Thursday, October 23, 2014

Goodbye to Luke


I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done today. I surrendered my dog, Luke, to the Humane Society of North Texas. I always hated seeing the words “Owner surrender.” Dogs are part of your family, and you just don’t walk away from them, but here I was today, calling belatedly, “I love you, Luke” as he was led away.
I had Luke five weeks to the day. He’s probably a Bernese Mountain Dog/Aussie/Border Collie mix, a year and a half to two years old, up to date on shots and neutered (thanks to me), heartworm positive (we hadn’t gotten to the treatment yet). More important, he was full of love for the people he adored (including me) and he was so happy—played beautifully with Sophie, my border collie/poodle cross. Lived the good life for the last five weeks, before which he was a stray and then in a shelter. An escape artist, he’d get out of the back yard only to come to the front door and say, “Let me in.” He lived up to the Aussie moniker of "Wigglebutt"--his whole rear end would wriggle with happiness at the thought of coming in the house.

I thought today I’d be writing a plea for a new home for Luke—a home, preferably in the country, with no children and few if any guests. Full disclosure: Luke is a biter. It’s indiscriminate and unpredictable, and in five weeks we had five incidents. He seemed to dislike children, young people, and men (except for a few) but we never could tell when he would react with a snarl and a snap. We learned to restrain him but dog trainers advised me to get rid of him. I live with an eight-year-old here every afternoon, and I entertain often so there are people in and out of my house a lot—if for nothing else but happy hour. Mine is the wrong house for Luke.

 Now I find I’m writing a eulogy. My neighbor Jay—who went with me to rescue Luke—took me today to surrender him to the humane society. I know we did the right thing, the morally responsible thing—in fact, as I said when I got out of Jay’s truck, we did the right thing all along. We loved Luke, and we tried. Once before I decided to give him away and then backed off. This time the decision was the only choice I had. But the folks at the humane society said they will euthanize him—they cannot in good conscience place a dog that bites and might be a danger and a liability in a new home (liability was a factor that loomed large in the final discussions of Luke’s fate around here).

I am heartbroken at putting down a young, healthy (heartworms can be cured), vital, energetic and loving dog. Yes, I’ve done it with dogs that were old and/or sick. But Luke enjoyed life so much, had so much love to give and receive.

RIP Luke. Look for me on the Rainbow Bridge someday. I loved you as much as you loved me, and I will miss you. You will always have a corner of my heart.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, Judy, my heart aches for you. I know how much you wanted and loved this dog. You obviously love all dogs, and this one especially. Please know that everyone who knows you--or even just your writing--is grieving with you.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I wish I knew who you were so I could thank you personally. Your comment means a lot.

Terry Shames said...

Judy, sometimes the right thing is also the hard thing. You gave him a great five weeks--more than most people would have done.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Terry. Knowing that he was so happy here is both a comfort and a sad thought.

Polly Iyer said...

Aww, Judy. I'm so sorry. You would feel a lot worse if Luke had seriously hurt someone. Some traits are instinctive in certain animals, and there's nothing you can do to change that. You did the right thing for those you love. But I certainly know how you feel.

Carla Hoskins McDonald said...

Judy, we knew each other many years ago in Fort Worth when I was director at Thistle Hill. I do wish you had been able to find Luke a home - five weeks is a very short time for an Aussie to learn your ways, or for you to learn his. We only started having Aussies 2 years ago, they are a wonderfully smart and loving breed, and if you are familiar with them, they want to please, and they would do anything for you. I know several who would have gladly taken him. You might take his photo down,he looks like our black tri, and it is heartbreaking to think he is gone.

Judy Alter said...

Carla, of course I remember you. Thanks for couching your note in much kinder tones than some. I do know Aussies, have had them before. We're not sure Luke was Aussie--vet thinks Bernese Mountain Dog. I know Aussies and other dogs nip--Luke bit me often, love nips--but he also lunged snarling at strangers unpredictably. He would have done anything for me, but I could not take the moral or financial responsibility. I did what I did on the advice of two trainers and my vet. thanks for understanding that grief that continues to overwhelm me.