Sleeping With The Wrong Dog

Warning: This is not an upbeat rescue story.
It’s a sad story with a sad ending. 
Proceed with caution. Or don’t proceed at all.

I have a habit of writing about the rescue horses and donkeys and dogs that have come through Infinity Farm to be evaluated, fostered, and trained over the years. In a seemingly contrary way, I hope to encourage people to bring rescues into their homes but at the same time debunk romantic notions about rescue. It can be a pretty complicated topic.

Mostly, I think an abused pony or a rescue dog deserve to have their story told as much as equine Olympians and beloved family pets from reputable breeders. I write about rescues because I believe their lives matter.

People remind me that “you can’t save ’em all” but I’ve known that in a profoundly literal way since I shoplifted a dying cat back in my teens. I’ve second-guessed myself about writing the final chapter in Seamus’ short life dozens of times. Maybe I shouldn’t continue now.

The first time I wrote about Seamus was when he came to Infinity Farm to be fostered/evaluated at 13 mos. old. He was on Prozac and in a shock collar. By the second post, he’d become a different kind of “foster fail.” Usually, foster fail is a clever way of saying that a foster human fell in love and adopted their foster animal. In Seamus’ case, it meant he would never be adoptable. He had no other place to go. Readers were kind; glad that he landed with me. And again, I thought perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned him publicly.

“Her life was ok. Sometimes she wished she were sleeping with the right man instead of with her dog, but she never felt she was sleeping with the wrong dog.” – Change of Life by Judith Collas

I’ve had this quote tacked up on my wall for as long as I’ve been sleeping with dogs. It just makes me smile. And I’m grateful for a few generations of dog-piles that helped me find some rest during the rough times in my life. Recently the quote took a different twist.

I’ve always appreciated challenging dogs. Seamus fit the bill. He had good moments but more commonly, he had a snarling sideways glare. He’d bite at unpredictable times, both dogs and people, and seemed to have no knowledge of his name. Sometimes he could be coaxed with treats and sometimes he attacked us. His extreme destructive behaviors had gotten him crated full-time previously; now he needed to be out to decompress but I wondered how much of the house would survive.

After a few weeks, I thought Seamus was almost leveling out. Not quite improving; there were still dogfights and tense separations and extreme anxiety, but less of a scorched earth policy from him. We’d managed a vet visit by giving him a tranquilizer first. It didn’t work well, but with a muzzle, we were able to sedate him for blood tests and x-rays.

Not surprisingly, his little body was a painful, complicated mess of health questions, lousy joints, and fear… along with the affliction of bad training. Who knows what else?

Then a turning point: Construction workers came to repair hail damage on the farm. I took the time off work, staying with the dogs every minute. A four-day ceiling repair took two weeks. The house was cut in half for asbestos abatement. The tools were loud but the workers were louder and Seamus just came apart. His eyes changed and his anxiety exploded like a virus.

Seamus had loved the boarder who always took the time to talk to him. He’d roll over, asking her to scratch his belly through the fence and it was a happy habit. Until he bit her mid-scratch.

The next week, another boarder was talking with me in the house. Her toddler was standing by her chair when Seamus broke down a gate. A strong gate. The boarder picked up her toddler immediately; she knew Seamus’ history and didn’t hesitate. She was miraculously calm, the right answer as Seamus leaped up, nipping at her little girl. I knew I couldn’t correct him without making it worse, so I used treats to try to call him off. It took cheerful coaxing but finally, he turned to me and the aggression stopped long enough to get the little girl out of the house.

We all felt like we were living in a war zone. Maybe Seamus most of all.

At night, I’d lay down and he’d leap the edge of the bed, dropping his belly crosswise on mine, and falling immediately asleep. I matched his breath. His weight on my heart was undeniable, as I considered the unthinkable for the millionth time.

