Pickles’ Story

Pickles was found as a stray. His owner never claimed him.

He came to live with us, and we loved him so much. He was such a good little dog. Socially motivated and eager to connect, he gave hugs and adored snuggling. He was great with other dogs and gentle with children. He ran happily next to my bike and was always up for an adventure.

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The first time we left Pickles alone for a short time, we came home to a scene that hit me in the guts like a punch out of nowhere. Pickles had panicked at being left, shredding the thick plastic pan of his crate and injuring himself in the process. The carpet was soaked with his blood, and his paws and mouth were sore. He crawled out of his crate, eyes wide and tail tucked to his belly button, and froze in fear. For nearly ten minutes, little Pickles was practically catatonic, unable to walk and unresponsive to touch or verbal reassurance.

Some level of isolation distress is not uncommon in dogs who have just come from the pound, but this was extreme. Pickles was immediately started on the best behavioral modification plan and pharmaceutical help we could give him.

1533789_10155920544715001_6928477487998629509_nMore demons appeared, however. As I went to leash him the next day, my hand moving quickly towards him caused him to flinch and hit the ground in terror, screaming, then lunge upwards and bite my arms before running into his crate to hide. The word “no” made him likewise hit the ground, eyes wide and face tight, then hackle up and bark furiously. Our roommate’s raised voice (in excitement, not anger) or direct eye contact provoked similar defensive barking, and when my fiancé picked up a stick-like toy to engage Pickles in play, the little dog ran away and hid behind my legs.

Pickles was in a safe environment and he was loved. He also posed a significant safety risk: to himself, to his adopters, and to the community. In a committed home with good management and training, dogs with similar issues to Pickles may be kept successfully. But Pickles wasn’t in a long-term situation. He was in rescue.

11406867_10155908555200001_8288304583931748049_nI’ve written about it before, but putting a face to the dilemma is so much harder. Rehabilitating Pickles would be a long-term project. During the time that it would take to help him, twenty other needy dogs in our community could be saved. Just because those dogs weren’t in front of me, just because they didn’t have eyes I could look into and soft, warm fur under my hands, did that make them any less deserving than Pickles? Furthermore, even with the very best training, Pickles had shown that he was willing to use his teeth when frightened, and therefore presented a very real liability to place.

10426261_10155935367615001_6559377376748309072_nAnd what about Pickles himself? His separation issues had nothing to do with the crate – he was perfectly comfortable in it when someone was nearby, but freaked out when left gated in the kitchen with food toys (which went untouched) or loose with another dog for company. The fact that he panicked so badly as to injure himself was heartbreaking. I couldn’t imagine the sheer level of terror I would have to feel to rip off fingernails or claw at something until my fingers bled. How much trauma would I have to endure before a simple word or action caused me to reflexively respond with violence and fright?

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Waiting for a bacon cheeseburger outside Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

Pickles had the best time we could give him. He played with dogs at the park and rolled in mud puddles like a little piggy, making sure to flop side-to-side to coat himself evenly with sticky slime. He ran and ran. He jumped baby gates and went over and under our backyard fence, wiggling with pride at his vertical accomplishments as I laughed and thanked the stars for leashes. He ate all the best things – bacon cheeseburgers, ice cream, roast beef, cream cheese, pepperoni. He discovered the joys of squeaky toys and raw meat in Kongs and real bones from the butcher and sleeping in bed (under the covers, of course). He was told that he was a good, good boy, the best, and that he was loved and safe.

And then the vet came, and Pickles left the world safe and loved, in arms that held him close, with a voice whispering all the kind things he needed to know. And it sucked, and I cried for days.

During Pickles’ time with us, I’ve been honest about him on Facebook and with my students, both the good and the bad. I’ve shared how he snarled over bully sticks and how he was respectful of kitties. I’ve shared how, while he didn’t even know the word “sit,” he definitely knew about the joys of car rides.

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Ice cream!

And I get that this topic is awful. It is. It’s horrible, and it hurts so badly that a bright, funny, sensitive little dog had to die. It hurts that people have sent me messages telling me how very wrong this decision was, and how love alone could have saved Pickles if I’d only cared enough (or worse yet, how I should send him to Cesar Milan). It hurts to know that whomever had Pickles may at this very minute have a new puppy, one who doesn’t bite them when they say “no” or destroy their house when they leave him… yet.

The truth is that this is the reality of our world right now. There are not enough resources available to save every dog, and it’s not in every dog’s best interest to be kept alive. Sometimes letting go is the kindest thing.

