Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Simon Saga

This post is hard to write.  Every time I think about writing this out, I get freaked out because of fear of judgement.  Fear of judgment from dog loving peeps who will blame me for (a) getting a dog, (b) not being able to 'fix' my dog, (c) his behaviour.  Fear of judgment from non dog loving peeps who will blame me for (a) getting a dog, (b) not being able to 'fix' my dog, (c) still having said dog a year after setting out to relocate him.  So lets just say, I'm doing the best I can, and I'm just going to be 100% honest about how I feel, and you can know that I'm at least in a place of good intentions.

Simon and Riley watch the boys leave for school, 2009

We wanted to get a dog while our kids were small, so they could enjoy the benefits of having a pet to love and care fore and consider, and because little boys and doggy pets are nearly synonymous.  Our first dog Meelu lasted exactly 3 days.  She arrived when Riley was 2 weeks old, which was just the way it worked out although we had planned to adopt her months earlier, in time to adjust before our third baby arrived.  She needed surgery and medical care for her leg and it just drew out the adoption process that much longer, and when she did come, it was just terrible timing.  So we let her go to the next family on the adoption list (she was a purebred Beagle who happened to come through the rescue agency so she was in demand).  A year later, we tried again, and got Simon.

He was an 8 week old puppy, black lab/basset cross (a funny cross, which sometimes results in short, long dogs but in this case resulted in a weird but cute looking lab), and pretty sweet.  From day one, he walked to and from the kids' school with us, and lived in our townhouse with plenty of walks, water, treats, and love.

Because he grew up around small kids, we just assumed he would be fine with them.  I have a long history of family dogs in my childhood, and so does Brent, and never were any of them a problem around kids.  But last spring Brent's brother's family came over for the afternoon and Simon bared his teeth and growled at their 20 month old (my nephew Ruben).  I was shocked.  Simon was eating popcorn, which was all over the yard, and there were kids everywhere, so I scolded him and put him in the garage (where his food and water and a bed are) with the dog door closed so he couldn't get back into the yard when all the kids were playing in it, but I kind of thought it might be understandable dog behaviour, given the food, the yard full of kids, and the fact that Ruben was tugging on his fur when it happened.  I didn't think it was acceptable but I did think it was understandable.

A few days later, we went to Brent's parents place with the same group and brought Simon along to tear around their two acre farm with their dog Jasper.  Brent and Ruben were walking back towards the house from the shop and Simon was jogging along with them, when Brent heard a surprised, "WUF!" and Ruben started screaming.  Brent picked him up and his eyelid was torn really deeply.  Nobody knows exactly what happened because Ruben and Simon were right behind Brent, but the best we can figure is that either Ruben tripped and Simon tripped over him, scratching his eye with his paw in the process, or Simon swiped Ruben with his paw and caught his eye.  We called an ambulance and Brent, Ruben, and my sister in law Billie went to the hospital.  Ruben was transported to Children's Hospital for surgery to repair his tear duct and the eyelid, and he required a drain to be put in, monitored, and finally removed at the beginning of this month.  Later on that same day of this incident, Brent and I discussed the possibility of putting Simon down.  Everyone in our extended family who was there that day strongly discouraged this, pointing out correctly that no one knew if it was an accident or not, and that dogs are trainable so perhaps even if it was intentional, he just needed some obedience school.  They also pointed out that in the ten weeks prior to this, we had moved to a new house and brought home a new baby, so perhaps an adjustment grace was merited.
We decided to keep an eye on him, and think about it for a week or so, before we decided what to do.

A week later, my cousin Sara came to visit with her two small boys.  Her youngest was 2 at the time, and has a dog himself who looks very much like Simon and puts up with all kinds of wrestling and toddler boy antics (in fact, she loves it).  Ryen was toddling behind Simon as Simon walked towards his bed, and with no warning or indication that he was frustrated, Simon reached back and snapped at him.  He is a big dog with big teeth and a scary snarl, and Sara and I were within three to five feet of them when it happened, so we all freaked out.  I was totally taken aback.  But it sealed the deal.  Simon couldn't stay with us.  We have four small kids, at that time a baby who would soon be toddling, a busy extended family with tons of small kids, a substantial circle of Nerdy friends with tons of small kids, and just no room for a dog who cannot handle toddlers.  We didn't think his behaviour quite justified being put down but could not keep him so we decided to find him a new home.  Of course we would give FULL disclosure to a new owner/family so they would know what they were getting into, but I figured if there are people out there willing to adopt all the pit bulls and rotties on the SPCA list, there had to be someone who would take a sweet basset/lab who can't handle toddlers, right?