My vet wasn’t surprised when I called. She’d broached the subject of euthanizing Seamus the previous month when I brought another Corgi, Preacher Man, in with a facial abscess from a dogfight. It’s times like this that having an honest vet means the most. We had a complicated conversation about how to euthanize an aggressive dog in the most kind and compassionate way.

On the morning of his final appointment, I gave him a special breakfast. Special because it was his favorite raw meat with a nice fried duck egg on top. Special because it contained an overdose of meds to quiet him. They had the opposite effect.

We did our best for Seamus his last day. Sometimes your best looks ugly-bad. Seamus was one month short of his second birthday.

When things come apart like this, there’s some unbalanced equation of physical issues and bad history. Pain and anxiety. I believe that animals can have similar mental health issues as humans. Some find a way through it and some just can’t. Again, like humans.

I tried to make sense of backyard puppy mills and shock collars and professionals who give bad advice, as I felt despicable for appreciating the peace. Trust me, I know you can’t save ’em all but that’s no reason to quit trying.

There’s been a horrible quiet in the weeks since Seamus has been gone. It’s as if the house got stuck in an exhale. The daily “accidents” inside stopped in a while. The Dude Rancher’s dog, Finny eventually trusted the backyard again. My elderly dog came out of her Thundershirt and Preacher Man is trying to be less defensive.  I realized that the reverse of that old quote mattered to me just as much. I hoped the dogs always felt they were sleeping with the right human.

And this boy, Seamus. Some of his trouble he was born with, and some of it was done to him. In the end, it doesn’t matter how it started. I think he tried his best to fight it but that got turned around, too.

If Seamus finds redemption, I doubt it will be waiting at a mythical rainbow bridge. He might prefer a place that doesn’t allow humans.

 ….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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126 thoughts on “Sleeping With The Wrong Dog

  1. lisa douglas

    You did your best by him ….and I’m sure he knew it. He was in pain and fear all the time like so many humans. The fact that we can end their turmoil is a favor to them….humans not so much. Hugs for all you do for all of us….

      1. lisa douglas

        I do too….that’s why we try so hard to help those that are lost….both species……

  2. Sharon Bowen

    My sympathies and my congratulations on treating Seamus. You tried which is more than most folks would have done. Through it all, he knew you were trying. But he just could not get over the worst done to him. Like a fried egg, you could not change his brain back to raw and ready to be used for something sweet. But that he slept with you, on you, says that he wanted to try or maybe that was his try. Sending him off to peace with himself and with everyone else was the only thing left to do. Getting peace for your household as well.

      1. Maggie Frazier

        Sometimes I think that saying is the go-to for many people who don’t understand why you try! Fortunately for your many fosters & rescues – you DO try!
        I live with a dog and a cat – Suzy Q (dog) still has a couple minor issues – she was brought to NY from an Alabama kill-shelter after a litter of puppies, being abused and with heartworm. Now very protective of her home & me – probably too much so. Juliette (cat-granddaughter named her) is quite confident, never abused, and queen of all she surveys! Including Suzy.
        I guess quite low-profile, so to speak, compared to yours and others fostering stories.

  3. Helen Jones

    Thank you for your courage and honesty in sharing this heartbreaking story. Not every tale has a happy ending, but Seamus was very lucky to have ended up with you and there is much happiness in that. For his last months on earth, he was treated with respect and kindness. Would that all creatures could experience that.

  4. my goodness it is so very hard to make that choice isnt it? even if you know it is the right thing. bless his troubled heart and body and you for trying as long as you did. i think my tears are for all those – people, and dogs, and horses too, who never even get that chance, as much as for Seamus. I hope wherever he goes it is as he would want it to be..

  5. Judy Shaub

    Peace and love Anna. You saw Seamus with compassionate eyes and a wide open heart. And he slept on you. Bless you. Hugs.

  6. Wow! Wanting to comment on an exquisitely written, yet what I would imagine an excruciatingly painful to write blog, I find myself comment-less!…until just now – you have in your heart to do the right things for the right reasons! Again, I say Wow! and sit in quiet, appreciative reflection on your giving Seamus every opportunity to have a good dog life and then doing the right thing for him in the end.