But it’s fixable, readers, and that’s why I’ve been honest about Pickles’ story even though the hate mail tears me up a little more each time and the days with him shredded my emotions. The answer is education. It’s catching Pickles’ family when he was still a baby, and teaching them about separation training and socialization and the dangers of physical punishment. Did you know that my blog posts about socialization, puppy care, and management only reach about 1/10 of the people (if that) that the blog posts about aggression reach? Puppy stuff may not be as sexy as discussions about biting dogs, but if we could get the word out about the former the latter would become much less necessary. It really is that simple, and that difficult.

1521329_10155928194045001_1043679662547956399_nPickles isn’t my first compassion hold, and I suspect he won’t be my last (although I hope otherwise). In fostering over one hundred dogs, this is the third time a dog has come into my life and my heart with hopes of a bright future, only to show me that they can’t be safe or happy. (Many others have come into my home during their last days, as creaky old fifteen-year-old dogs who need a soft place to lay their heads for a few days or weeks or months, but we all know that it’s not the same to euthanize an old, sick dog as it is to say goodbye to a young dog like Pickles.)

Please know that Pickles’ story happens, more often than you may think. And please, help me to prevent it from happening to other dogs.

51 responses to “Pickles’ Story

  1. Not all dogs can be “fixed” … not all dogs “should” be fixed. I know your heartache, I know the dog’s terror, first hand. Sometimes, the hardest part is seeing beyond what the heart feels …

  2. Thank you for your loving decision. You have my respect for making the hard choice–but the one that serves Pickles and the community best.

  3. Thank you for sharing. You made a hard decision but the right decision. Thank you for your continued hard work with rescues and attempting to educate the general public about anxious dogs and that Cesar Milan is NOT right.

  4. I fully support your decision to let Pickles go. It’s got to be a terrifying way to live (for the dog).

    I had a foster here for eight months. I actually adopted specifically so that I could put her down. She was 11 when she was thrown away by the only family she knew. But by then she had laryngeal paralysis, severe arthritis in the hind end, and both separation anxiety and isolation distress. The worst part, though, was that the previous family had punished the growl out of her so that she snapped without warning. Well, there were warnings if you had a Ph.D. in dog body language.

    I couldn’t leave her alone. And I couldn’t leave her with someone else because of the snapping.

    I have five acres and am home most of the time. I thought we’d be able to work it out. But she didn’t want to be in the barn with me or outside and she couldn’t be left alone in the house. She destroyed three doors. Crating was not an option.

    The previous family didn’t treat her arthritis either and I’m sure that was a factor in her snapping at their four-year-old who offered her food and then took it away.

    They tried Rimadyl for one month, Deramaxx for one month, and one acupuncture treatment. But they never followed through.

    Neither their vet NOR mine (!) suggested a cheaper pain reliever until I wanted to try aspirin. The above options were too expensive, I’m sure, at $65/mo. Metacam (meloxicam) is only $4/mo. That and a Thundershirt and melatonin and Xanax helped Brandy with her anxieties and pain and helped her sleep at night instead of pacing all night long.

    But nothing would help the snapping without growling first.

    We were leaving town for two weeks and I couldn’t leave her with anyone – either at home or at the vet’s. She had eight good months with me and then I helped her across the rainbow bridge.

    It’s heartbreaking no matter what. But you did the right thing.

    • I concur, the right thing was done; biting from fear-aggression combined with a panic disorder that cannot be controlled by meds is a good sign of deep trauma and unfortunately very probably also underlying illness.

      I’m so sorry though, it’s very hard to be the one who has to do this for any dog. I believe I saw his photo before on Lost Dogs MN, and I hope you will post that he’s crossed the rainbow bridge along with this story.

  5. Wow, seriously? Send a dog like that to Cesar Milan? I can’t imagine that poor dog being pushed physically and mentally. A foot “nudge”, a forceful poke in the side, flooding. No way. Bless you for making his final days so happy and content. We love you Pickles.

  6. I love this blog and read it faithfully. You have so much to offer – please ignore the hate mail – you are so correct in doing what you do. THANK you for your honesty, and I hope the empty holes in which it’s possible to fall when it seems there is not enough time to reach all the ignorant people out there get less deep somehow. Carry on. Courage. You’re doing good.

