This little section of the blog is in memory of my beloved Boxer/Pitbull mix, Princess.
“I know that God would never give me more than I can handle, but I wish He didn’t trust me so much!
The Story of Princess:
Princess was fear aggressive when I got her as a foster, and I decided to keep her because I fell head over heels in love with her, and she bonded so well with me. I thought for sure that in time with proper training and socialization (along with a positive reintroduction to things) that she would do fine. She came to me from a police seizure in a cruelty case, and so underweight that you could count her ribs from across the room and see the bones in her little hips. She had been physically abused, neglected, and very mistreated.
Princess loved tennis balls, teddy bears, playing in the creek, long walks with mommy, and watching cartoons. Sponge Bob was her favorite, and she seemed mesmerized with it whenever it was on (I wouldn’t be “that” mom who went out and bought the collection for her so she could watch it over and over again… Okay, so maybe I was). She loved nylabones, rope toys, marrow bones, and her favorite food was Timberwolf Lamb and Apple. Tap water? Heh. No. She got bottled water just like the human members of the household did. Steak, broccoli, and carrots were her favorite human meal that she was allowed to indulge in about 2xs a month.
As I said, I thought that with a secure, loving environment, she would do better. However, that wasn’t the case. After three and a half years in my care, she was only getting worse. This was a dog who could care less about the NILIF program, literally rolled her eyes at trainers, would lunge through electric collars, choke herself on prong collars, take a treat from someone one moment to turn around and bite the next. Behaviorists couldn’t pinpoint any one thing that caused her aggression or set her off. There was no certain pattern to it, and she picked and chose with such… I don’t even know how to describe it. She’d do well with a dog one day to turn around and try to kill it the next. Do good with people one day, and bite the next. The only people she did 100% well with all of the time was me and one very good friend of mine.
When I first got into fostering/rescue, I told myself that I would never have a dog in my home that showed serious signs of aggression. That changed with Princess. Then, as time with on with Princess, I stopped fostering to focus on her and her needs. She became my dog, and she was the most important thing for me at that time.
While working with behaviorists and trainers, I was asked what it would take for me to put her down. I thought long and hard. At first, I said if she ever snapped at me or my partner. She did that. I changed my idea. Then, I said if she snapped at someone I knew unprovoked. She did that. I changed my idea again. Now, it was if she bit my partner or me. She did that. I changed my idea. If she bit someone I knew was the new thought. Ahem. She did that. Next it was if she broke skin. Then it was if she drew blood. Well, needless to say… she did those things too. I didn’t know what else I could say. I was determined to manage her issues. I mean, I managed a kennel. I dealt with dogs all day long. I could handle this… right?
I tried exercise. This little girl was GREAT at agility. You can’t say that maybe she was bored, because she certainly wasn’t that. She got a 30-45 min walk in the morning, 30-45 minutes at lunch time, and an additional 30-45 minutes when I got home from work. Then, she got another 1.5-2hr off leash intense playtime after dinner each night (I had a fully fenced in secure yard). On the weekends/my days off, she’d get an hour plus walk in the morning, an hour plus walk at lunch, an hour plus walk in the evenings, and at least two off leash intense play times lasting about an hour and a half to two hours each time. These play times included serious games of fetch (she could fetch for hours), swimming in the little creek, chasing me around on the four wheeler, and chasing after squirrels in the woods.
After two years, it was determined that my only alternative was either put her down or more strongly manage her aggression. I picked to more strongly manage at that time.
So for the next year, I thought maybe the one on one would do her good. I moved to a place outside of town with lots of acreage for her to run and play on. Yes, I moved for the dog. I gave her a bedroom in the house. My front screen door was kept locked at all times. Prin would be put up when guests came over before I even considered opening that door. Her bedroom door had a lock on it that required a key to access just in case someone brought a curious child over or accidentally went to open the wrong door. She had a futon in her room, a tv, and all of her toys. Her tv was kept on 24/7 so that outside noises couldn’t make her go off. If she even heard someone knocking at the door or talking outside that she didn’t recognize, she’d lunge at the door or window for almost an hour. I altered my life to make sure she was always safe, and that people who came around her were safe. I put her first, and then I scheduled my life second according to what was best for her.