    1. Jennifer Canfield

      Couldn’t have said it better, Starr. Exactly how I feel. It is a heartbreaking situation. Only the brave and best among could rise to this challenge. Will be thinking on this one for a long time.

  7. When my difficult dog reached that senior fork in the road; treat the health issue or don’t treat, I’d already made the decision years before. With broken heart, I let him go. The ripple effect that a decade (plus) of unpredictable behavior had on my household may never fully heal, but I know we did the best we could to cope and manage. Looking back, the one thing I remember thinking most is that nobody REALLY understands this kind of crazy. Now I know better. This kind of thing happens more than we realize when we’re stuck smack-dab in the middle of it, afraid to tell anyone for fear we’ll have to admit it to ourselves. I hope things continue to decompress with time. Run free, little Seamus. ❤

    1. Cheryl, every problem in my experience goes back to trying to outsmart honesty. We’re doing okay, he wasn’t the only foster we lost this year. Still worth it. Thanks for the heartfelt comment.

  8. This is a very sad story but you were compassionate and brave during the whole of it. It’s always sad to part with our animal friends, no matter what transpires during their and our lives. I believe Seamus knew you were trying to help him but, because of what he was and what had been done to him prior to coming to you, he just couldn’t help himself.

  9. Julie Mock

    Reminds me of Jon Katz’ story of his dog, Owen. During my long tenure of working at an animal shelter, I heard, “You can’t save them all” a lot, even after we were able to stop killing for population control and had enough money to fund treatment and surgeries for everybody we thought could go on to have a good life. This was a municipal, open admission shelter. No, we couldn’t save them all, but every last one of them got a chance, or two, or three…You gave Seamus a chance and that was the best you could do. It is much harder to make this decision with an unhappy, aggressive dog than with a dog you know is physically suffering, but I guess Seamus was suffering too, and you released him from a life that was never going to be happy. Cheers and hugs to you, Anna! Julie

    1. Thanks, Julie. I used to work in a shelter, too. In the old days when I spent half the day euthanizing. Things have improved so much since then, thanks for the work you did…

  10. You have me misty, Anna. There are so many parallels with our Tess. She was at least three when she came, and she had a history of being bounced around. We tried to help her for four and a half years. For a while, anti-anxiety meds seemed to work, and life was good for a couple of years. But the meds lost their effect, even at increased doses. Our other dog was the usual target at any moment of excitement – happy or anxious, didn’t seem to matter – and I patched up more punctures than I care to count.

    At one point she actually ripped a massive hole through aviary wire, because we had workmen at the house. When she woke from a dream growling and immediately attacked the other dog, who was sleeping, we knew it was enough. It was a difficult decision, but the vet said that we’d gone above and beyond what most people would have, so we took some consolation in that.

    I have found that it can be very difficult for people who either don’t have animals, or have only limited and happy experience, to understand this type of reality. Thank you for sharing this experience in a compassionate way. It helps those of us who have also been there, and hopefully will help others to understand that there aren’t always happy endings.

  11. Kathy Murray

    Bless your heart & soul, Anna! Despite your gorgeous writing & perception talents, sometimes there are no words to answer. We try to lift ourselves higher each time to do our best, out of love. It is all we can do, for the rest is not up to us. I imagine it is nearly impossible to truly understand what distraught beings are going through, but I am wondering if not the experience itself – on all sides of it (You, Seamus, the other members of your household) holding the “space” as they say – to let Seamus truly live in this environment. Who can say what the true lesson is, or what failure is? I imagine you will be left with many gifts from him, a warmer & more understanding place in your heart, undoubtedly. There are many things to ponder here – and many ways to make each of us better. Thank you for your sharing your wonderful work! Love to all! Kathy Murray

  12. Dianne

    I never had to face a situation this dire, but similar. My heart goes out to you, and to the tortured soul of Seamus. As you said, maybe not that pie in the sky Rainbow Bridge, but a place of deep sleep and peace. Sometimes they are just too broken, as are our hearts.

