Today a vet came to our house and euthanized Mutton.
We loved him a lot and in so many ways, he was a great dog. Which made the decision to end his life so impossibly hard. Hard enough that we’d avoided acting on the decision for over a year.
But there was a new baby and people wanting to stop by to drop off food and my first thought was “people can’t come over. I can’t manage Mutton and the two babies.”
When we first got Mutton, a dog we were just fostering and then couldn’t give up, he was leash reactive. Meaning he lunged and barked aggressively at other dogs and people when he was out on leash. Over time, he started exhibiting aggressive behaviors more and more in our home, too. Whenever someone came in, he’d bark at them continuously. And unfortunately, his bark was high-pitched and glass shattering. He’d lunge and on two separate occasions, he bit someone. He’s small and was behaving like a herding dog (hey you, go this way) rather than as an attack, so it didn’t break the skin. But still. A bite is a bite.
We took a training class specifically for leash reactive dogs. Then, we had two months of daily visits from a trainer specializing in aggressive dogs. And we even had a second trainer who came to take Mutton on special training walks to help him stop lunging at people on the street. And things did get better. There’d been no more biting instances after all the training. But it was still not good. People had to text us to say they were at the front door. We’d start prepping the dogs, then have you come in and sit down while we worked with Mutton, getting him calm and reassured. And me insisting, while Mutton is screaming, David is throwing dog treats, the other two dogs in the mix, Winnie wanting to be picked up by daddy, “but please sit down. I need you to sit down,” while you stand in the entryway trying to engage the humans in normal social niceties. What I don’t say, but a.m. desperately thinking is “I can’t say hello to you right now. This is really a thing. I know it’s a hassle to go through this routine, but seriously my dog will bite you. I will talk to you in five minutes, but first I have to take care of my dog. Please just sit down. Sit the fuck down!” And then dying when a few minutes later they got up, without announcing it first, to walk across the room to the bathroom or into the kitchen. Which was a cue for Mutton to freak out.
I resented the people. Which is crazy. But I loved my dog.
Meanwhile, we have to figure out child care, which probably means a nanny share. A nanny couldn’t come into our house on her own without someone to handle Mutton.
We couldn’t have someone over to clean the house unless we were also home.
Mutton was my first thought whenever we discussed a delivery, a baby sitter, home repairs, or consultation.
We could have dumped him at a shelter. And he would have been adopted; he’s exceptionally cute. But he would still have crazy on the inside and once he felt ownership over the place and the people, the same problems would come up. There could have been legal ramifications if he bit someone badly. Chances are good he’d just be abandoned again (we were already his third owners). And it’s hard not to imagine that he might be treated badly for his bad behaviors.
So our conclusion was that he really wasn’t an adoptable dog and it was our responsibility to conclude his life with as much dignity and comfort as we could.
But he was still our pet. He was the biggest cuddler. He was the most playful. He was great buddies with our other two dogs. He loved running with David. He curled up to sleep on a pillow by our heads every night.
And he damn well made sure that the mail man didn’t come into the house and murder us all every day.