it's another sad news day here at Hearth Hill.
We ended our search for a new home for Spike today-- he's staying here, in a grave in the backyard above the river.
We struggled with what to do about Spike for a month at least. And then, just after i had started looking for a new home for him, Spike bit my landmate/neighbor. It was a terrifying event for everyone involved, including Spike. With that bite, Spike became a repeat offender and as i was told by several folks i reached out to, that label made Spike into a huge problem in terms of finding him a new home.
Over the past two weeks, since that 2nd bite, i've seriously considered lying about the bites, pretending that they never happened so that he could go to a terrier rescue group. But lying about Spike would put the people who were trying to help him into danger and would probably end in tears anyway, with Spike going to yet another inappropriate situation. And, as i rapidly learned, no rescue group will take a dog that is known to be aggressive.
So, i tried to find him a home with friends or friends of friends or even with someone on Craig's List or Petfinder. That didn't work either. I thought about getting rid of one of our other dogs, the large guy that Spike had issues with . But even if CuMor went back to the rescue group we got him from, i would still have a dog living at my house that i couldn't trust. A dog who had bitten Mykl, a human who lives here too. A dog that i wouldn't trust around my niece & nephew, or even my Mom, who is a wonderful dog person. I can't do that.
So, i had resolved to take Spike back to the local shelter that i got him from in November. I figured it would give me "plausible deniability". I wouldn't have to KNOW that he had been killed, instead i could imagine him happy in a new home.
Then i reread a wonderfully caring and compassionate email that i had gotten from Candy, the volunteer with HART, the rescue group in Cincinnati that we got CuMor from. I'd asked Candy if HART could take Spike in. She explained to me why they couldn't and then she said to me:
" I hate to say this but I don't think you'll find any legitimate rescue group willing to take Spike on. You may find someone wanting to use him as pitt bull bait. If you place him with someone yourself, you're setting yourself up for a law suit since you know he has this issue. If he bites someone they can sue you since you know he has this issues even if you tell people about his issues. The laws make aggressive dogs very much a responsibility of the owner. You can't give him to the spca. They can't adopt him out! They'll just shove him in a cage where he'll stress out for a few days, lord knows how they will treat him then they'll put him to sleep anyway.....many shelters still gas instead of injection and that's a gruesome way to die. Why don't you do him a favor and just take him to your vet and have him put to sleep. I know this sounds terrible to do but you've really done everything you can for him. You cannot feel guilty that the outcome came to this!!!! You've done much more than most people try to do. Nobody will hold that against you.....even doggie heaven!!! The reality is Spike is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Even if you find someone willing to take him, then he becomes their lawsuit and yours waiting to happen. Even if you get rid of him, you can still be sued. You've given him a great chance at a great life and the time he's spent with you has been wonderful and way beyond the life he would have had if you never took him in to begin with, but I really think it's time to say we've done all we can as hard as it is to do.
After many years of volunteering with the local county shelter I came to realize that even if an aggressive dog is friendly to one person and not the other....there's a thousand other dogs that would be friendly to all and they need a home too. Unfortunately a choice has to be made and it's up to you to do right by Spike and by any future potential victim of Spike's."
This is me, back again. Candy's reminder that even if we did find a rescue group willing to work with Spike he would be taking up space, time, money and energy that would otherwise go to a dog who's NEVER bitten anyone was what finally made my mind up for me.
So, last night, after talking to Darrell & my friend Jill about it, i realized that it was time to let Spike go. We spent last night & this morning as normally as possible. Spike slept on our bed as he usually does & when he woke up this morning he had a growling, barking fit about CuMor's existence. I called the vet & they couldn't take him in until 2:30. So Jill & i worked in the studio, Darrell worked on leather, the dogs came in & out of the house, wrestled and napped as always. At 2, we took Spike for his last ride to the vets.
Our country vet, who is gruff and no nonsense asked us a few questions & prepared the injection. Darrell held Spike & i held his head & rubbed his ears. Dr. Cain gave Spike his injection & Spike whimpered, then slowly left us. Dr. Cain left us for a few minutes, and i read the Navajo night chant for Spike & D & Jill & i cried alot. The vet tech came in, distributed Kleenex and we wrapped Spike up in a towel & took him home.
