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.
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