It’s already been October for 8 days. Long days filled with working and puppies that consume every other waking moment.
On September 30th we adopted a 4 month old puppy named Wop, or Flip… or Hoss, whichever way you look at it. We adopted him from a woman who listed on CraigsList, simply wanting to re-home her “young” black lab mix. After a few back and forth conversations we found ourselves driving 25 minutes to her house to meet the pup, and unbeknownst to us, bring him home with us later that evening.
This puppy was definitely not young (as in, 6-12 months and more mature), he was still clumsy and wriggly with excitement like a little puppy. He was also not a lab mix. Most people we talked to after said he was definitely a pit mix. Pit bull with a hint of lab, I guess. His body was definitely slimmer and his paws were much more narrow (like a retriever) while his head maintained the pit bull face, just not the boxy, brick like feature American Pit Bull Terriers are so well known for.
The fact that he was an APBT didn’t bother us at all. He was adorable and sweet and just wanted attention and affection that his owner could not/would not give him. My natural instinct to save all things kicked in, and this time Fil felt it to. So we arrived home at 9 p.m. that same evening with a new puppy in tow.
For the first 48 hours, Bailey was a wonderful dog. He was snuggly and playful and dutifuly did his duty each time he was supposed to. Fil walked him religiously while I was at work and when I got home we worked him just as hard. We spent a ridiculous amount on toys – he was fully equipped with busy bones, kongs, squeakers, theraputic chewies and stuffies. We got him a kibble for dogs with hereditary joint problems (both pits and labs are prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis) a harness, a new collar and a brand new bed.
The dude was spoiled and we were happy.
But, after a few days, he started showing signs of aggression. We took it to be cabin fever, since it’d been raining and he was forced to go outside for a quick poo and pee and we were back upstairs before the deluge came. In turn, we played with him a lot in doors and took him on “road trips” to the pet store in feeble attempts to wear him out. He ran us ragged, with more energy than anyone expected. His previous owner had sworn he was a big lazy bum and liked to sleep all the time. Obviously she didn’t know him nearly as well as we did.
By Monday, it was all starting to wear on us. Bailey was a biter. He sanpped, bit, nipped and mouthed his way through every exposed part of our bodies, including our clothes and shoes. He happily gnawed on fingers and toes and anything in between while pawing at our arms, bellies and faces. He left behind scratches and bruises that decorated our exposed knees, necks and chests. This even extended to Monster, who was so good with Bailey it made me proud.
Fil had already expressed deep exasperation with him. He was violent when I wasn’t around, lunging after Fil or Monster while on walks, playing too rough with tug-of-war ropes (and yes, we never let him win tug-of-war, not once) or not stopping when told ‘no’.
We tried our best to train him. He sat like a champ, and could follow for days (but never would he consider the ‘wait’ command). But if treats were involved, that dog would perform brain surgery and promptly forget whatever was taught to him. Treats were life. Busy bones, Kong PB spray, training treats. His nose was crazy powerful and he could follow the smell of a treat from the door to my bedside table and sniff and snorf until someone obliged and gave him a treat. Except, no one obliged.
From the first day he was given “jobs” to perform – puzzle toys, fetch, obedience training – but it was never satesfactory. He was still bouncing with energy and full of snacks. It was too hard on Fil, left all alone for hours with a dog that refused to let her do anything. While in his kennel he would howl and bark and throw himself around. Even when we tried to soothe him with our appearance, he still went crazy and had to be let out. Fil got so far behind on laundry, Monster and I almost ran out of clothes for the week. Naturally over the weekend I helped as much as possible, but it was still too much for all of us to handle. When he wasn’t snapping at us for not paying him enough attention, he was chasing our cats and stuffing their heads in his mouth or getting beaten up by one of them. When he wasn’t playing tug-of-war he was looking for some other form of entertainment, like nipping on our pillows or jerking his blankets out of his kennel.
Fil had had it by Monday. He was fastly becoming an aggressive dog that no one recognized. He left bruises on my thighs and ripped holes in all of our clothes with his teeth. Monster’s face was scratched and Fil’s arms were covered in tiny pressure marks from Bailey’s teeth almost breaking the skin. We sat down that night and talked about our options. Since he wasn’t responding to any form of training (and believe me, we tried everything) and was regressing with his kennel training, we were worried that something was wrong with him. So I had her call a few behaviourists and see what they had to say. Both were iffy about him, one insisted she could try to help and in the interim charge us thousands for behavioural classes (80 hours at $120 an hour) and all that stuff. The other was more wary about his behaviour and was concerned that he may have a brain abnormality that might explain his behaviour. That, or he was simply an “only child” kind of dog. Since we have a son and two animals, we knew that wasn’t a good thing at all.
