Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Painful Lessons

I euthanized Sully yesterday. I held him as life left him. It wasn't easy; he did NOT want to go. He tried to nail the vet as he was given the sedative, proving me right in insisting on a soft muzzle before we began. I hated being right, but it reinforced the decision I'd been second-guessing all day long.

Sully was 22 months old, an owner-surrender to the Oklahoma City shelter in September. I knew then he'd learned to be in charge in his household, a situation made more challenging by a traumatic injury when he was nine months old. A perfect houseguest for two weeks, Sully offered a glimmer of the future when he "went off on" my son one evening at home. It was a surprise and I honestly discounted much of his description of the experience. My mistake. But I was working with a TTouch practitioner and I have a lot of experience with behavior issues. I was pretty darned confident I could make a difference. Too much so, as it turned out.

Bits and pieces gave a clearer picture through the months. Sensitivity in his hindquarters, even more so in his groin area. Resource guarding. Wanting to be in charge. Inability to decompress once revved up. Management issues to be sure, but improvements were obvious. I realized I couldn't adopt Sully out but, as my daughter said, "Let's just keep him, Mom. We love him and he loves us. He's good here." And he was.

Then came Sunday. A good day, with much playing and stretching muscles after the snow. Sully had supper, went outside, came back inside and settled in for some personal time with my daughter and me in the living room. She asked Sully to get off the sofa. And then it all came apart.

"Sully, off." That was it. Next was a call for help. Sully was attacking her. He was beyond reason. I eventually re-directed him off her and onto me, telling her to go to her room and close the door. She did, but damage had been done - multiple bites on her stomach, back and arms. Three bite holes in her shirt. Serious emotional trauma. Sully nailed me, too, on my forearms and wrists, until I was able to grab his scruff and put him in a sit. I then held him for nearly 10 minutes before he stopped snarling, tension and breathing eased, and his eyes finally re-focused, losing that dull look. As I slowly released him, he shook himself all over, coming back into himself. As in the past, he was loving and cuddly, tail wagging like crazy and front feet dancing.

It was the point of no return. Not only could I not release Sully into anyone else's home (which wouldn't happen; he definitely was our dog), I could no longer manage - or even accurately identify - his triggers in advance. And so began our last hours.

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