Over the course of the three years that I had her, I invested hundreds of hours in training. I invested thousands of dollars in medication. I even invested in a behavioral training program that I sent her to in another state. Their program was supposed to last six weeks, and they had a high success rate. After two weeks, they called telling me that she was not able to be “rehabilitated” and I needed to either allow them to put her down, or come get her. Nothing was doing any good. She was 79lbs, and when she got on her “kick” she could drag me (5’8″ 170lbs) to the ground lunging after something. She would “zone out” on what it was, and it was like she could hear/see nothing else except what she was focused on. It would take two adults to get her back into the house…
She was on multiple medications. Those medications were Clompramine 80mgs 2xs a day, Valium 15mgs 4xs a day, and Benadryl 50mgs 1xs a day (this also was for her allergies). I had acepromazine on hand for when she got really out of control even. This dog, in three years had taken more medication than I had taken in my entire life.
Three years into this, just weeks before her 4th birthday, Prin started showing some signs of being sick. I told her one night “you know little girl… it’s okay if your time is up and you’re done fighting… I’ll miss you so much, but I’ll understand. I just want you to be happy”… She reached up and put her paw on my shoulder like she always did, and curled up next to me on the bed. Looking back now, I think she was telling me something. Two days later she wasn’t getting any better, so I took her into the vet.
I went inside and the vet I loved was behind the counter. I told him something just wasn’t right with her (she almost had a slight yellow tinge to her). He said let’s go and I went outside. She was in her crate in the back of the truck. She immediately started lunging at the crate door. I got her out, he looked at her (while muzzled) and said I needed to do blood work on her asap. I took her in through the side door, and got the blood work started. We were back in the staff lounge doing all this as the little exam rooms made her uncomfortable.
While they were waiting for the results, he said we seriously needed to talk about her behaviors. She was on the maximum dosage of everything, and it wasn’t affecting her. The previous CT scans had showed nothing medically wrong (such as tumors or brain damage). There was no medical explanation for her aggression worsening, and it seemed there was absolutely no explanation for her aggression other than the first nine months of hell she must have lived through.
The vets partner and the behaviorist on staff came in and joined in the conversation. For the next hour, we talked about her issues, what had been done, went over medical records, and talked some more… They said that I needed to think long and hard about what was best for her, and that they all once again recommended at this point, after all she had been through and everything I’d done, that it would be best for her if she was “let go”. It was a decision that had been talked about numerous times before, so it wasn’t anything new to me. Just, this time, I actually was considering it, whereas before, I was always willing to handle it and just “manage”.
Prin and I went outside, and I walked around for a bit. I gave her hugs, and we kinda talked. Her blood work came back unfounded. I knew that medically, more tests would need to be run, and honestly, I was done. I didn’t want to make her suffer through more tests, stress her out even more, and then move on to god only knows what kind of treatment. Not long after I got her, Prin went through having Parvo. Ugh. It was a nightmare, but she pulled through it just fine. Princess also slurped antifreeze one day during a walk and had to undergo treatment for poisoning. Once again, she pulled through just fine. She had undergone ctscans, blood work, etc. You name it. She had medically already gone through so much.
They came outside and asked what I had decided to do… and I told them that I was okay with the decision, though it was killing me. They offered for me not to be there, and there was no way in hell I was walking away from her to let her go from this world to the next alone. So I went back inside where the vet was waiting with the medication already drawn up (just in case so I wouldn’t have to wait while they did all that)… and I held her as they put the medication in. As soon as the needle went in her skin, I started bawling like a baby… Less than ten seconds later, she got heavy as the medication kicked in, and I couldn’t stop from repeating over and over again how much I loved her. I lay down with her she got heavy, and for the next hour (even after they pronounced her), I just lay there holding her sobbing.
