Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England



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.)

Author: uphilldowndale

Watching the rhythm of rural life, from the top of a hill in northern England. Having spent most of my life avoiding writing, I now need to do it! I am no domestic goddess, but if I were expecting visitors to my home, I would whisk round with the duster and plump up the cushions and generally make the place look presentable. I hope that by putting my words where others may see them it will encourage me to ‘tidy up and push the Hoover around’ my writing. On the other hand I may just be adding to the compost heap. Only time will tell! Pull up a chair, sit yourself down, I’ll put the kettle on.

31 thoughts on “Difficult

  1. I sympathise with what must have been such a difficult decision to reach, and appreciated that you let me know at the time.
    I also applaud you for doing this heartfelt, and thoughtful, entry.
    Take care! xx

  2. Uphill I think you did the right thing.
    It must have been the hardest thing to do and I commend you for writing it on your blog which could not have been easy. In fact i know it would have broken your heart.
    You are a caring person and I saw on occasions how much you have tried with her.
    Its strange as I remember Mr Uhdd warning me about her but I actually after a few visits thouht that she had got used to me.
    You had to totally ignore her and she seemed fine. But you’re right she did display mixed messages.
    You have two young children and that is priority.
    The fact that she bit you to me, showed you have made the right decision, 100%.

    I think you did all you could. You have taken the most sensible step even though it would have been one of the hardest things you have ever done
    Please don’t beat yourself up to much about this.
    A difficult situation but I fear action was needed before something serious happened.
    You have made the right decision.

    Tc Uphill


  3. This must have been so very difficult to write. What a sad, and scary situation. I would have done the same thing. I’m stunned that she turned on you, so startling and upsetting. You expressed your troubles very well. My heart goes out to you. And I’d not get another bc for my next dog either for exactly the same reason. I am completely with you on this, and I think you’ve written an important post that someone in the same situation will really benefit from. Thank you.

  4. I know how you felt and still feel.

    We had to get a 2 year old put to sleep because he worried sheep. It was the hardest time I have ever experienced. I am so glad that you have made to decision to get another dog.

    I did not and have regretted it ever since. Move on you did the best you could and thank you for writing this post.

    I salute you.

  5. Oh; I am so sorry. What a wretched thing to happen to you all. I hope your next dog makes happier memories.

  6. I’m trying, but can’t imagine the pain you must have felt as you were faced with that decision.

    I grew up in a house filled with sheepdogs, most working but several retired and one or two who never showed any interest in taking up their genetic destiny. I can only remember one dog who had a nasty side to him. I don’t know what happened, but he didn’t stay long.

    All the others were kind, generous and friendly, as were the numerous other sheepdogs owned by our farming friends. Moss sounds like the exception, and I suspect your postman hit the nail on the head.

    I hope that when you’re ready to make that step, your next dog fills your lives with joy and laughter, and is the faithful family pet you deserve.

  7. A very brave and honest post, thank you for sharing.

    I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must have been to make the decision but I’m sure it was the right one.

    I’m sure your next dog will bring well deserved happier times.

  8. Poor you and Poor Moss sounds like she was out of her depth with the world and nothing was going to make it a less scary place.. far better by far to take the steps you did to give her a peaceful end than to have tried to carry on. The house may feel a little emptier now, but it will not always be that way and you will have happier memories of her.. bless xx

  9. Poor you, what a heart-breaking decision. I think it was the right one, though. I hope another dog walks into your life soon, I’m sure the right one will happen along…

  10. Collies are the most intelligent dog breed, but they are essentially working dogs that like to run free. We have a lab/collie mix, she’s intelligent, well behaved but also daft as a brush when off the lead. The lab part tones her down in the snapping area, but she has OCD as far as chasing sticks. Try a cross breed is my suggestion as the genetic issue you point to is less prevalent.

    We used to have a red setter cross (pics on Flickr) and pedigree red setters are utterly loopy, but the mix in her made her sound.

    We also had to have a jack russell put down. It was a rescue dog and completely uncontrollable, and that hurt too. Sympathies with you.

  11. I am so very sorry for your loss. Sometimes, we just cannot fix them. Sometimes they are simply different.

    (written by Ben Hur Lampman & published in the Sept. 11, 1925 issue of the Portland Oregonian)

    We are thinking now of a dog, whose coat was flame in the sunshine and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This dog is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree or an apple or any flowering shrub of the garden is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer or gnawed at a flavorous bone or lifted head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in life or in death.

    Yet it is small matter. For if a dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where the dog sleeps. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pastureland where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained and nothing is lost — if memory lives.

    But there is one best place to bury a dog. If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call — come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.

    And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth knowing.