  7. Thank you for your courage- for speaking out about an issues that most of us have a hard time wrapping our heads around. Thank you for sharing the reality of the situation and what life would have truly looked like for pickles. Thank you for making the decision to let him go even though it ripped your heart out- you are brave and selfless nothing less than that. I am so grateful this dog found his way to you. I am sad about the comments you received and how much they must have hurt you- on behalf of all of us lifting you up right now I’m truly sorry.
    Thank you for being kind to animals- through training and educating the public:)
    Thank you thank you

  8. I believe in my heart and soul that you did the right thing. Remember that Pickles is very happy now that he is very the Rainbow Bridge. PLus I am very glad that you did not send him to Cesar Milan.

  9. Thank you for your honesty.

  10. Sara, your decision to let Pickles go was the right one. They cannot all be saved, period. And honestly, with Pickles’ degree of anxiety I have to wonder if he could ever be helped in any lasting way. Not having a behavior background but knowing a LOT of dogs, some are just hardwired in a way that doesn’t allow for what we consider “normal” behavior. There is a switch that can be triggered. Think of the Rage Syndrome in some Springer Spaniels who are otherwise well adjusted and raised with care. It happens. Pickles was lucky to have you and Matt. RIP sweet one….

  11. As a fellow rescurer, I want you to know that those of us who have been in your place knows the strength it takes to do the right thing. While we would
    dearly love to save each and every one of them, some just can’t be saved. There are soooo many that need the help and have the potential for a good, happy life. The time it takes to try to even partially rehab one super dog while dozens of less damaged ones get put to sleep is why we have to make decisions like you did with Pickles. When a dog is so damaged he injures himself and others, the best we can do is what you did. It’s easy for others who have not been there to think that every one can be saved. Oh if only that were true. If only we could reason with them and explain their hell is over and whatever caused the damage will never happen again, but sadly these animals are reactive and suffer from deep PTSD that can not be reasoned away. For the safety of themselves and especially to others, it’s the kindest, lovingest, and most difficult thing we can do…
    RIP Pickles and all the others fur babies damaged beyond repair, by unknowing or uncaring humans

  12. We just can’t fix them all, that’s the truth. Sometimes the damage is just too great. You tried for far longer than I could have done, and I am grateful that his last time on earth was with people who truly loved and understood him. If only all dogs had that opportunity. Hugs.

  13. It is true that we cannot “fix” every dog and we cannot save them all. Bless you for giving Pickles some love and comfort before letting him go. No dog should ever have to live in such a state of fear and terror. You did the best for him. I agree that education is the answer and I too try to help dogs by educating people. Keep up the good fight.

  14. I think you made a brave decision. My question to the people that did not support this and told you so, would they have been willing to take him on? Most likely not.

  15. Patti Schultz

    Thank you for putting Pickles best interests at heart. As the mom of a shy fearful dog, sometimes there is nothing you can do to break through their fear. A wise vet behaviorist told me that if they are stuck in fight or flight mode, no amount of training or rehab helps. They can’t process it. We have chosen to help Olivia however she is able to be helped with meds and behavior modification. You made the right choice. Quality of life matters…

  16. Thank you. 13Years later I still feel guilty about letting a foster go as well. I know it was the right choice . At least now I don’t feel so all alone with the decision.

  17. I understand your pain. I have a rescue now. At first she was fearful and reactive. I had no ‘previous history’ background , her past was a void. Young and energetic she seemed at odds with almost everything. I began to resent the amount of attention it took just to take her for a leashed walk. All this initial stuff kept building until one day I had to decide what to do. Considered giving her away , would have been easy since she is a beautiful Samoyed . But,,,my conscience would not allow that. So, I made a very deliberate decision to love her, let her know she was special and important , I wanted her around , she had a home. Started some consistent positive training and she responded well. All of a sudden ,it seemed ,the reluctance and fear diminished. It was a sea change for both of us. I learned a lot from her and now it is a pleasure to have her around. She still has some idiosyncracies from whatever abuse she endured previously but is happy, responds to me , likes being ‘home’, etc. I am able to enjoy her character for what it is . Walks and trips are now off leash , fun for both of us. Point is this could have gone different , it was lucky . When I found myself at the same brink of confusion it was terrible. ” Accept what I couldn’t change, courage to change the things I could and wisdom to know the difference’, is my mantra. Sometimes that wisdom provides some pretty tough directions. You did what you could.

  18. Lynn Schubert

    Thank you for that lovely but heartbreaking post. I understand every word. I have accepted Sled dog rescue. She has never been aggressive but all the other than that I have one fearful/sometimes terrified girl. She has been with me, no other dogs, and she is still living with fear. I will remember your words and your mantra. You are a strong person to have done the best for your dog.