  13. Oh Anna– the burden of these tough choices linger. I do so admire you for the breadth of compassion and grace you seem to maintain even in the most difficult circumstances.

  14. Karen Kohnke

    I also think how crucial it is to match the right rescue to the appropriate situation. Seamus was a case for only the most experienced dog person. Some people can cope with training some can’t but can be a solid home for that dog that has no challenging behaviors. My friend adopted a dog that needed training (as most do). The dog was maybe a year old and had no idea about leashes or socialization, but in my opinion was highly trainable. Not a good match for my friend, as it turns out, as she is not a trainer nor does she wish to be. So she returned that dog (who was easily adopted to a more appropriate home), and adopted the perfect dog for her, which was a sweet older dog that was good with all people and all other dogs, walked perfectly on s leash or off, just a ray of sunshine, always! This dog gets great care from her owner, and all is well! That other dog went to someone who was interested in putting some training into a young, energetic dog.

    It is all about the match.

    That said, there are the cases like Seamus.

    For some cases, euthanasia is a blessing.

    I’m so sorry that Seamus was one of those. but it is perfectly understandable that he is just better off over the Rainbow Bridge.

    Thanks for all that you do!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. Karen, the dogs that come here are special. A reputable rescue can’t adopt a dog like this; he was here with me for evaluation… I like your comment, the matching part is so important, especially with dogs who come in so many breeds and ages that a good fit is usually easy to find. Thanks Karen,

  15. ginette GREENE

    22-Sep-2017
    Anna…
    Several years ago (oh my, has it really been 30+ years?) I purchased a German Shorthair Pointer from what was supposed to have been, a very reputable breeder.

    Maggie was 10.5 months old when she came into our home, an aged puppy from a litter of one— unusual for the breed, and perhaps I should have taken note. We were her third or fourth home… but I wasn’t concerned. Since childhood we’d raised various dogs, in fact, I had as a teenager taken in a rehabbed a very difficult aggressive dog. So I (naively) thought Maggie would resolve in time, with love and consistent training and behavioral modification.

    Our third child, Justin was only five at the time, and she decided instantly that she was above him in the hierarchy. She would take him down in an aggressively playful attack, at any opportunity. Once taking him off the edge of a four-foot patio. My concern was palpable, but I kept at it and things seemed to improved until Jutt was 8.5 and I got pregnant. All along, it was obvious Maggie clearly wanted to please only me.

    So, it was odd when almost from the beginning of the pregnancy, she would eye me warily, as if she knew life was changing.

    Push ahead— after a very difficult 8 months… I gave birth to twin sons, our 4th and 5th children. To say Maggie was “unhappy” would be an understatement. I never, allowed her to be alone with the boys. Ever. Ever. Never alone.

    One day, when the boys were just about 11 months, Maggie was outside in the yard, beyond the sliding doors separating the dining room from the patio, and I lifted the boys from their highchairs and set them onto the floor, grabbing the two trays, and turning to step into the kitchen (obviously out of view from the patio doors) when suddenly the noise of something slamming against the glass doors caused me to drop the trays and turn…
    The noise and ensuing chaos were unbelievable! Maggie had thrown herself against the doors with such force that she knocked the one door free of its track and had that fast taken down the larger twin, Matthew. I don’t know where the strength came from, but I wrenched Maggie off, and heaved her back through the damaged opening of the door, with such force that she skulked off the patio, cowering…

    I braced the door back into place, comforted my boys… who were now both wailing, put the boys in their crib in our room, headed back outside, grabbed Maggie, locked her in her rarely-used crate, now drug into the utility room, and immediately called the breeder. That was a Wednesday. By Friday, she was back with the breeder, who I learned placed her with an older couple, in the country, with no extended family and no other pets…

    It was too much. Too risky…

    I haven’t mentioned… the unnumbered rabbits, squirrels, birds, she attacked and killed… oddly… she never went after our cats or any other cats… but all other small animals…

    It was very difficult. I went through a great deal of guilt… and yet, I do feel I did all that I could. In the end, I had to protect my children.

