Monday, February 27, 2017

Dogs I have known and loved II—the dog that broke my heart

I always thought Sophie needed a playmate (this was before the Burtons and their Cavaliers moved into the house) so I was ever on the lookout for the dog I couldn’t resist. I saw him one morning—I suspect on Facebook when the shelter that held him posted his picture. I called my neighbor, Jay, and asked if he wanted to drive to Decatur that morning (30-40 miles away). “Not particularly,” was his answer. But when I told him the story and sent him the picture, he was hooked. I called the shelter to make sure they’d hold the dog for me. And off we went.

At the shelter, someone mentioned that the dog had gotten a bit testy with a groomer, but no more was said and in my euphoria, I passed it off. He was sort of collie-like, sort of Aussie, I wasn’t sure. He had no back-story; he’d been found on the side of the road. But he was gorgeous, and he loved both of us right away. Jay walked him around to see how he behaved and pronounced it good. We took him.

In the truck on the way home we named him Luke Alter. Jay thought it had a perfect ring, and I thought it sounded like a character out of one of the many westerns I’d written. We laughed and joked, always with Luke pressing his nose between us to get attention.

I took him to the vet, who pronounced him mostly Bearnese Mountain Dog—small for the breed but the coloring was right on. He was healthy—and well behaved. For the first few days his only flaw was a tendency to escape the back yard—if I parked in the back of the driveway and headed toward the front door, I’d find him trotting along next to me. He’d dug out and just wanted to be with me. Sometimes he dug out when there was no one there—then he’d appear at the front door, obviously wanting to be let in. Luke knew he had a home, and he had no desire to go anywhere else.

Trouble began when he got a toy stuck under an ottoman, and Jacob tried to free it for him. Luke apparently thought Jacob was taking his toy and snapped. We chalked it up to a misunderstanding. But then Luke violently attacked a dinner guest who went to him with arms outspread. Next it was the teenager across the street who dog-sat for me. And he snapped at Jacob again. My dog-sitter’s mother said the most cogent thing: “You can keep him but you’ll have to change your lifestyle.” It meant no more company; the people I loved would not feel free to come to the house.

Jordan and Christian finally said they were going to curtail Jacob’s visits to the house. They couldn’t take a chance.

All along it was clear that Luke adored me—and I returned it in kind. He’d sit next to my desk, and we’d have long petting sessions and conversations. But I was tormented. I had to do something. I consulted my vet; trainers and breeders. The universal opinion was that if he was a biter, he wasn’t going to change. And if I surrendered him, I needed to be truthful: I couldn’t foist a biter off on innocent people.

Reluctantly Jay and I took him to the humane society. I swear they euthanized him before we were even out of the parking lot. It was one of the most traumatic moments in my life.

I blogged about the pain this had caused me, expecting a flood of sympathy. Instead, I got the most responses I’d ever gotten to a blog—close to 500—almost all condemning me for my cruelty, saying I hadn’t tried. Several people rushed to the humane society to adopt him, only to find he was already gone. When I was feeling most vulnerable, I was vilified. It hurt…and Luke remains a raw place in my heart to this day. I truly loved that dog, but I couldn’t give up family and friends for the sake of a dog I’d had less than a month and one that experts advised me to put down. Luke broke my heart.


Anonymous said...

You are a RESPONSIBLE dog owner. The dog should "fit" your family. I have kids and I couldn't under any circumstances have a dog that bites, its unacceptable and as responsible dog owner I would try to find it a good home or take it to a shelter. I see too many owners who abandon their dogs at parks, malls or such in order to avoid the inherent responsibility they have. That is cowardly, you received blow back? so what? you did the right thing and doing the right thing sometimes may not be popular.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks. I needed affirmation about Luke. Bless him, I adored that dog but I adore my grandson more.