I’ve swithered about how best to write this post, if to even write it at all. But I will. Some of you already know that a few months ago we decided to have our dog Moss put down, she was a four year old Border collie, she was fit and healthy, she was beautiful* and she was vicious.
Now at this point everyone’s default question is ‘was she a rescue dog?’ No she wasn’t we had her from being an eight week old puppy, we carefully selected her, she wasn’t an impulse buy (we’d had our previous Border collie for 14 years) she had a good home, never ill treated, but not spoilt or indulged, not left alone for long periods and with acres of fields for exercising, we’d selected her as a family pet, expecting that she would share our families life for teens of years. So where did it all go so horribly wrong?
There isn’t a simple answer to that, now with the benefit of hindsight I think that, as has been suggested to us by people who know an awful lot more about dog breeding and dog behaviour than we do, that she may never have been suitable as a pet or a working dog that it was simply in her blood line, the flawed gene waiting in a game of DNA roulette. Moss was very intelligent, she could read minds, she was like a satellite dish with a leg at each corner, not a thing passed her by, but she could not filter out the good stuff from the bad, day to day living in the modern world was an assault on her senses, she could get little respite and it could put her into melt down.
So what do I mean, she was vicious? Well she had bitten Mr Uhdd, Joe and I and we’d had a number of close calls with other people outside the family and now looking back on it now, I can see that in the beginning, like the victim of an abusive relationship, we made excuses (or at least tried to rationalise what happened in each instance) in my case, when out of the blue she attacked me, (I’d only bent down to take her lead off, having been out for a walk) biting at my hand, breaking the skin drawing blood and badly bruising my knuckles and fingers, I blamed myself ‘I can only think I must have snagged her ear with the clip, when I was taking her lead off.’ It wasn’t the case.
Out of the house, she would display very mixed message, the tail would be wagging, but an extended hand would be snapped at (and please if some one say to you ‘Don’t touch my dog, it might bite.’ Believe them; people, no make that men, just never got it and would always say ‘Don’t worry,I’m very good with dogs!’ only to be snapped at.) Then we thought it was men with beards she didn’t like, or bald men or men with glasses, the list went on and on. In the end we were at pains to walk her away from other people and dogs, it was not pleasant or relaxing, Moss would have sensed all of this, we were stuck in a spiral and things were getting more and more difficult to control. The prospect of going on our summer holiday to a smaller house, with no garden, in a busy beauty spot with about a dozen kids ebbing and flowing through the house was making me sick with worry. Then I saw this photo of Joker and his boy and in an instant it made me realise just how far we had come form Moss being the family dog we had hoped she would be and the stark fact that we couldn’t go on as we were, we’d past a point of no return: I sat at the keyboard and sobbed. It wasn’t a case she might badly hurt someone, but when, and it was our responsibility not to let that happen.
The whole thing was wretched and we looked for as much help and advice as we possible could to try and solve her aggression, now a few months on I think we probably persevered for too long, but it was difficult to accept that things weren’t going to get any better and that we would never be in a position to trust her; this has affected all of us, about how we feel about dogs, photos like this send shards of ice down my spine, if you’ve every seen a family pet turn nasty, you won’t forget it in a hurry. And If you have ever had to have a pet put down because it is sick, you’ll have have some idea what it was like, except this came with a whole host of other emotions to boot; feeding Moss treats laced with Diazepam, to sedate her sufficiently for the vet to put her down in as humane away as possible was ghastly (she wouldn’t let any vet near her, something else that was unacceptable) but then again so were the potential consequences of not doing it.
We are very grateful for the help and advice from Border Collie Rescue who were able to offer us some sound sensible and most importantly for us at the time, advice that was detached from the gamut of emotions we were dealing with. We wanted to be sure that we had tried absolutely everything we could, we didn’t want to ever feel we had let her down.
We will be having another family dog, we can’t imagine our home without one, we’ve been waiting a while though, for the wounds to heal up a bit; a different breed, not because we think all Border collies are unsuitable as pets (although you can’t get past the fact they are not the easiest breed to handle) but because we need to make a very clear break from this experience. I’ll leave you with a couple of comments.
From the postman, who had good reason to despise and fear Moss.
‘Beautiful looking dog, she’d got a screw loose though.’
And from a dog behaviourist,
‘If you do decide to have her put down and it may be the only answer in a case like this, you may actually feel you are setting her free.’
They were both right.
*(There are photos of Moss on this blog, but I can’t bring myself to look at them just now.)