  19. Thanks so much for this post. I hope everyone who doesn’t understand at least reads it and is moved by your compassion. I love the term “compassion hold” . It is perfect for nearly every person I know who has held dogs for euthanasia, from vet techs to shelter staff. Every death is felt, every life counts.
    I sometimes tell clients with dogs who are suffering with mental illness it can be harder on the dog than physical problems. I also agree with a “good bye” party, as much for us as the pup.

  20. Nina McCoy Royce

    I have been in your shoes and I know exactly how you feel. What most people don’t understand is that there are worse things out there for pets than a humane death. Pickles knew your love and would never again have to face what got him dumped in the first place. Thank you for making the right decision for him and one that most owners won’t be willing to make. They’ll just pass the problem along to someone else.

  21. Jean ( and Barney- aka-Barnes)

    Thanks for taking the time to share a little bit about Pickles and educate others and myself about these sweet , sweet animals- many who face daily struggles even under the best conditions. You shed light on the plight of animals who speak, but may not be heard or are ignored/ neglected. My little bubby, laying here by my side; he gives me so much joy and love. I am glad there are people like yourself willing to observe, react , instruct and love; giving these animals another chance at life. God bless you for shouldering the heartbreak . You’re awesome!

  22. Sara, you are brave and right to have shared so much with Pickles, and given him the best love and care that you could. I too have been through this process. I tried to apply behavior mod and meds to my Tycho for close to 3 years, before deciding that the cost to our other family members and other animals was too much, and that he was too risky to be re-homed. Tycho was put to sleep on January 2nd this year. I will never forget him, and my heart aches for my sweet little boy who was a Jekyll and Hyde dog. You are brave, you are correct. Never doubt yourself, and please ignore the hate mail. Those people do not know what your experiences were. You can read about Tycho’s story here: http://learningwithdogs.com/2015/01/05/making-the-decision-to-euthanize-our-problem-behavior-dog/

  23. I feel your pain. You just can’t fix everything with a stray that was damaged. I tried too and failed.When they bite and clamp down and make you bleed that is the line. The dog was good but also had a badness in them that you can’t break. So yes I held my stray and sent him to a better place.

  24. Thank you for writing this and sharing this honest and real even though heart breaking story. Saving dogs like this does start at the beginning. Who knows, maybe he was born like this and his new owners were dealt with the genetic lottery of raising a very hard dog to raise and did with him what they knew best to do until they could do no more and deal with him no more. They did not have the training knowledge or support, whether they did not seek it or whether they did and received bad advice (plenty of bad professional trainers out there “helping” dogs). But they got him from some where and well bred dogs with solid genetic temperaments rarely turn out like this even when they have been through abusive situations. Even poorly bred dogs from breeders who at least take some responsibility for what they have produced will always take back one of their own. This is the result of what happens when people breed for money, or for some personal reason, and do not take the mental and physical health and stability of the dogs or the social responsibility of bringing these dogs into this world into account. Dogs like this are produced like disposable plates, and then bounced from one poor situation to another, usually their lives ending in some horrible sad lonely and terrified experience. It’s the lucky few who end up in the hands of some one with a heart big enough to take on the burden to make that extremely difficult and responsible decision to help that dog leave this world in as peaceful and companionate way they can. Thank you for being that person and choosing to live with the burden of that decision so that another being can have peace.

  25. Thank god for people like you, You’re kindness gave a sad scared little dog something he wouldn’t have otherwise known unconditional love and that’s priceless. You helped him over the rainbow bridge in a pair of loving arms no dog could ask for a better end. If only everyone who had dogs had a heart as big as yours there would be no need for shelters sadly that will never happen so thank you again for what you do to help dogs that need love and kindness.

  26. Although the suggestion to send the dog to Cesar was ridiculous, it is because Cesar does not help dogs for free. No one does. But if anyone watches his show, he has helped traumatized dogs. He is very gentle with them. I also know of other trainers with great programs but are around 2000 dollars for a dog rehab program. Unless that trainer is willing to volunteer their services rescues do not have those types of resources. There may or may not have been behaviorists to help this dog but they cost an arm and a leg to help one dog when that money could be used for multiple dogs.