    Matthew was bruised, she had only in one area, barely broken the skin, but the bruises… What if… what if I hadn’t been fast or strong enough…

    You did what was best for all…

    No judgments from me…

    Sometimes we do sleep with the wrong dog… Abuse, I learned, emotional and physical, can even come from your dog. It takes strength to walk away. To save all concerned…

  16. Beautifully written story. I’m glad you wrote about Seamus and may he rest in peace. You did right and bless you for all you do with rescues and all that you did for Seamus. Sad stories need to be told too. So inspiring, thank you. -Diana

  17. Tracey Sands

    What a lesson in compassion, at every stage, on every level. The effort is no less worthy because the ending wasn’t the one we would all have wished for. I’ve seen something like this happen with a horse, too. For some (few) of them, the world is too painful and fearful to be borne. Peace to all of you.

  18. Joan Spence

    Oh my goodness, I am at once feeling sorry for you and yours, Anna and eternally grateful. But those are easy to feel. I’ve spent my lifetime earning the skills to help the folks who “perpetrate” these crimes.

    I am far from where I hope to be. Not only because I simultaneously want to haul off on the side of their heads with a 2 by 4 while desperately deciding what is helpful for them. For sure I can’t save them all either. And I battle with society’s axiom of how involved to be, which is a frustrating battle for sure.

    Either way, when we do what we didn’t know we could do is an improvement in the situation even if we can’t see it. There can be nothing but victories when we live our lives in love.

  19. I remember clearly the previous 2 posts on Seamus. I was worried that this would be the outcome. Love is often not enough, and sometimes the damage is permanent. I often think of the AKC Champion dog I had here for 4 years. I initially met him as a 2 year old who was bright, bouncy, friendly and outgoing. When he came here 6 years later, he was dangerously aggressive. We made progress in that 4 years, but unfortunately, not enough and he was euthed for multiple behaviors that were incompatible with living in our society. I will never forget this dog, beautiful, and damaged beyond what I could repair. I cherish the lessons he taught me, and I often look at Conner (his g’son) and am sad for what could have been with him. Dash left a scar on my soul, but the dogs that have followed him, have benefited from the lessons he taught me, I hope the lessons learned from Seamus, are valuable to you for later rescues too. My best to you Anna, sometimes life is just….hard.

  20. I am so sorry Anna. I know you hear this a lot. But you were the best thing to happen to Seamus. The best person for him to have come into his life, short as it was. Many blessings to you.

    Martha

  21. Mary

    Anna,
    I feel your pain, we had Sam, a Rottweiler, who would periodically attack our Pit mix, Chandler and seriously puncture him. We never understood the trigger to stop it from happening. We tried everything for 2 years as the attacks were escalating. Sam finally almost killed Chandler when he bit him within 2 mm of his jugular. That is when we made the awful decision to euthanize Sam. I know it was the right decision, but it breaks my heart to this day. I believe that dogs can be mentally ill and I think Sam was. We don’t know his history. He came from the shelter.
    It is such a hard decision, but sometimes it is the right decision when you know that the next time the victim might not survive.

  22. lsterling56

    Like a punch in the gut, the story, the writing, the senseless ugly of it. Sometimes our best just can’t fix what’s so damn broken. Yeah, Seamus found the “No Humans Allowed” part of wherever it is we are when we are no longer here. Someday, it might be ok with him if you peeked inside and saw him happy and whole. After you left, he would tell the Others, “That one, she tried.”

  23. (trying not to anthropomorphize here) Who among us human (animals) really understands how the non-human beings think and feel. If we’re lucky, we get occasional glimpses…

    That trite phrase “he’s in a better place” probably applies here. Maybe Seamus aimed himself at where he needed to go. There is only so much conflict any one soul can absorb.

