Sweet and Sour
On Saturday, September 22, 2018 I did one of the hardest things I have ever done. I put my dog down. He wasn’t so sick that euthanizing was the only option. On the contrary, he was still gladly shaking his paw and giving us kisses to earn his treats up until the very minute he was put to sleep. Bruin would have been fourteen years old on September 30th.
Bruin’s story began when he was given to me as a Christmas present in 2004. The hub gave him to me as an opportunity to stall having babies and so Bruin became our very first child. He was also the primary tool for communication in our marriage. Even though the hub and I had been together for seven years before we got married, we had only been married for 18 months when we got Bruin. So like most newly weds, there were issues that needed to be discussed and we began using Bruin as our diffuser. I’m pretty sure many couples can relate to this. Bruin was my best friend and because I worked from home, he was with me twenty-four-seven. He kept me company because the hub put in a ton of hours at work and we didn’t have any family in Florida.
When we brought Bella home from the hospital after she was born, we had Bruin go to the garage and walk into our home with the hub, the baby and me. I was told this would help Bruin feel like he also brought Bella into the house and this would alleviate any feelings of resentment. He quickly decided that every time she cried, he would bark to make sure we knew something was wrong. Although it was chaotic to hear both cries and barking at once, we felt it was more good than bad. Fortunately my mom stayed with us for three months after Bella was born and I was able to continue giving Bruin excellent care and attention. After my mom went home, I had to figure it all out. It was tough but we got thru it.
We moved to MPLS when Bella was seven months old and Bruin had to adjust from condo living to house living. It was easy to do except that he needed to be walked to go to the bathroom which meant that we couldn’t just let him out the door. That was a major adjustment for all because it meant strollers and the elements of weather came into play. We got thru all the adjustments. Then one evening after we went apple picking after school, three year old Beau was playing around and I was getting the bath tub ready. Beau reached out to touch Bruin’s forehead while he was chewing on his bone and Bruin bit Beau on the cheek. After stitches and a lot of crying (by me not by Beau), I reached out to friends to ask, what should I do about Bruin? Two camps: One camp said - “He’s got to go down. Once dogs bite, they never forget.” And the other camp said — “Well, Beau did reach out when Bruin was chewing on his bone.” This scenario has run thru my head thousands of times. The hub believed that paying top dollar for training would solve it all. In hind sight, we bought seven more years of life for Bruin.
In the course of seven years Bruin bit Grandpa Tom, Lily the babysitter, Irma the housekeeper, Sam the playdate, my mom, Carla the neighbor and me twice. Bruin was just unpredictable because he hurt so much and we wouldn’t know when or where he hurt. He was on four kinds of medicine to help him manage the pain. I was hoping if he wasn’t in pain, he wouldn’t bite.
I really love my vet. One day she said something that I had never thought of before. She said, “Pets are supposed to add value to our lives, not take away value.” Well, of course, I thought. But she pointed out that since the first bite, we hired trainers to try to undo the behavior, we kept him in a crate when people came to our house, we were cautious and constantly had to be on our toes. All of that is not added value; it’s work. Did I mention for the last year he couldn’t walk up and down the stairs because of the arthritis and he pooped on three rugs that needed to be thrown away because we couldn’t get the stains out? Bruin had dementia so sometimes I would walk him and he would come home only to poop all over the house 20 minutes later. Towards the end, he would only want to walk half a block, do his thing and turn right back around to go home. Totally uncharacteristic of him. I must also mention that Bruin’s quality of life changed because instead of being around people - which was his ultimate favorite thing - he was forced to be in the bedroom behind a closed door. He would just bark until someone stayed with him in the room. When we got desperate, we would board him in a kennel. This went against everything the hub and I swore we would ever do again because the first time Bruin was in a kennel, he got kennel cough. However, at this point, we couldn’t have anyone else watch him because we feared he would bite them and so a kennel was our only solution.
Given all of this, I would have gladly picked up poop, thrown away rugs, pick him up every time he wanted to go up or down the stairs, schlep him to/from a kennel or vet without one single hesitation. He was the sweetest dog in the world and I would do all of the above forever and ever. But he bit. And when dogs hurt people, the value is diminished. I was putting others in harm’s way every time someone went near him. That is not cool. I was mad that I was put in this situation. I was mad that Bruin would hurt us. I was mad that the hub wouldn’t let go of him. I was mad that my values were being ignored. The last time we put him in a kennel, he bit one of the care givers. My hopes of having a safe place to bring him went right out the window. Even though the kennel would accept him for more visits, I wouldn’t be able to relax for fear that he would bite someone else. The other part I hated about keeping him alive was that since I had to take him to the vet and the kennel often, it meant Bruin had to get in and out of the car many times. If I reached to help him step down or get him out of the car, Bruin would show his teeth warning me not to touch him. I was forced to stand back and watch him fall to the asphalt, flat on his stomach because his legs could not hold him. I would hear the worst thumps and even though I knew it must have hurt badly, I couldn’t even hug him or pick him up for fear that he would bite me. It was awful.
So this is my sour story of Bruin. I’m mad that we arrived to this point; that he put me in a situation where I had to take away his life in order to save others. I’m sad that he was still very much happy but he wasn’t the right kind of healthy. I loved my sweet dog with my whole heart and I will never, ever forget him. I have many, many sweet stories and memories of Bruin and I VOW TO FORGET THE SOUR ONES! My grieving process has begun. I am grateful to all who listened to this sour story - the gesture of hearing the story is a thoughtful pinch that I needed in order to forget and move onto the sweet memories of my Bruin. Thank you for being there.