We Cannot Save Them All-Nor Should We Try

I started writing again a couple of weeks ago for the first time in two years.  Began a new blog and have published a couple of articles.  Those were both lead-ins to this story I knew I needed to write, but which I have been avoiding.

Some of you may have noticed when my blog went silent and I no longer posted articles and opinion pieces on social media. I didn’t stop writing gradually.  I stopped suddenly and completely on December 4, 2017. That was the day that Bosco attacked me and changed my world forever. Until now I have never written about (or even really spoken about) that night.   It was too life-changing, too violent, too painful and too traumatizing to even begin to wrap my head around, let alone make sense of it all for the outside world.

In part there was some undeserved shame involved.  Kevin and I were extremely vocal pit bull advocates, and now I had been injured by a pit bull terrier type dog.  The anti-pit crowd had a field day with the event. In their minds it validated everything they were saying about pit bull type dogs.  In truth, it validated what we had been saying all along; that each dog is an individual. A product of breeding, training, socialization and experiences.  And in Bosco’s case, in all probability, physical health and well-being.  Bosco didn’t attack me because of his breed, he attacked me because something went haywire in his brain.

When we look back at videos of Bosco it is extremely apparent that he was in a steep downward spiral behavior-wise.  Day by day, week by week, his behavior deteriorated.  This was not an emotionally/mentally healthy dog and strange things tended to set him off unexpectedly.  But his biggest bugaboo was “stranger danger” and we could not safely have any other person in our home with him there.  The day that we were expecting a visit from the internet service tech, Kevin and I took turns driving him around for hours.  And when he got home and realized someone had been in the house, he was frantic and reactive.

Although Bosco always had questionable people skills, he had amazing dog skills. And that’s when we really noticed we had an issue… when his dog skills started deteriorating rapidly.

One evening he and Turtle got into a scrap and it quickly escalated to something that could have ended badly for Turtle, as she has no teeth to protect herself, but the tenacity of her former fighting life to keep her from backing down.  Kevin got his hand in the middle and took a bite and was out of commission.  I grabbed the citronella spray and sprayed it into the snarling knot of dogs which successfully drove them apart.  But without even taking a beat, Bosco launched himself at my arm, biting me badly through a sweatshirt and was ready to come back for more if I hadn’t sprayed him directly in the face.  He scared me to death that night because there was no one home in his eyes when he went for me.

The next day I was seeking advice from my manager and some of the behavior specialists at work.  I really was looking for someone to validate what I was thinking; that this dog was not safe and needed to be euthanized.  Against my better judgement I allowed people to convince me that I needed to try to work with this dog.  I was directed to try nutritional supplements, increased exercise via a treadmill instead of walks as they were too triggering, and finally drug therapy to try and keep him on the right track.

Then the night of December 4th came. It was quiet time for the dogs so that our birds could come out of their cages and socialize.  That meant that the dogs retired to separate rooms or crates and got a kong or a marrow bone to keep them occupied.   We generally kept the door of the crate in the living room closed because Bosco would try to kill any other dog who went in there in front of him. I was just leading him into his room when Turtle nudged the crate door open and went into it in anticipation of receiving her bone.  Bosco lunged past me and went for Turtle.  I raced to try and hold the door of the crate closed with my leg and he decided that if he couldn’t get to Turtle, I would do just fine.  He took me down before I could even realize what was happening, severing a finger on my left hand and totally shattering all the bones in my right arm from wrist to forearm.  If Kevin hadn’t grabbed a can of bear spray that was a gift from Vicktory Dog Lance’s people, I would have died right here on the floor. 

Bosco had to be killed that night while I was being ambulanced to a hospital an hour and a half away.  He didn’t get the dignity of a calm and supported, peaceful euthanasia.  Instead he endured the trauma of his own emotions and behaviors and died in a state of reactivity and violence. He deserved better.

That night changed my view of the words No-Kill. 