  24. I am crying, Anna!
    We had a Heeler/Aussie mix when our kids were little, “Belle.” She was more Heeler than anything, and we quickly learned that that did not mean that she heeled well!

    In retrospect, I think fighting suburbia must be a certain kind of hell for a true herding dog. However, we loved her. In the chaos of daily life run by 2 parents who had never really learned how to discipline (my husband and I, that is), her Heeler instinct of “lead, follow, or get out of my way,” was, at best, disconcerting. At worst, one time the family was doing a community service project outside, and we thought, “Let’s take our dog! It’ll be so fun!”
    She quickly established a perimeter around us and tried to bite a kid who was going to “cross it.” She was banned from the project!

    We saw many folks who took their Aussies and Corgis to horseshows; when we tried to take Belle (after all, she was PART Aussie), it was a new level of torture for her and us. All she wanted to do was terrorize the heels of already-nervous horses and their
    even-more-nervous humans.

    We talked about giving her to a farm (for reals, not just to tell the kids that), but she wasn’t actually trained for that work. My husband said, “At this point, she’d frustrate the other dogs so much they’d probably kill her.” Even so, we thought she was the toughest dog in the world, and there was never a doubt that we loved her!

    Tough or not, at age 9, she became ill, throwing up anything she ate. We took her to the vet; they ran all the tests. The only thing that was a little off were her liver values, so they sent her home w/antibiotics. She seemed to get better, but maybe that was just wishful thinking. W/in 4 weeks, her liver values had quadrupled. She was now staying @ the vet’s office and unable to even keep subcutaneous fluids down.

    We never knew if it was cancer, hepatitis, or a mushroom she might have possibly eaten, but we
    decided it was time to let her go. Our tough, challenging dog was not getting better. Unlike w/Seamus’ vet (even though his was more of a mental illness), our vet was not willing to commit to a decision, saying we could “still do exploratory surgery, if she could survive it.”

    We buried Belle in our yard and planted a pear tree over her. It’s still there today, bearing fruit.

  25. Jacky

    THIS is truly what a responsible loving caring and understanding dog owner might have to face, and you faced it with bravery and thought. You did well, you did bravely, and you did the right thing.

  26. Mary Eckstein

    This hits close to home. We have 6 kids and the youngest is bipolar. Severely intent on killing herself since 2012. I got to the point where I allowed myself to grieve for her death, I was so sure it would be a reality. We tried everything, loved her, provided what we could but nothing worked. Happily, a year long stay in residential treatment and a change in meds gave us back our child. But for many, nothing works. I can honestly say that these 5 years have taught me a tremendous amount about myself.

    1. Just wow. So glad that there have been positive changes. You must have found parts of yourself that you never thought existed. Thank you so much for commenting, Mary.

  27. In the west we have a determined belief that death is a failure to heal. But just supposing…….that death is not a failure to heal, but simply the greatest healing that is available to us all from a physical body……..my heart says you profoundly saved him, and with great dedication and love.

    1. Valerie

      That’s beautiful. I think it’s true. I know that I have been the only source of love for some of my animals, and I am glad that they got to have that before moving on.

  28. I hate this for you! I am an Advocate for the Corgi breed, highly intelligent, slightly lazy, occasionally difficult but with an exceptional sense of humor. The terror he had to experience in his young life must have been extraordinary. Bless you for giving him a brief reprieve from the terror he had experienced. You did absolutely right by him and I’m sure he would tell you in his own way. I pray he finds his peace, chasing a ball, killing ugly shoes and snacking on whatever he chooses.

    1. It was such a contradiction to see these emotions in a Corgi suit… and some ugly shoes do need killing… thanks, lets both keep advocating for this breed.

