Less than 2 months ago I was contacted about a female Pit Bull that had been in the Fulton County Animal Control foster program for more than a year. She finally found a home with a family outside of Atlanta. However, when the family had friends come over, the dog reacted, barked aggressively and the guardian had to restrain her in the crate where she didn’t calm down. Even though the lady had dogs all her life, she didn’t know how to handle this situation. Unfortunately, I never spoke with her (just saw the post on Facebook where I was tagged) and never heard anything from her and so I assumed that everything worked out well. After all, they had other dogs and that, of course, make them think, that they know dogs.
Three weeks ago I received a text message from this lady wanting to speak with me. I talked with her on the phone for 30 minutes where she explained to me that the dog nipped at one of her neighbors while the neighbor was in the driveway leaning over the dog. Now the family wasn’t sure whether they should keep the dog or return the dog to the shelter. When I asked her to make up a list of pros and cons about the dog she came up with 4 items on the pros list and 1 item on the cons list. Fair enough. Based on the situation she shared with me, I felt assured that this situation is easily solvable and I would love to help her with that. I’ve worked with lots of dogs that nipped at people, acted aggressively and once humans know how to redirect the dog, the dog learns very quickly and the fearful or aggressive behavior disappears over time. She said that she wanted to talk with her husband about it (because they pretty much made their mind up to return the dog) and she would get back with me. But she never did.
Well, this morning while I was laying in bed, I thought about this dog and the lady. And I felt compelled to write them a text message to see how things were going. I was shocked when I read the text message that said, “We had the dog put down. It was a terrible decision. She snapped at our 3-year-old and that was the final straw. Unfortunately, we had to make a tough decision. It is a very ugly situation. However, we were not in the position to take any chance.”
Of course, my reactive Self wanted to shout back at her and put her down for such a reckless decision. But that would not change the situation that a dog was prematurely euthanized – or killed. So Instead, my responsive Self, asked “what were the reasons you made this decision?” and her reply was “Honestly did not want her to continue home hopping. We didn’t want her to be mistreated for her behavior. Not fair to her. She’d been in 3 homes in less than 2 weeks. Nor did we want anyone hurt. The shelter I felt was less than transparent about her to being with and didn’t want that to happen to someone else.”
Believe me, I could write a whole essay about this situation and I could find a dozen reasons to make this lady wrong for the decision that she took. And it wouldn’t change anything. But here are a few things that I want you to consider if a dog gets in this kind of jam.
1. Give a dog a chance. Too often I see people adopting or buying a dog and they want the dog to be perfect as soon as the dog enters their home. Who are you? Did you come out of your mother’s womb with perfect behavior and knowledge?
2. What you put in, you get out. Give the dog time to adjust. Build trust with the dog. Teach the dog. Protect the dog from the stupidity of other humans. I always say, just because people have been around dogs and have dogs and love dogs doesn’t mean that they KNOW dogs. That is a big difference. When I am called to work with a family and their dog, the people that are the most unpleasant to work with are the ones who start out with, “I had dogs all my life. I grew up with dogs. We used to breed dogs. Blah blah blah.” which I translate into “Don’t tell me anything. I know it all.” And as soon as I watch them with their dog and how they handle their dog, I see that they have been doing it all wrong for the last 30 years. As they say, insanity is doing the same things expecting different results.
3. Get a professional opinion before you make a drastic decision to put the dog down. And no, most vets don’t count when it comes to getting an opinion about behavioral issues in animals. They were trained in health issues but not behavioral issues. And again, just because you’ve had dogs your entire life, doesn’t make you a professional either. Having and knowing are two different things.
4. If you decide to put a dog down, ask yourself, “if this dog was a Papillon dog or a Golden Retriever, would you make the same decision to put the dog down.” I truly hate how quickly people make unfair decisions when it comes to the more powerful breeds. And the Pit Bull is always at the end of the stick. Boy, do I have compassion for this breed!!!!
5. Stop making up stories about the possible future of a dog. Just because you cannot have a dog in your home and you don’t know how to handle a certain dog, doesn’t mean that somebody else cannot. If a shelter had a dog in its foster program for more than a year, that tells me that there was nothing (or something minimally wrong) with the dog. And of course, there is always something dogs can learn and dogs are not perfect, even though most humans expect this from dogs. And these are the kinds of humans who are full of flaws and so imperfect.
Now you could say that this dog was this family’s property and they can do with it / her whatever they want. But I must admit, if someone did that to one of my former foster dogs, I don’t know how I would handle this.
I feel saddened that I couldn’t make a difference in this dog’s life and I am saddened that this dog’s life has been cut short. I just hope that she rests in peace and that her soul was ready to transcend. Rest in peace, little girl!