I am eternally thankful that Bosco attacked me, and not someone else.  I could not have lived with myself if he had gotten loose and attacked a child or even an adult.  I found out very graphically how quickly a human can be incapacitated by an attacking dog.  I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, ever.

Bosco should have been humanely euthanized the first time he bit me.  There should have been no question. If he could react that way to someone he lived with and cared for, he was not a safe dog to have in a home.  I should not have allowed myself to be talked out of taking the steps I knew to be necessary.  But here’s the deal….the culture of No-Kill has made it almost immoral to euthanize any dog, even one who needs it.  Bosco was suffering just as much as if he’d had a medical issue.  His emotional and mental health made for a poor quality of life, and it should have been ok to help end his pain before something bad happened.

Yes, we want to save dogs who are healthy and adoptable.  No dog should ever be killed who could thrive in a home.  But in some ways, I believe it is immoral to try and save dogs who cannot have a decent quality of life, regardless if it’s because of a debilitating physical issue or a mental one.

A dog who is not safe around humans should never be adopted into a home.  And we need to stop stigmatizing people who make the call to euthanize their dogs for an issue that they recognize.  If Bosco had been suffering from cancer no one would have said “boo” about ending his suffering.  But it was made very clear to me that it would not be acceptable to cross him due to what was viewed as a behavioral issue.  

There are many, many happy healthy dogs we should concentrate on saving.  But we need to be realistic about dogs who may not be safe to save.  There are finite resources out there, let’s utilize them on saving the dogs we can.  We cannot, nor should we, try and save them all.  

  1. And yet medication and behavior modification is still suggested when it’s most generally futile. Hopefully people read all experiences and…

25 thoughts on “We Cannot Save Them All-Nor Should We Try

  1. I am so sorry you had to go through this but I agree with every word you say. You are not only a fantastic advocate for pit bull type dogs, you are a fantastic advocate for dogs.

    Hugs to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree with you. Bosco had bit before. You took him when he was in a place to be euthanized. If a dog cannot trust he can’t be trusted. He wasn’t happy. He was afraid. You did everything possible to help him. You are wonderful advocates. Not every dog can be saved.

      RIH Bosco. May God hold you close in his love. Rest easy and run free. You are happy. 😢😢💔

