Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fear and Loathing




I’ve tried to sit down and write a post here numerous times over the past month, but it never materializes. The words aren’t there. The motivation isn’t there. And instead of fighting it for no reason, I just accept it telling myself that one day the words and motivation will return. If they don’t, no worries, but if they do, I have this space to fill with them. The last couple of days, however, there have been plenty of words, too many words, crowding out my confused mind and weighing me down like the heavy burden they can so often be.

I need to begin at the beginning.

Last April, almost a year ago now, I lost my beautiful girl Fozzie to cancer. I was (and honestly, still am) crushed that as her caretaker and companion I couldn’t save her, so in a determined effort to find the silver lining to her death, Steven and I set out to rescue a dog who really needed saving. A dog whose time was up and who had no other chance for rescue, which is how we found Honey Bee-- a sick, emaciated little pit bull mix huddled in the corner of her kennel at the county shelter, completely withdrawn, completely out of time. In fact, she was so out of time that we had to beg for an extension to her euthanasia date just to adopt her, which they finally granted. In all actuality, she wasn’t the one we were “looking for” when we set out to the shelter that day, but she was the one who needed rescuing, and so we rescued.


We brought her home, nursed her to health, and she quickly transformed from the broken creature we met at the shelter who had completely given up into a happy lovebug of an overgrown puppy. And despite that we knew nothing about her past or her temperament, she proved to be fine with my other dogs (so long as they stayed away from her food), my cats, my chickens, and even my tiny rabbit and the kittens we fostered shortly after adopting her. There were a few incidents along the way in which she snapped at Digby, my dachshund, always over food and always situations I blame myself for not being more careful to prevent. But no one was ever seriously injured and Honey always responded almost immediately to us.


Fast forward to Sunday. I spent the day kayaking and playing in springs and having a grand ol’ time. I came home to change clothes and let the dogs out before going to dinner. Nothing out of the ordinary. While in the backyard with the dogs, I was walking towards the back door when I saw Honey Bee latch on to Digby’s head and start shaking him. There was no food anywhere like the other times, nothing that I can directly pinpoint as the trigger like the other times, and also unlike the other times, she wouldn’t let go. I tried my best to separate them, but she was entirely unresponsive, which is not like her. I felt my heart stop. I can still feel it stop when I envision what could have happened had I not been a few feet away and had I not finally pried her mouth open just enough to drop him.

I spent the rest of the night cleaning Digby with hydrogen peroxide and cradling him until he stopped shaking and whimpering. His injuries did not appear to be bad enough to call for a trip to the emergency vet, with whom I’ve had numerous negative and expensive experiences, so I held him all night and checked on him every few hours (since I couldn’t sleep anyway) and took him to the vet Monday morning. They cleaned him up again, put staples in his head to close the two puncture wounds, gave him an antibiotic shot and an anti-inflammatory shot, and sent me home with medication.

Relaying what happened is the easy part. Figuring out the next chapter is where the words start jumbling and disappearing altogether. Digby will be ok. His wounds will heal. He will resume his normal ridiculous personality. But beyond that, I’m lost. Completely.

I’m the one who rescues dogs. I’m the one who judges people who give up their dogs or who even consider that an option. I’m the one who trusts that wherever there’s a will there’s a way. I’m the one who believes that I don’t need help, because my love of animals enables me to do anything. And now I’m the one who finally feels scared and alone and overwhelmed and hopeless and frustrated. All things I consistently tell myself I’m not.


I finally have to admit that I have a dog I cannot safely and reliably control and it’s my own fault and something bad could happen as a result. Honey Bee responds positively to men and she responds positively to calm assertive energy more than anything, neither of which I am or possess. I’ve hired enough dog trainers to know that despite my efforts, I’m not a pack leader by any stretch, I’m just their buddy and dogs don’t respect a buddy. When Steven moved out in November, Honey lost her authority figure and as such began exhibiting more and more unstable energy. While I did my best to remedy the situation and be the owner she needs, I have clearly fallen short. It is just me, the sole caretaker of 4 dogs, a house, numerous other pets, who works full time, etc., and I am not infallible.

I don’t know where to turn right now and feel I have no viable options that I’m remotely comfortable with. I have never considered rehoming a dog as an option, let alone turning one over to a shelter. Never. But the reality of rehoming an unpredictably aggressive pit bull to an ideal home in an area of the country already unbelievably overpopulated with pit bulls is slim to none. And even if I did, how could I ever live with myself? On the one hand, I’ve had Digby longer than any of my other pets and I owe him a safe and secure environment. Each time he’s been attacked, it’s been worse than the last time, and I can’t imagine anything worse than Sunday night. But Honey is also my pet, and when I adopted her I made a commitment to care for her forever, no matter what. I know this is not her fault, I know that NO DOG IS BAD.


And yet I also know that I do not possess the superhuman abilities I delude myself into believing I do most of the time. As hard as it is for me to admit, I know I cannot do everything by myself. I have friends with dogs that absolutely cannot be in the same room together no matter what, and they do what they call “crate and rotate”. While it’s certainly not an ideal situation, it works for them, but there are two of them in the house with different schedules and their dogs are older. I feel that Honey is too young and energetic to spend any more time in her crate than she already has to when I’m not home. And keeping them separated for the past 48 hours has already proven exhausting and less-than-ideal for them and for me. But I don’t know what is an ideal situation anymore, or if there is one. Again, I feel scared and alone and overwhelmed and hopeless and frustrated.