Even though reality was starting to dawn on us, I was a little apprehensive. I loved Bailey, and I still do. I had no intentions of giving up on him, but the evidence was mounting. The second behaviourist said she’d seen it before, young pits who are too aggressive generally don’t respond well to “average” training. Since he was starting to devolve, it would be days before he was drawing serious blood (he did break the skin on both Fil and myself once) and possibly seriously injuring Monster.
At that point I knew what had to be done. When Fil told me she said that, I knew Bailey had to go. There was no way I was letting a dog hurt my son or my partner, not while I was at work and they were all alone with no car and no one to help them. I would not let my son be taken away from me (and our two cats) because of him, either. I would not let him kill my cats because his prey drive was too high to control, nor would I let him possibly injure a neighbour kid and get me thrown in jail (that’s another thing, people were threatening to call animal control and the cops because he was very aggressive on walks, they had their kids running from him and screaming by the end of the weekend). So, I talked with Fil and we chose the hardest thing imaginable. We were going to give him up.
It pains me to write this, beacuse I fell in love with that dog the first time he got his paws caught in his leash and tumbled down a small hill at his previous owner’s apartment. He loved to lay in bed with us, and was so good when he was in the car (mostly because he was crated). I took a bazillion pictures of him bitting his cheeseburger, or his stuffed frog. I watched my son bond with him and Fil light up when he was being good and snuggly.
But the fact remains that he could have gone on to destroy our lives. Gotten us evicted, arrested or our son taken away. Our fears were well founded in research and discussions with well known behaviourists in our city. We couldn’t take the risk and agreed to take him on Tuesday to the local animal center.
Yes, they are a kill shelter (where they euthanize pets after they go unadopted for a while, or simply unadoptable pets) and that, too, broke my heart. But we didn’t have the money to get him into a local no-kill rescue center (they charge you, or make you wait 1-2 weeks before intake) before our neighbour called the cops (and yes, she was serious, as was the woman downstairs who was terrified of him and held the phone while she sat on the porch, just in case he did something truly terrible while outside) and we had a huge mess on our hands.
At intake, Bailey was given a green light and swept away for behavioural analysis in quarantine for 10 days. We hope that he got a pass from the behavioural board and will go on to be adopted by a wonderful couple… without children or other pets. He makes a very good first impression, with his cute face and friendly demeanor. We also know he will make some family very happy, but just not ours. We are now looking for our forever dog, and this time we plan on going through the proper channels to get a dog that truly suits our family.
I’m still really torn up about Bailey. I’ve cried less today than yesterday, and yesterday I cried less than I did on Tuesday. Tuesday I was inconsolable, I bawled like a baby and could barely keep it together long enough to comfort my heartbroken son while we told him why Bailey was going away. We did not, however, tell him that Bailey might lose his life. Bailey had not lived a long life, nor did he get horribly sick and have to be put down. Our son’s grief would have been unimaginable, so we told him a lie instead. Still, my son cried and needed good old mommy cuddles to make it better, and even though the wound is still tender, our hearts are healing with the thought and promise of a new addition soon.
So, let this post (that will soon have pictures) be a memorial for our first family dog, Bailey J, who had eye boogers after a nap and would look you straight in the eyes while he peed. He was the most vicious cheeseburger squeaker in Au*stin, the most terrifying Wubba shaker and the smartest peanutbutter-licker in the world. He never laid on his bed unless he was having a busy bone, and usually demanded to be carried down the stairs, even though we never complied. We probably could have asked for a “better” first pup, better behaved and gentler, who could have grown to love our son and future children (and not eaten our cats whole), but it wasn’t meant to be, and I think he knew it. We will always love him and remember him in only the greatest ways. I can safely say at this moment, and for always, Bailey J was deeply loved.
Today is a new day, a new batch of dogs to look at on the animal center’s website, a new day to think about filling the puppy-shaped void in our family. (You read that right, puppy-shaped. That baby shaped void? Still there.)
In other news, the family is gearing up for winter (and sickness) with a big ol’ bug bomb visit in the next few weeks. We’re looking down the barrel of a lot of pre-Christmas prep work and finding new and fun recipes to do for this years family Thanksgiving.
Come February we’re going to start searching for a house to rent near my work, while Fil and I are hopefully working for our medical transcriptionist degrees. We’re looking forward to making a better place for ourselves, our son and our pets while enjoying the “maybe” of a baby.