Saturday, November 19, 2011

Very Sad

A.-F. Desportes, Dog and Pheasant, 1780s
This painting has always reminded me of Sawyer: change the coat to black and elongate the tail, and there's our hound.Was. I'm so sad to write that we've decided to find another home for Sawyer.  Mac is taking him to the Bloomington Humane Society, where he's bound to find a better situation.  Things have been progressively worse on the children front (this was the stuff that I couldn't write about: who can't fix this?), and we've now had enough close calls that we couldn't in good conscience live with the risk of his aggression to kids-not-his-own.  He was so good to our kids: gentle and he'd stretch out and Iris would rest her head on his great big heart.  And he was great with the dogs in our playgroup - a beautiful runner and chaser and always thinking of new games.  And we loved our walks (even (especially, actually) the 5:45 a.m. ones) and learned from what he watched and listened for.  But a three-hour stand- (snarl, bark and rush) -off while Iris had a friend over two weeks ago started us thinking in this direction.  Consultation with the trainer at PetSmart (where he did pass his class, he is responsive and dear, just God, not around children) confirmed that Sawyer probably needs "rehabilitation" to socialize with strangers.  We don't know what life was like for him those first 10 months before he was brought to the shelter where we claimed him.  Maybe he'd been a guard dog, maybe... I don't know. And now we won't know what happens to him next - although Bloomington is the very best city in the entire state, and Mac has a whole list of specificities to tell the behaviorist there (they have a behaviorist at this Humane Society).  This has to sound strange and awful - and it is.  We're so sad, and Oliver and Iris, especially, are taking it really hard. Four months with us - three and a half of them under the siege of this one conflict.  People had stopped coming to our house (there's aggression with adult strangers, too, but he calms down after about half an hour), kids certainly.  How can a dog be so sweet with his family and then so aggressive with everyone else? As I write it down, of course I know that in some ways that's how it works - you're in the pack circle or you're not.  But I guess we're not a pack.  Shit.  It was not supposed to turn out this way, and I keep replaying the last four months in my head: what could have been done differently, did something go wrong, what might still be done?  I feel as though I have failed this beautiful dog. I definitely definitely feel a tremendous sense of failure here. I can't bear to think of what he'll feel over the next few days. Mac says that dogs live more in the moment and that Sawyer's good moment will come - that somebody who doesn't have a steady parade of comings and goings in his space will be able to reward his powerful protection of his family.  Maybe a big, open farm where he can finally chase the deer that kept crossing our paths.


  1. I am very sorry.

    We also had to give up our first dog, but for the opposite reason: he could not stand to be alone. we tried everything: habituation therapy, medication, nothing worked, so we ended up giving him to a retired couple on a farm with other dogs. Saying good-bye to Duncan was so hard that I still remember it vividly, and the feeling of having somehow failed him by not figuring out what it took to make him always happy in our "pack" haunted me for a long time. But I know that it would have been cruel to him to keep him with us ... and it sounds the same for Sawyer, that he needs something that he is not going to find in your home, and that has nothing to do with you.

    Thinking of you and saddened to hear about what your family is going through.

  2. Thank you so much for your words, Jeffrey. The house yawns so empty this morning, and thinking about Sawyer's better future really helps. Thinking about prehistoric relationships to stones does, too. Actually, we probably had prehistoric relationships with dogs, too, didn't we?

  3. Hi Anne!

    So sorry to hear about Sawyer. Even though I understand why it does feel like failure-it sounds like you did all you could--imagine if something bad would have happened. I have a mild large dog phobia that Bill teases me about but its origin is in a childhood incident where a doberman came out and attacked both me and my sister. It was terrifying--he pinned her down and I stood by helpless and screaming. I'm still cautious around large dogs. (And it is probably why I prefer cats). Anyway I am sure you will find a dog that will just fit in better with your bus,y happy (and very social)lives.

    Even though I prefer cats I am positively batty about corgis....I think they are just the sweetest looking dogs with their fuzzy butts, pointy ears and stubby little legs. And ever since I found out that my maternal great-great grandfather's first name was Philpotts, I have been obsessed with getting a corgi and naming him just that! We shall see if it ever comes to pass. If I had a different kind of life I also think a parrot could make a wonderful pet...

    Anyway-all the best and good luck on getting through this sad crisis!

  4. oh dear Cathie, what a horrific incident. Well, that was the nightmare scenario that we feared we couldn't prevent if if if... I don't know if you're on twitter at all, but there's a Corgi with a feed there (oh yes), named CorgiSusie - she writes about stuff like Dogs Playing Poker and stopping and smelling the pee next to the roses. Might contribute to your love affair with the corgis. :-)