  29. Valerie

    I recently had to put a dog down, due to cancer. He was down to his last day at the shelter when a rescue pulled him when I agreed to foster. He was stunningly handsome, and could not have been sweeter and more fiercely loving — with me. Only me. He was aggressive toward all other people. Fortunately he never hurt anyone past a nip, but the threat was always there. He was terrifying when he got like that. I’ll never know what had happened to him prior to my getting him. It damaged him irreparably, whatever it was. I had him 4 years. I think he loved me more than any of my many animals ever have, and I loved him. But still, his being gone is a relief in a lot of ways. Life is easier.

  30. Patti Embry-Tautenhan

    I am so very sorry for Seamus and for you. I hope he now has release from his residual turmoil. Please don’t count this as a failure. You did right by him and all those around you. It was loving and responsible. And hard.

  31. You are so wonderful! I appreciate all you share, even these really tough things are good for all of us to hear. May there be renewed peace at your place….for the greater good Seamus is now at peace himself.

      1. eremophila

        You’re always most welcome Anna. 🙂 Sometimes I can’t find the words to respond…other than to reblog it.

  32. Susan G.

    I’ve been in a similar situation, but with a chronically ill cat whose quality of life had deteriorated to living in the bathroom 24/7. Over the years, I had spent more than $10,000 on Gus, whose sweetness made the decision so much more difficult. What’s more, I was running out of money and options. The so-called holistic vet I had turned to in a last ditch effort to turn things around didn’t share or support my gut-wrenching decision. (I guess she was hoping to squeeze a little more money out of me. Well, you can’t get blood from a rock.) So Gus was euthanized, and my sadness and guilt were nearly intolerable.

    Knowing you did all you could doesn’t make the pain any less. Your decision was a difficult one to make and to live with. My heart is with you.

  33. A painful, sad but ultimately compassionate decision. I don’t even want to try and imagine what poor Seamus went through to become so damaged, it must have been worse than hell. You did all you could for him, that it wasn’t what he needed was beyond your control. He loved you enough to sleep with you, that tells me he felt safe enough with you to let his guard down that much. You tried your best with and for him, the final decision was the most merciful and loving one and I know he’s finally at peace.
    I was brought a 6 week old puppy, Smoky, born in a garage full of construction debris, boards with nails sticking out, pieces of shingle, and who knows what all. He was fiesty but smart, got along with the other two dogs (Sunny, a pit/rott mix and Charlie a pit/box/shep/amute [pit, boxer, German shepherd, malamute]) well, until he was hit by Sunny while he was barreling toward the fence and rolled which separated the growth plate in his right front leg at the wrist, and jumped over by Charlie. He saw Charlie and fixed on him as the one who hurt him. He never once challenged Sunny. He attacked Charlie, not often but once was too much and I tended bite wounds about twice a year, sometimes less. I knew Smoky’s mother, more feral than not, and Smoky seemed very different after he had the cast off and we determined his leg was fine. It was eight months after the injury he first went after Charlie (he was a large dog, about 75-80 pounds but about as non-aggressive as I’ve ever seen), Smoky was all of 45 pounds and generally not a problem – we never did determine what would set him off. We kept them separated for a long time, tried anti-anxiey meds (they only made things worse), and finally just made sure that Charlie and Smoky were apart all the time. Sunny died in 2011 and Charlie in 2015. I still have Smoky, he’s still a strange dog. He spends most if his time sleeping wedged next to the toilet or behind a couch, but he’s also almost 14. I did think of putting him down, but separating him worked for all of us. I do know he couldn’t be placed with someone else, he was too attached to my spouse, still is. But we will have to wait till he’s gone to get another dog, I wouldn’t trust him with a puppy, or an adult dog, and considering the much smaller place we’re living we couldn’t separate him. I do believe that dogs suffer from mental abberations, Smoky certainly does. He will have a quiet life for his remaining time with us.
    I think we all try to do our best with what we have to work with, at least I hope we do. You sure did your best for Seamus.