    The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master.

  12. You made a good decision. You know you have all my sympathy.

  13. We have a pet two and a half year old border collie. She definitely has energy but also seems calm compared to stories of other border collie pet owners and so sweet. I can only imagine how difficult this situation must have been for you. Dogs add so much to our lives and I send my best wishes that your next dog will bring you years and years of happy days!

  14. this post had me close to tears. i came over from flighty’s blog to say hi.

  15. I totally agree with everyone else. A hard and horrible decision to have to make, but I think you did the right thing, it wouldn’t have been worth risking a serious bite and it was obviously affecting your daily life in a detrimental way.

    *sending a hug*

  16. Just as humans can have severe mental problems, so can animals. What a torment it must have been for Moss to be so confused. I do believe you set Moss free to have another chance…blessings to you…~ER~

  17. This was a difficult decision to make, despite whatever way you try to rationalise or convince yourself it was the right thing to do, despite all the advice one way or the other. You have my sympathies for both the courage to make the choice and for the mindgames you would have played in your head afterwards………..whichendbites

  18. My sympathy to you and your family.

  19. Now it’s me who is crying at the keyboard. You opened the floodgates and Border Collie Rescue brought the tears gushing through. My heart is aching. Such beautiful words … but transformative.

  20. I know what you are and were going through having been in a similar position. Just a big hug

  21. How I admire that you shared such a heartbreaking moment with us, I know exactly how you felt. The pain of bringing one’s dog to the vet for the last time. I had to do this two years ago when my dear Mouchette was in such pain that it was no longer bearable, for her and for us, her family. I held her into my arms until her eyes closed gently, her loyal eyes into mine which were full of tears. She was freed indeed but what a pain it was to see her go after 17 years of faithful companionship ! It took me two more years to adopt another dog, a puppy Beagle, Ninio, adorable and not unlike Mouchette when it comes to following tracks in the forest.
    I fully understand and sympathize with your very hard decision and I thank you for sharing it so movingly with us. I would not have been able to do so. Take care, you did what you had to.

  22. I’ve been away for a couple of weeks and was sorry to come back and find this post, it must have been a heartbreaking decision for you to make – I’ve had to take enough old, sick animals on their final journey to know what it feels like. I’m sure you have done the right thing though, you did everything possible before taking this step and you would never have forgiven yourself had she attacked someone especially a child. I hope you find a new and gentler companion very soon

  23. Oh Uhdd! What a sad situation. But as has been said by yourself and others it was the only solution left for you and Moss.

    I hope you have luck finding a new companion to fit in with the family.

  24. What a sad and unselfish act you did – the best for everyone and now your dog is free. May you enjoy the next pet!!!

  25. You were extremely brave to make this so, so difficult decision and you don’t need me to tell you that it was the right one but that doesn’t make it any the less heartbreaking for you. x

  26. Thanks for sharing this. I have had experience of a ‘rogue’ dog. We had one of our own that grew to be exceedingly nasty too, even to the point that nothing was safe. He was supposed to be a working sheep dog, and he may have made a good one, except his vicious streak. He had to be put down. It is odd how these can occur, both his parents were good working dogs, and not a bad bone in either.

  27. i have only just come across this post as life has been a bit mad lately, but we have talked about this sad time for you in e-mails. as you know we had to have phoebe, our rescued lurcher, put down last year for the same reason. i never blamed phoebe for how she was, but i hated the people who made her like that. i still have scars on my foot where her canine teeth went down to the bone. and i am so sad that it was a picture of dave and my son that brought it all home to you how bad it had got. many hugs.

  28. What an odd coincidence- I knew a BC named Moss who was like something out of nightmares. Sweet to her owners, and when her owners were around, but she did NOT like children (especially little girls) and would bite you as soon as her owners weren’t there. There’s never any witnesses then. I have fond memories of opening the door a crack and seeing nothing but teeth in the opening while she snarled.

    Of course she was eventually caught at it, but she wasn’t put down. She was a good dog in other ways, as long as you didn’t leave her alone with kids.

  29. Oh my dear, I am so very sorry to read the story of Moss. As you note near the beginning of your post, all life is a “game of DNA roulette”. You just never know and you undoubtedly did the right thing, although it must have been so hard to do.
    I somehow chanced upon Flighty’s blog a week or so ago (now January 2015) and have started from the beginning. Flighty is so generous with his friends and referrals, that it’s taking me time to move ahead, I get sidetracked. So here I found his August 2009 entry and that’s how I come to be reading about you.
    I do hope that by now you have a dog or dogs again, and that they are not destructive. When we are blessed with (mostly) good dogs, they are such wonderful companions. Best wishes.

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