I picked out the spot for his grave, out our back door, within reach of the dog run, just at the edge of the ridge the rises from the river. All the dogs like to lie there & just bake themselves in the sun & i though Spike would enjoy the company. D & Jill dug the hole, i carried Spike from the car & laid him out. CuMor and Bug came out & sniffed at him and then went on with their doggie lives. Rigel, our orange cat who Spike was obsessed about (& not in a good way) came over & sniffed at Spike's body. Rigel didn't trust that Spike was really dead. He kept coming over to sniff at Spike, then sort of shying away, then coming back for more sniffs.
We put Spike in the grave with a few chew toys & covered him over.
It was a wonderful, warm sunny April afternoon. We left Spike sleeping by the river & went back into our lives.
Jill said to me "it's better already" and i agree. I know that Spike is in a better place & he went there knowing he was loved & respected. I told him why we had to do this to & for him. Jill helped me with that too. Last night she said "i think it's like it was with Mike Lea. He has a good soul, an amazing one even, but he can't cope with this world the way it is. He needs to go back and try this again." We told Spike we would lodge a complaint with management over putting such a keen intelligence and a shiny soul in a terrier brain that couldn't tolerate strangers or change or not being in control. It sucks ass.
Spike was a great terrier. Sadly, we didn't have enough foxes or rats for him to hunt & we couldn't find a suitable job or place for him.
I loved Spike. I learned alot from him in the short time he was with us. I'm sorry that we couldn't give him what he needed & i'll miss his keen intelligence and his sense of humor & i'll probably even sometimes miss his sharp piercing bark.
I hope that the next time his soul comes back he gets a better deal. He certainly deserves it. And the next time a bright eyed, smart & shiny dog comes into my life i pray that i will be able to repay his love and trust adequately. I hope that i'll be able to give that dog everything he needs. And i pray that he can stay in my life for much longer & happier time.
This is from an article i found online titled "How Do Animals Perceive Death?" by Ellen B Katcher. You can read the whole thing here: http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/mourning-howdo.html
Here's the part that really moved me:
"One grieving pet owner told me that the love she shared with her departed companion was greater than any she had shared with a human in her life. I suspect it actually was of a different quality. Dogs do not indulge in deceit, selfishness, or any of the other frailties that we humans must fight to suppress. The love of an animal is a pure love, with little ambiguity, and thus is a thing of beauty akin to truth. It is no surprise, then, that when one mentions a departed pet ten years after the event, the owner may shed some tears. Like all truths, the love remembered is a thing of beauty, and great beauty makes us cry.....
"I think animals perceive death much as we do -- as a fearsome, unknown change, a loss of control, that one undergoes alone. This implies that their consciousness is, in this instance, very much like ours. Generalize this, and you see that animals feel much the same as we do about most things. They do not want to die “to get to a better place”. They fear the unknown, just as we do. They want the comfort of those they love around them as they do the hard work of dying.
I know from experience that living up to this is no easy task. Watching my dog’s decline sent me on many lone, tearful walks and needless trips to the market to escape. If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed with her for every last second, no matter how badly it hurt.
She absolutely would have done as much for me.
My only excuse for this regrettable lapse is that I, alas, am only human. I was not able to live up to the standard that she set."
Me again. I agree completely with this & am glad that at the end i was able to find the courage to be with Spike as he died. He absolutely would have done the same for me.
I have somewhere in all the important papers of my life a very battered & yellowed newspaper clipping on an old Peanuts cartoon. Snoopy is sitting on top of his doghouse, in front of his typewriter. He writes: "All his life he tried to do the right thing. /next frame/ Many times, however, he failed. After all, he was only human./ last frame/ He wasn't a dog."
Spike WAS a dog. And he was great at being a dog. The whole time he was with us, he tried to do the right thing. But we were only human and we couldn't live up to that standard. I hope & pray that at the end of my life i will be forgiven for being, in the end, only human.