We didn't really have the money for obedience school, although we would have scratched up enough for it had we decided to keep him.  We put the word out, and there were a few leads but nothing panned out.  Eventually we had 3 near launches: three separate times our kids said goodbye to their doggy, and the adopting person didn't show up or changed their minds at the last minute.  So frustrating.  Brent tried to contact the rescue organization we adopted him from but discovered that they were closed down because of (!!) fraud (!!) of all things!  So we couldn't enlist their help to find Simon another home.  I contacted LAPS, which is the Langley version of the SPCA (Canadian equivalent of the Humane Society) but although their adoption board is filled with freaky breeds who are known to be dangerous (always "ONLY BECAUSE OF THE OWNERS AND NEVER BECAUSE OF THE DOG," which if you ask me is bullshit; people have ornery personalities or disorders that lead to behavioural problems sometimes, so why not dogs?  Early experiences shape this personality but some are ornery and don't like chaos or noise or kids, period, you can't blame parents for EVERYTHING), I got an email back that said, "Sorry, but we do not adopt out dogs who are known to be aggressive."

I feel trapped.  Now that Amarys is toddling, they cannot be in the same room together.  So Simon spends his days between the yard and garage, and only comes inside at night while Amarys is sleeping.  He rarely goes on walks anymore because whenever I walk anywhere (a) I have to take my kids, and (b) we always go to kid friendly destinations like playgrounds and parks, or the school, where kids and toddlers are bound to be.  Whenever Brent is home from his long work hours, he wants to spend time with us so the same problem ensues.

Simon at Christmastime

This morning, despite me being very diligent, Simon and Amarys happened to be in the kitchen at the same time for a short period.  He snarled and snapped at her, and scared us all.  I'm done.  I'm so, so done.  This damn dog is my ball and chain and I feel sorry for him that he has to stay outdoors so much, but he literally cannot handle Amarys' presence.  He's a nice dog!  Months will go by with no incidents!  But toddlers make him nervous and instead of slinking away like most dogs would, he gets snarly.  He does it way more when Brent is not around, and I try to show him that I'm in charge (kindly but firmly), but it doesn't settle his nerves.
After this morning I'm ready to consider the needle.  If there is no single person or childless couple out there who would like a dog and is willing to take on ours, who needs so little to be happy (but one of those things is a toddler free environment), it might need to be considered.

Of course, we cannot afford it.  Euthanizing a dog is expensive.  This month in particular is very dry, financially, and the only way we could put him down would be to bounce our mortgage payment.  Borrowing money for it would be a difficult solution because at this point, I'm considering borrowing money from family to pay for groceries, but paying it back is a near impossibility because we live so close to the line and have so many needs.  As you can see, more and more the dog is a ball and chain.  As spring arrives we will be wanting to use the backyard more, and it will be even harder to keep Simon away from Amarys, and this whole pressure cooker situation is just going to get worse.  I'm crying.  This is awful.  How did we get here?  How much of it is our fault?  What can I do?

It has been a year.  We've been trying to find Simon a new home for a YEAR.  I have an aggressive towards toddlers dog in my house and we have a toddler.  How did this even happen?


nancy said...

Just so you know, I did hang 2 posters at work re Simons need for a new home - complete with a picture and contact info. I want to post one on our mailbox and call our local spca. You are doing the right thing - one way or another, Simon needs to go.

Rachel @ Lautaret Bohemiet said...

I understand how you feel, friend. One of our dogs (when I was about 10) had this same problem and my parents wrestled with it too and finally got rid of him. That wasn't how we usually handled dogs (they have ALWAYS had dogs and kept them til they were old), but this one was different. He hurt pepole. Like your dog does.

I can't imagine anyone judging you for putting little PEOPLE first. It would be a huge liability, financially and otherwise, if Simon hurt someone and you KNEW he was violent. Like, that could be negligence and lawsuit dangerous, you know? So absolutely no one will judge you (they better not!) for having to make such a heartbreaking and difficult choice.

You are doing awesome to have been so graceful and to have tried so many options. Hopefully something will come along before then (like a win-win where someone BUYS him from you so you have money and no dog), but if that doesn't happen, and you have to put him down, that is totally understandable. At least, in my opinion.

So sorry you have had to deal with this. And sorry for all those kiddos. And sorry for Simon. It's all very sad. :(

Caryn Ouwehand said...

Ugh, this is so heartbreaking. How could anyone judge you at all reading this post. It is clear that you love Simon... and all of his issues are out of your control. Some dogs just don't like children, its that simple.

If we didn't have a small child I would take him.

Tamie said...

I'm not sure who could judge you after reading this post. I don't have much to say on the dog front, since I'm not a big pet person myself, but I do want to say that it seems to me that when we're this open and transparent, it invites others to vulnerability and compassion rather than judgment. I mean, not always, because people have their own issues, but often, you know?

Tonya said...

Oh dear Mel. I had a dog I adored, she was MY dog. But she was big and strong. One day she was sitting by one of the kids and somehow her tooth caught the kids forehead and drew blood. I was ready to put her down THAT DAY. And I loved her. But if it is a dog or my child, my child wins. Eric convinced me it was truly an accident. We never had any other incidents with her. But I LOVE dogs and she was MINE and I still was ready to put her down. I will pray you can get rid of this dog NOW. Either euthanize him or someone takes him. I am so sorry.

melissa v. said...

Thanks for the support, everyone! This has been a difficult road to travel, and hard to talk about. I'm really hoping and praying we find a new home for Simon, very soon.


Keep praying!