the other dogs Sat-Tue, I even gave him a bath, but Tuesday as were listening to country music and having a good ol’ time dancing by candle light in her garage watching the rain come down things took a turn for the worse. Hambone – a very senior Mastiff mix, but in general chill dog Patricia got in January became the focus of Fred’s growing dominance.
As I was sitting there resting from some booty shaking they started growling at each other and I moved to push them apart, but before I could get distance between them, Fred went in for the kill getting half of Hambones massive head in his even more massive jaws. With Patricia working to pull Fred off Hambone and me bashing Fred’s thick head with a folding chair we managed to get the two apart. Patricia got small bite wound on her wrist and Hambone was torn up a bit, but all and all everyone was okay. Fred went easily back in a kennel and sulked knowing that he had done something wrong.
But now what?
Fred was being territorial and who knows what else, but regardless he and Hambone were now enemies and it wouldn’t work to have them together in the low structure pack environment that exists in Casa Patricia.
After a lot of discussion over the night and into the next day the best course of action we could determine was sadly, putting Fred down.
Fred exhibited behavior and is of the breed and size that Patricia determined would mostly likely need to be on his own with an owner well versed in controlling a powerful dog. And this is without spending the time and money to have him checked out and treated for things like heart worm or uncovering possible behavioral or psychological issues. Remember this was a dog that was dumped in her front yard a few days ago – so there are a lot of unknowns.
To even begin to work with him would have put the other dogs at risk and severely impacted her ability to care for and re-home them. Did I mention that she spends most of her own money on caring for the dogs? Even with donations, it’s not uncommon for a dog rescuers to spend thousands a month rescuing dogs.
For my part I could have worked to find Fred a home while I am here. After all he did give indications that he could be good dog for the right person and I could have devoted time and energy to segregating and caring for him. But that would have taken a lot of time and energy and I didn’t want to invest it with me being on the road again pursing my own interests.
We could have tried dropping him off with other rescuers, but they all have their hands full with their own dogs in the exact same way that Patricia does. We could have brought him to Animal Control in San Antonio, the central dog collection location, which is already over flowing with dogs and euthanizes many everyday to make room for more. In fact, Patricia found out they put down 80 there today.
To those that think there is such a thing as a no kill shelter – I hate to burst your bubble, but what that means is they don’t take in dogs they know have a low chance of being adopted. So those dogs are brought to a city pound where the professionals do what they can, but ultimately have to put down a lot of dogs everyday.
Lastly, we could have let him go somewhere in the countryside to fend for himself – where he most likely would have been run over by a car, attacked someones livestock, shot and killed or shot and maimed by a rancher protecting their live stock, attacked someone else’s dog or children…you get the picture.
So Fred was scheduled to be euthanized today. We gave him a can of beef stew in addition to regular dog food, a nice walk outside and lots of love and attention from me. Patricia has been down this road many times before with other dogs for all types of sad reasons, so she is hardened to the process, but not immune to the shittiness of taking on the responsibility.
She has a wonderful vet and staff that works with her on all her dog care needs. So with a practiced hand Dr. Mark injected Fred with a drug that stopped his heart as I held on to him and made sure he saw my face as the life drained out of him and he collapsed to the floor in a matter of seconds. It is a ritual that Patricia has decided to go through repeatedly as she works to find homes for those she can and respect and take responsibility for those she can’t.
Dr. Mark commented to Patricia that I seemed to be noticeably upset at what happened. She explained to him that I wasn’t from around here.
For a variety of reasons that I may go through in another post – there are a number of people in the area that don’t take responsibility for their dogs – they don’t control their reproduction and seem unconcerned by the suffering and death that results.
Not wanting to end this post on a down note, I’m happy to report that three dogs – Pounce, Teddy and Gum Drop are heading out next week to their forever homes and other inquiries are steadily rolling in about the other dogs.
If anyone reading this has room in their life for a great dog, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Patricia.