I remember at one point, hearing a door open and looking towards the sound… They had come into the staff lounge via a patients exam room, and the look of sorrow on the clients who were in there will always be imprinted on my mind. I just lay there, holding her, not wanting to let her go. Me, OCD about cleanliness, I just laid there on the floor, snuggled up with her like I always did, not caring or giving a damn what was on that floor. I just wanted to hold her. I vaguely remember taking her collar off her, and taking her leash off her. I hardly remember leaving the office and getting home. I do remember insisting that I wasn’t just leaving her there on the floor, so they brought a blanket, and I helped them wrap her up…
Walking into a house just bursting with “Princess” all over. Bones lay half chewed. Toys lay where she left them. Her crate and blanket still had her imprint. Her food bowl had the perfect little empty spot in it where she ate from side to side of her bowl. I started bawling all over again. It took me about two weeks to be able to pick up all her stuff. I donated her food to a local rescue (as I had just bought food) along with her heartguard, comfortis, bowls, treats, bones, crate, and toys. I kept her favorite teddy bear, stuffie, pull toy, blanket, bowl, and even two bones that she had been chewing on.
Over the next week, I made arrangements with a Pet Crematory service. They picked up Prin from the vet, and on that Monday, called to let me know they’d be doing the cremation the next day. They wanted to share their condolences, etc… I asked if I could bring her a tennis ball to be cremated with her, you know, so she had her favorite toy with her at the bridge. I guess to me it was something to play with while she waited at the bridge. They said of course. I went out there, and was offered the chance to see her one last time. I had a friend with me, and I hemmed over the idea. I didn’t want to remember her laying there on the vet’s floor with her precious little eyes blank and staring, but how could I see her now? After a bit, I decided to see her, and they “prepared” her for viewing.
Honestly, I’d say that was the best choice I’ve ever made. When I went into the viewing room they had, she was curled up as she always did when she slept. Her eyes were closed, and she looked so darn peaceful. For the first time in as long as I could remember, she was finally “resting” peacefully, which she hadn’t been able to do in so long from stress. Right then and there, I knew I made the right choice for her. I stroked her head, told her I loved her, and kissed her one last time and left. Several days later, I picked up her urn, which now sits on my headboard with her favorite teddy bear holding it (ironic, the teddy bear that she once held now holds her). Inside the urn, the staff had tucked in a little bag clippings from her hair and a note that said “Rest in Peace Princess, your Mommy loves you”. When I found that, I broke down all over again…
There are nights when I wake up, and find my hand on her urn and teddy bear. Sometimes, I could swear to you I feel the weight of her behind my knees where she would sleep. There’s times I swear I see her shadow out of the corber of my eye, and I won’t lie… I could almost swear when my hand is swinging off the side of the bed, there are times when I feel like she’s walked up under my hand for a scratch/rub like she used to do whenever I was resting and reaching down to play with her (sometimes she’d sleep under my bed, so I had the bed raised a little so she would be more comfy under there)…
I did everything I possibly could for her, and more than most would… I’ll even be honest in saying that I recognize that I held on for way past the point that was safe to, not for her, but for me. In the end, when there was nothing else I could do, and no other choice that was safe for her and those involved… I lost the most important thing to me… My precious sweet Princess.
Looking back now, and doing the math, honestly, I can say in three and a half years, I invested somewhere between 15 and 25 thousand dollars in her. Between the medications, special diets, allergies, training, behaviorists, programs, etc… Well, she was my little down payment on a house, new car, what have you. She was 100% worth it, and not for one single moment do I regret all the time, love, energy, and money I put into her.
How did I pay for it, you ask? When it comes to affording, I’ll be honest with you. There were many months that I went without very basic needs to cover her medical expenses. In my life, Prin came first, and I came second. Rent would be late. My personal insurance would lapse. I’d have cable or my cell phone cut off for a few weeks. Bagels, toast, and cheap freezer meals were my staples for a while. Her food/treat bill cost me around $120-150 per month alone due to her special diet. Tack on her meds, and honestly, between the two, it averaged out to $400 a month BEFORE you tacked on training, vet bills, etc.
Okay… so I’ve rambled with her story long enough… My main goal was to share her story with you, and to say that there needs to be harsher sentences for those who use our beloved bully babies for ANYTHING other than family pets. While many people won’t agree with me, I look at abuse/mistreatment of an animal as one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed.
For some of us, our animals ARE our children… No animal should have to suffer so badly that they are affected for the rest of their life. No dog should go through the hell that Princess went through, which caused her to not be able to have a happy, stable, life….