And while I'm at it, I’m also frustrated because I’ve spent so much time and energy telling people they’re wrong about pit bulls and using Honey as a positive ambassador for the breed. Everywhere we go, people tell me how beautiful and smart she is. I show them pictures of her nose-to-nose with my tiny rabbit, or with 3 week old kittens, and they ooh and ahh. But even my own dad says “they all eventually snap and their owners always tell you ‘Oh but he was such a good dog until that happened! We never saw it coming!’” You cannot generalize an entire breed, any breed, and dogs are first and foremost the product of their environment and upbringing. I still believe that. If people can generalize my dog and say “I told you so”, then I can still point to the numerous pit bulls who are therapy dogs, law enforcement dogs, army dogs, etc., as well as highlight their history as nanny dogs before they became a status symbol for the wrong people (did you know Pete from Little Rascals was a pit bull?). But the fact that I now feel partly responsible for their bad reputation is more disheartening and maddening than I can possibly convey.
I just don’t know what to do. That’s all that this overly-verbose rambling boils down to. That’s it. I don’t know what to do and I don’t even know where to begin. In an ideal world, I would be able to find her a better home with someone who understands her and is the calm assertive pack leader she so needs. She is loyal and goofy and incredibly smart and beautiful; she deserves the best. But then I remember that that ideal home most likely doesn’t exist, and why should I expect it to when I can’t even provide it for her? I feel like I’m in a room full of locked doors and there is no way out, and I’m left turning circles, aimlessly pawing at the door knobs to no avail, all the while cursing myself like the failure I am.


17 comments:

Nova said...

Oh no! This sucks so much. I wish I could take her to ease your mind and give her all the love. :(

Caitlin said...

Ah man, this totally fucking sucks. I'm so sorry. Don't beat yourself up - it takes a LOT of self-awareness to know what you can and can't handle, and to know so much about your own energy. I don't have any answers, just good vibes, and I'm sending them to you.

allie said...

I don't have anything of use to say...
I admire your love and compassion, and now, your self awareness. Few people can recognize and accept what you have. May you find the best path...

amy said...

i am so very sorry you are having to go through this! this may sound completely crazy, but maybe you could somehow get ahold of the dog whisperer and if he could not help, maybe he would have a suggestion or a solution?? it's a longshot, but you never know...x amy
https://www.cesarsway.com/contact

Kathleen said...

such a hard decision :(

SFlaGuy said...

I love your postings but this one saddens me with long forgotten memories. I once had a very well adjusted Pit who loved the farm cats and helped raised the baby ducks. One who saved me from being crushed by an angry, charging bull by grabbing it by the nose and flipping it on it's side. One who became increasingly aggressive, killing all the wild things around the pasture and finally tore the neighbors dog in half right in front of me. Granted the dog was chasing my step daughter but there was no stopping it once it started. I would have put it down but it pestered an alligator who had wandered onto the property and that was the end. No matter how much love and affection you manage, a pit bull has no fear, no pain acknowledgement, and is single minded when provoked. I never had a dog I spent more time with to keep under control and failed more miserably with to the point it was the last dog I ever owned. You do wonderful things saving your creatures but it is more important to keep them safe.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience w/ a pit a loved dearly named Rhodey, he attacked my Lab and came so close (too close) to killing him, at the time I also had a an older great dane that muscled him off the lab. I didn't even notice the bite marks on my own arm until I was at the vet hosp. w/ my lab, it was a horrible experience. I was horrified but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of him, I felt it was my fault. About a month after that he pulled a poodle from under my next door neighbors fence and killed it. It was the worst experience of my life and I was forced by the state to put him down. Rhodey was a good dog that never even showed aggresion until that point and I was shocked when all of this happened. I can tell you I would never own another pit again and I feel awful about that because I had one as a kid that I adored and would never hurt a fly, but as with any animal (not just pits)you just never know, however for whatever reason the possibility is always there w/ them and they are too physically strong to fight off. I still rescue dogs and I feel that pit mixes are usually much less aggressive, but that fear just never goes away unfortunately for all the pits out there that need rescuing. I'm so sorry that this happened to you :( I genuinely hope it all works out.

Anonymous said...

Is there no way Stephen could take her since she responds better to him, maybe?

Octohawk said...

Steven loves her, so much. But he can't have her where he lives now. And if/when he moves back to the UK, she'd be illegal there.

dailydoseofhannah said...

I am so sorry you're going through this. The only thing I can recommend is a pit bull/ bully rescue. They are no kill and work to train/ rehabilitate/ and find proper homes for the dogs that come in. You could even contact one that isn't in your area to see what they recommend!

Anonymous said...

As hard as this might be, I don't think it is admitting defeat to try to rehome Honey. Now that you know her better, you KNOW that she responds best to assertive man and that she is a threat to your current pets. It seems like the best thing you could do would be to hold onto Honey until you find a really great fit for her - in a family with an assertive male and no other pets/no children. This might take a while but I think you would be doing your duty was a responsible pet owner if you made sure to find her a best-fit home. The only other option is to actively try to change your assertiveness, but you definitely can't change the fact that you are not a man! Just try to do the best thing for everyone and you won't be a failure. :)

Buford Nature said...

Pit bulls were bred to attack and kill dogs. That is their reason for being. No matter how much you love your beast, it is still a beast. Ask Siegfried about Roy.

I read a HUGE amount about dangerous dogs for a book I am researching, and can say that I have read your story a hundred times. Right after an attack, many pit bull owners say they "just can't believe" their beast tore the face or arm off a child. They often follow that up by saying that the dog never did anything like that before.

Euthanize the dog before it kills a human being.

Octohawk said...

Kindly go fuck yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Hope all is okay with you,

Patti

J. said...

Hi. I hope you are doing well. Stranger to a stranger.

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie,

I hope that you are okay. I miss reading your posts.

Patti

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie,

I hope you are doing okay, and that things are looking up for you. I check your blog periodically for updates, and just wanted to say that I miss your interesting writing, and your stunning photos.

Hope you come back to blogging some day!