      God’s blessings to you.🙏🏻🙏🏻

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There it is; almost exactly how I imagined it to have happened but never would have asked and certainly would not have guessed about. Having had the honor of meeting you (and Ray) and knowing how tirelessly you’ve worked to advocate for the blockheads and how much of a target this would put on you, I thank you for penning (typing?) these words. As the adoption coordinator for a small, local, breed specific rescue I can’t agree enough with your words. I can’t, in any good conscience knowingly place a dog who I feel could be a danger and while we can’t predict the future, I’m not willing to risk a child’s face to give a mentally tortured dog a third or fourth chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are so very brave. I hope telling this story will bring you some healing. Those that follow you knew something went horribly wrong. Thank you for sharing. I too had a dog that we ended up euthanizing because he had gotten out and bitten a neighbor. I sought out help for us and the dog but finally came to the conclusion that something was broken inside Brutus that we could not fix. We weren’t about to surrender him only to be euthanized by a local shelter, so we took him to our vet and did it ourselves. Sometimes I still think “Maybe if…” but most of the time I think “He had four good years with us which was four more years than he would have had otherwise.” Peace and hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So sad to read the whole story. You always write with so much reason & common sense. While I haven’t always agreed with decisions at the shelter I volunteered at, I reluctantly understood the policy that we adopt out no dog who could not safely live in society. You can’t count on adopters following suggestions on to handle their marginal dog. A couple adopted an awesome dog. It was suggested because of size & exuberance he not be with young children (they didn’t tell the counselor they had 5 kids, 3 under 8). They were told he needed to be an only dog. They got another dog & the 2 did not get along. They were told not to get a cat. They did & the kitten was killed. At this point he came back to us — and was euthanized as a dangerous dog. (There were other incidents). By then he also didn’t like most men. We were all heart broken. I also had a foster who had passed his eval, was adoptable. Then he had dental surgery & had to wear a cone. His availability was delayed. From that point he started downhill. He totally hated the cone. Always fine as an office dog, but not in his kennel. He came home with me to see how he would be in a home. With people he was awesome; however, his dog reactivity & aggression was getting worse. I had 2 incidents with him in my fenced-in backyard & out on the street walking where he went bananas seeing a dog 2 blocks away. Back in the shelter he was evaluated again, failed miserably with dog reaction & was put down. Both deserved a chance but neither could be trusted. I had 3 reactive pits as fosters. I would not have hesitated adopting 2, but I would not have considered the last. He was an accident waiting to happen even tho he liked people. We can cry over the ones that can’t make it; but realistically some just can’t. Sorry for the length. But I do believe everyone can’t be saved — we just need to try the best we can. Glad you are writing agian.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have an approximately 10 year old 12 pound Jrt and chi mix. I adopted her from our city shelter 2-1/2 years ago. She’s a great dog with me and other people, but she’s extremely dog reactive. Like you described, she goes crazy at the site of another dog.. she barks and snarls and the hair on her back goes up…. whether in the car or our yard or on walks. In the summer two years ago, we were on the porch and a dog on leash walked by across the street. She went nuts and broke her leash and chased the dog. I ran after her and when I got there, she was attached to the other dog, by the neck, while the owner s kicking her. I don’t blame the other owner at all. Unfortunately I had fallen and dislocated my shoulder and was doing the best I could to get her off. Luckily some neighbors intervened and got me and her home. The lady never came back and I never saw her again to apologize. Now that I think of it, she also attacked my neighbors dog when I first got her. We made the mistake of putting them in the yard together in an attempt to socialize them. She was an unclaimed stray so I have no history on her. Right now, I’m attempting to get her into a local reactive rover class. I just put a call into the instructor to see what her opinion is. I’m always very careful with her and never put her in situations with other dogs. Reading this article has me very worrried now. I want very much to be a responsible owner and I would feel incredible guilty if she hurt another animal. I do not believe she’d hurt a person. She only reacts to dogs, cats and squirrels. I am not any kind of advocate for no-kill, but I just don’t think I could or should put my dog down. If the class doesn’t work, should I consider medication? I’ve done some research online, but I’m not familiar with it in real life. And do I want a medicated dog? How else will she change? Do I just be very careful as I have been and keep her as an indoor dog?? Any advice or opinions would be appreciated… tyvm!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The responsible thing would be to put her down. Unless you plan on guaranteeing it never leaves the house. No vet, no groomer, no bathroom outside. No yard time. No chances. Otherwise anything that happens is absolutely your fault. It is not her right to live over any other animal just because she is “a great dog”. That is the opposite of a great dog. Great dogs are great, period. Not with contingencies. Too many feel guilty and think their animal can somehow be fixed and end up sorry. You don’t sound like a person without conscience. I would hate to see something happen to you or someone else that you have everything in your power to prevent.

        A dog ate my friend’s 18 day old infant. Her own great dog. My neighbor’s great dog ate two of my cats. My friend’s great dog attacked my dog and ripped her own lip open on another occasion. She had her friend stitch it up, so it did not have to be reported. Only the infant’s mom put the dog down. I guess that’s what it takes. I support shelters daily. I do not support adopting or rehoming dangerous animals. The risk is never worth it. Animals are not greater than humans. Actually good animals never deserve to be attacked by something that should have never made it out of the shelter in the first place. Is it sad? Sure, but for the victims and potential victims. That is who should matter. I wish you luck and pray for strength for you. I can’t imagine loving something that kills and knowing what has to be done. That would be like having a child for a murderer.