  34. Sherry Walter

    I had a dog from puppy on who was, at that point, the best dog I ever had. I loved him to pieces and he loved me. When he hit late dog middle age something happened. He would go from a goofy clown to leaping up and biting whoever was in his line of sight, but never me. When I could pry him loose it didn’t take long for him to go back to the clown. I truly think, as Aquila said, dogs do have mental illnesses, perhaps some brain chemicals go awry. My dog was loved and cared for kindly his whole life, there was no reason for his behavior. I had him euthanized, that was something like 25 years ago and it still brings me to tears. It took a long time to stop feeling guilty about the relief I felt after he was gone, not having to worry and wonder when the switch would be flicked.

  35. Dawn Schuetz

    I am sure that as Seamus passed he floated, finely free, of all the chaos and demons. “Oh, blessed release”. Peace and healing are his. I wish the same for you.

  36. Blue eagle

    My heart hurts most for Preacher Man, Finney and your other elderly dog – as well as for the other animals mentioned by the other commenters who were tormented by dogs who, themselves, were mentally hurting. It definitely is a conundrum when you try to give an animal a safe, calm place and that animal makes the place unsafe/uncalm for the other animals who already live there. Thank you for sharing your story and trying to do your best for all of the animals.

    1. Thank you so much. The challenge in working with troubled dogs is that the people who have the skills that might be able to help always have other animals… the same with rescue horses who come here. We are all pack/herd animals and that is part of working it all out. No one should live solitary of their species. Great comment, thank you for caring about everyone here.

  37. Laurie

    The older I get, the more I don’t understand about the madness in this world. There is however one truth that has consistently shown itself to me and that is “caring hurts”. Maybe not so much in the beginning or in the middle, but always in the end. I am so sorry for your loss Anna. I have walked in similar shoes, and wish you speedy recovery from your grief. I get irritated by overused phrases like “that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, but I think there is some truth in there. I don’t know about stronger, but wiser could work. Every experience teaches us something and you are obviously filled with wisdom beyond words.
    Holding you in my heart.

    1. It could be that I’ve been giving a clinic all day… but your comment makes me want to say it’s about being in the moment and breathing. That passes as wisdom sometimes… thanks, great comment.

  38. Karen

    We’ve loved and lost a complicated foster dog. We’ve loved and happily placed several more. We love and live with a complicated (but not dangerous to humans) resident dog. Sometimes there’s real beauty in the journey and sometimes we wonder why the hell we let ourselves take this trip at all, but at the end of the day this is the life we know we were meant to live. Thanks for sharing your story.

  39. Cristi Wuthrich

    Sometimes this is the most humane action we can take.
    Tough decision, as we are always plagued with the “what if”.
    Rescue is hard.
    I recently helped with horses pulled from the Beaumont, Texas area during the terrible flooding. It has opened up a lot of internal questioning about what and how we handle things.
    Thanks for all you do and for your lovely blog.

    1. Thank you… we had a bad fire here a few years ago that opened up the same questions here; it’s become part of how I train now. And yes, rescue is hard. Kind of like that in someways. Thanks, Cristi.

  40. Lauri S

    When a dog has THAT much fear how can we think they are happy? And if they are that unhappy, why would we NOT want to release them?

    You did what was best for Seamus as well as you and your other animals.

    Sometimes you just CANNOT save them all and some are beyond saving. It’s just the sad facts.

  41. diane

    Seamus did have a happy ending, he had someone who cared enough to send him peacefully to God, where he’ll be restored to a happy pup, Seamus will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge, to thank you for your love and compassion. hugs

  42. Thank you for this piece. It’s a very familiar story almost identical to my rescue, Molly. I worked so hard to rehab her but she was so dangerous and nothing I did changed her. Life had been hard on her and she was still fighting mad. The only thing I hold on to is the fact that I loved her well and gave it my all, and she knew that.

    1. I always think there might be a physical piece, as well. I knew Seamus had structural problems. And I don’t think that vets can necessarily diagnose it even, but it just isn’t natural, even for abused dogs. Thanks for giving your all. Dogs can diagnose that just fine.

  43. Pingback: Sleeping With The Wrong Dog — Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog – MobsterTiger

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