I have often been asked why I do rescue. Why would I subject myself to such heartache and sadness? I tell them the joy far outweighs the sadness. You must focus on little victories, not dwell on the failures. You celebrate the WINS and mourn the LOSSES. I tell them about all of the wonderful and amazing people whom I have met through rescue...volunteers and adopters alike. Then, I tell them the story of Pinky. He is THE REASON I got involved with rescue.
Through the struggles and tears, Pinky taught me a valuable lesson. Life with a dog is about the QUALITY of the time, not the QUANTITY. I did my best to make his time with me enjoyable, full of love, comfort and warmth. I couldn't "fix" what was broken, but I could celebrate his life by saving the lives of others. Rescue is my passion, my mission, my calling. Thank you, Pinky...you gave me the strength to endure the heartache of rescue, and focus on the HOPE!
Here is Pinky's story...
I picked him up off of the street, after seeing him wander the neighborhood for weeks. He was getting skinnier by the day, and I was determined to help him. I brought him home, and he was literally a rack of bones. He had scars on his body, which the vet later told me were from cigarette burns. He had scars on his legs from where he had been tangled in a chain...probably left to fend for himself for days on end, and the chain began to embed itself in his skin. This dog had issues. He was afraid of everyone. He would cower when you'd stand up. He's urinate if someone raised their voice. He was terrified when the closet door was opened, he would run away, as if he were afraid I was going to lock him up in there. The same was true for the bathroom. He never stepped foot in the bathroom...EVER.
Poor Pinky had been abused. No doubt about it.
He bonded to me, my husband and our dogs immediately. We had two German Shorthaired Pointers, so we were accustomed to the needs of an active and energetic dog. He ADORED our dogs, played well with them, and loved being with them. He followed them everywhere. The problem was that Pinky felt he HAD to protect our home. The first time, we didn't really "know" there was a problem. It all started so innocently. He bit my neighbor. You couldn't find a bigger dog lover than he. He was playing with Pinky, he blamed it on himself, saying he was tugging too hard on the rope, so it wasn't Pinky's fault. We brushed it off as a playtime accident. About a month later, he attacked my mother-in-law as she entered our home. He tore into her hand as she opened the door. He knew her! He knew she was not a threat! How could this happen? I was devastated at witnessing my sweet Pinky behaving so violently. I couldn't believe he was capable of doing such damage to someone he seemed to love and trust.
I had never dealt with aggression before, so I was in unfamiliar territory.
I decided to consult a canine behaviorist. She felt he had potential to overcome the issues, so we embarked on what would become a nearly two year-long effort to "re-train" him not to bite. We started with basic obedience, then intermediate, advanced, etc. Then, we did three rounds of "charm school" which is basically a room full of dogs that are human and/or dog aggressive, their owners trying to "fix" their dogs, so they don't have to put them to sleep for being dangerous. Talk about a room full of desperate people. We were all clinging to the hope that we could somehow fix what someone else had done to our dogs. To heal what was broken. To undo what had been done. Sadly, many of us were helpless to do so.
My husband and I separated, and without an extra set of hands to manage Pinky's behavior, we just simply stopped having anyone over. I would meet my friends at their homes. I stopped entertaining. When my mother and grandmother came to visit from out-of-state, I had to put Pinky into boarding. I just couldn't take the risk that he would harm my grandmother. She was so frail, and he so strong.
It was "easy" to manage his behavior if we didn't actually GO anywhere together (except for training classes). I guess I wasn't realizing that he was a prisoner in my home, as was I. Not to mention, my two existing dogs loved nothing more than to have company. They relished in the attention our dog-loving guests paid them, more laps to choose from, more faces to kiss. They could have none of that simple pleasure, as Pinky prevented us from having company.
Well, after a combination of diet, herbal "calming" remedies, nearly two years of intensive training and consistent behavior modification, Pinky bit again. This time it was ME, on MY leg, as he charged toward the mail man (through the closed storm door). I knew that day that there was no way I could fix this dog. I loved him with all of my heart. But, I knew he could not enjoy the luxury of just being a dog...relaxing on the sofa, lying by the fire. He had a job to do, and always had to be on guard, to protect me and my home. I also knew he was a liability...he could harm someone else...a child, an innocent visitor, etc. I spoke to my behaviorist and my trainer. We all agreed. We had given it our best shot. They assured me I had gone way above and beyond what many owners would do. I had invested an incredible amount of time and money...desperate to FIX him. What more could I do? I had to make a difficult decision to euthanize him.
I scheduled "the appointment" for late Saturday, the following weekend. It was a gray and gloomy New England February day (which fit the mood). Pinky and I relaxed on the sofa together. I wanted to drink in every last ounce of him. I didn't ever want to forget how he smelled, how his fur felt beneath my fingers, how he looked up at me with such beautiful brown eyes...oh that look...I will never forget that look.
On the way to the vet, it was drizzling. It was a damp, gray and cold day that soaked right into your bones. We went into the vet office, and they allowed me to sit on the floor with him. I brought Pinky's favorite blanket, and had given him a sedative before leaving the house, so he'd be a bit more relaxed. As I held him on the floor, my vet sat beside me, we had tears streaming down both of our faces. When he took his last breath, I realized something remarkable...he was relaxed. For the first time in 2+ years, he was actually at peace. He no longer had to protect me. He could rest.
I took a few moments to compose myself (well, more than a few minutes actually), and then put on my coat. As I walked outside toward my car, I realized the damp, gray sky had been replaced by a beautiful, sunny, pink sky. Everywhere I looked, there was pink. Bright pink, INTENSE pink, with sun beams streaming down through what little was left of the clouds. It was a stunning sight. I knew it was a sign. I had made the right decision. My little Pinky had gone home...he was at rest.