        I apologize if I come off harsh, but this really is a critical situation for you and, you are right, drugging up your dog for the rest of it’s life really isn’t going to be a good quality of life for your dog. At this point, it is only for you and avoidance of your loss of her. Imagine the loss to someone else if she accidentally gets loose and violently kills someone else’s pet or permanently disfigures someone. It is not a matter of if, but when.

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      2. Any dog not safe with other dogs, cats and squirrels and has already had aggressive interactions is not safe – what if the dog it attacked was being led by a child and people were not around. Read what you wrote out loud and then be a responsible owner and put the dog down. That is just a ticking time bomb – so many other nice dogs are waiting to be adopted that will be a better choice. There is no such thing as an indoor dog that will be safe, doors can be left open, emergencies where others will have to access your home etc. Not worth the life of a child, adult or someone else’s responsibly kept pet. Thankful not to be your neighbor as I would be in constant fear.

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      3. I sympathize with what Corinne has experienced, but no one should tell you what to do with your dog-reactive dog. There’s a big difference between human aggression and dog aggression, and the fact that you’ve kept your (12-lb!) dog from harming other animals for the past two years says a lot about your ability to manage her. Plus, she’s 10-1/2; she’s going to start mellowing out. (And it’s bullshit that medication makes dogs into zombies — not that she necessarily needs medication.) Geez … you clearly love your dog. If she has a good quality of life and you can continue to manage her, then enjoy her!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have questioned the no-kill movement since before we met in 2017, essentially for the safety reasons you mention. For many years I gave a large animal sanctuary my financial, volunteer, and in-kind donations. I have been leery of their new(ish) mission to save every one of the canines under their care, but I didn’t realize just how far they would stretch to get those dogs adopted. What happened to you, Bosco, and your family that night is a tragedy. The advice (and the resulting guilt) that was given you & Kevin by professionals is an outgrowth of this whole save every animal regardless of temperament. And it’s downright scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I commend you for being honest and open about your experiences.
    I agree with you 100%. No Kill is completely unreasonable and unrealistic. I adore most dogs, but am very aware that it is better for humans and most definitely the dogs whose quality of life is being ignored. A dog with little control over his aggressive behavior is no different than one that is terminally ill. If their pain, no matter from whence it comes, outweighs it’s contentment, euthanasia is a far better and safer outcome; for everyone. I’m so very sorry for your pain and your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I went through the same thing with my rescue. He was on medication and was being seen by a behavior therapist but he was still unpredictable. After 8 bites later (between myself and my daughter) I made the difficult decision to put him to sleep. 😥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And yet medication and behavior modification is still suggested when it’s most generally futile. Hopefully people read all experiences and not just the ones that make it easier on their own heart and conscience.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree totally. I learned this lesson from being on the board of an open shelter. I learned that a dog who is not safe around humans or other animals if kept alive, is destined to a lonely miserable life in a kennel with no physical contact. Our Executive Director understands this and helped us to understand that this life is worse than euthanasia. I have a “special needs” rescue hound that has not bitten anyone but he is fearful and territorial, so I am very careful about monitoring his behavior. He has had a lot of training and I am able to walk him safely, but he takes a tremendous amount of time. It is so hard; I am so sorry you and Bosco had to experience this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I remembered the day we found out you were attacked by Bosco. I was not only shocked but how violent it was. Reading your article was so riveting and so true. I wish we can save all animals but know that we can’t for some. Even though it is a difficult decision to put down an animal for behavior issues thinking we can change them, it is not always the case. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I couldn’t agree more. The focus needs to be on saving those that can safely be part of a home. Keeping an animal alive for “numbers” is self serving and hurts the animal. As human beings we have to decide that medical AND mental health need to be part of that decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story. The “No-Kill” narrative is hurting people and dogs, but the animal welfare community is still waking up to the reality that some animals need to be euthanized. I wish you well and hope writing this piece will bring some closure around Bosco’s death.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sometimes we need to save them from themselves. I refer to the Dunbar bite scale which says a level 4 bite indicates a dog with insufficient bite inhibition and is too dangerous to keep. Once a dog bites like this, something is not right in his head and he is not a happy animal. We have to take responsibility for putting them out of mental suffering just as we would physical suffering that cannot be relieved. That is how I interpret “save them all”.
    I applaud your courage and I regret that there are people who will try and shame you for your decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am so sorry you had to go through this, but your writing says it all. We had a similar experience. We took in a puppy that had been abandoned at our front door at Mother’s Day. He was about 16 weeks old and the Vet said he thought he was a Star Pei/Rhodesian Ridgeback cross, maybe 16 weeks old. We did everything we could. We took him to training, and loved on him. In November, there was a growth that appeared on his side, so we had it removed. After that, things began to change. He growled at every person he saw as we took a walk, so we stopped walking. He growled at my partner’s nephew who lived with us, and almost attacked him. He bit my partner twice, and almost bit me. In March, he had an eye injury, so we took him to the Vet. We had to walk him around outside until they had a room for us, and then come in through the back door. He tried to attack all the Vet Techs, so they took him to the back, put him in a crate and sedated him. When they brought him back to the room, the Vet told us we couldn’t give this dog away, and we couldn’t keep this dog. We had only one choice. He was not even a year old, but he was a danger to everyone around him. I will always regret having to put Buster down, but as our Vet said, we had no choice. I understand and agree with everything you wrote above, having experienced something of the same.
    Since that time, we have adopted two Lab mixes, who were the sweetest dogs ever. We took in my mother’s Beagle after my mother passed away. And we now have a Cocker/Shih Zhu mix and recently adopted a “Schnoodle” – all of them from our local Animal Control. We also volunteer with our local Humane Society. But I have never come across another dog like Buster.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for your bravery and compassion with your story. I’ve always been a believer that we cannot nor should we save them all. Some dogs are not genetically sound. And my belief is I’d rather seen them humanly euthanized to a much better life over the rainbow bridge. It’s never right to put a mentally unstable dog before a human. I hope you have healed physically. Psychology, it may never be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I had a similar experience – 12 bites – finally after thousands of dollars of behavior specialist training and medications (and reading an article like yours) I had my beloved Louie euthanized at the age of 3. I felt guilt and shame over not being enough for him. He was a frenchie-pug who was the product of in-breeding by a back yard breeder. Didn’t know any better at the time. Now I have “normal” dogs, I see the huge difference in temperament and behavior. Thank you for this article. It will help someone make the tough decision before it is made for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wonderfully written. For several years I worked with a boxer rescue as I am passionate about the breed and really all things animal. I was asked to drive several hours to go pick up a rescue that had been in a behavior training bootcamp for biting. He had bit several times prior to training and also during his stay there. When I went to pick him up the handler advised me to tie him in the back seat as far away from me as possible and to muzzle him. Her very cautious behavior told me everything. As I was getting all the warnings about transporting this dog I reached for the paperwork to sign for him. In an instant a scream came out of me as I realized the dog was hanging from my arm. The handler pulled him off and started crying. She said straight out he needed to be euthanized and that he had bit her the day before. I called the rescue and told them I was leaving without the dog and that he was dangerous and the consensus from myself and the facility was that he should be put down that day. I was his 3rd bite in as many days. What they did was blame me for moving my hand too fast near his head. The director picked him up the next day and took him home to “reform” him. After a couple months they felt they fixed him and with the help of a psychic animal reader decided to send him back to his original foster home–with children– because the psychic informed them the dog wanted his little girl so that he could behave and be happy. I don’t know what ever happened to him but the approach to saving this dog sickened me. Thank you for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is the most terrifying and irresponsible thing I have ever read. These types of rescues are actually becoming a menace. Something definitely needs to be done.

      Liked by 1 person

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