  27. Sending sympathetic hugs and I think it is a shame people are nasty when you gave what you could for this poor dog. It is not possible for one person to save them all, bless you for what you do xx

  28. Thanks for sharing this emotional story. It is difficult and we do our best. Sure hind sight is 20 20. Condolences.

  29. Thank you for sharing Pickles story. Thank you for writing. Thank you for your honesty.

  30. Thank you for sharing and for giving Pickles some good experiences before he had to go.

  31. I love this article. In the animal rescue community we try so hard to save every animal and feel defeated as if we’ve let the animal down when we can not save them. Every healthy and adoptable dog deserves a home. But, it is irresponsible (and a liability) to adopt our a dog who is dangerous – even to a family that says they understand the risks. Even the No Kill Revolution acknowledges that no kill does not mean NEVER. There are circumstances that are beyond both ours and the dogs control. I agree 100% with the comment that during the time she worked with Pickles, she could have saved 20 other dogs. That is the dark side of providing sanctuary to an unadoptable dog… dozens of healthy, adoptable dogs die because there is no space for them in the system.

    I recently had to put down a 4 year old rescue that I had for two years. He was the perfect dog for the first year and a half. Long story, short: He started having episodes where he would go after his brother dog, who he loved. In spite of training, looking for and removing any perceived triggers, it progressed. He started getting a blank stare when he went after the other dog and he started aggressing toward people. We have several medical tests looking for a sytemic issue and did not find one. Best guess was a neurological condition. It had progressed to the point that my perfect snuggle baby was no longer to be safe around. We made the gut wrenching decision to put him down. It was soooo very difficult. But, I am sure we did everything we could for him and gave him a wonderful life while it lasted.

  32. I respect what you did, you were not selfish, and made the right decision for Pickles!!!!!

    We can’t save them all, some just can’t be fixed from the horror they lived in. It’s not fair to them to keep suffering (yes I think they do) from the horrors that made them this way.

    RIP Pickles. You were loved at the end!!!!

  33. So sad. I hate how man can destroy a dog. They weren’t put on this earth to do that. I am hoping some day we can live in a world with no abuse towards these beautiful creatures. I have been through this situation. My heart goes out to you. I want to save them all, but know in the real world, you cannot do that.

  34. Linda Burdell

    The dog god honors you.

  35. I”m so sorry. It is hard. You did the right thing.

  36. Sara, I’m very sorry things turned out the way they did but please know that you made the right choice and the most loving choice for Pickles. Sadly, there are pet owners who, for a variety of reasons, shouldn’t have a dog and there are those of us who are left to mop up the mess they’ve made of the dog. It is my firm belief, in most, if not all cases, puppies aren’t born that way, people make them so. Rukus, now age 6, while greatly improved (thanks to your kind in-home training which taught us how to help him) since adopting him well over two years ago, still bears scars from his past. As such, we’re aware of his triggers/watch-outs and are respectful of same. Rukus loves us, accepts most adults if they’re dog people and they follow the protocols set forth in our home. However, children are big no-no so we enforce the no-contact with kids and no kids in the house law. It’s changed our lives but fortunately, both my husband and I are retired so we’ve been able to handle this. Many rescues are fixable but some are not. We’re sorry for Pickles and our hearts ache for you but please find comfort in the knowledge you gave him the best days of his life and he was loved dearly. Always know you made the right decision.

  37. Thank you so much for giving Pickles all the love and help possible. Thank you even more for sharing your story. I know the internet can be a dangerous place to tell the truth and this was a hard one.

  38. We adopted/rescued a beautiful, smart, loving 3 year old heeler, who we quickly found out had been abused and witnessed domestic violence. He got along great with our other heeler, was great with my grandkids and sleep on our bed. Soon though, the honeymoon was over and he started fear nipping first men who came in my house, then my adult son who lived with us and then my husband. He also started getting more reactive on walks so we had to stop going, but he LOVED playing Frisbee so we did that several times a day for exercise. We also took a Reactive Rover class, saw a veterinary behaviorist, got on meds and got a training plan. He kept getting worse. We changed the meds, had other tests done and in the end the VB determined he probably was wired wrong from the beginning which may have attributed to his abuse and made him bond with me. We had to keep him muzzled when people came over. He always played nice and looked out for my grandkids but one day he muzzle punched my granddaughter, totally out of the blue and that’s when I knew I couldn’t stop the suffering in his head with my love and the chance of him hurting someone was high. My fear would be Animal Control coming to get him. So I called the VB and meet with her and we agreed that we had to stop his suffering. I held him and pet him and cried while he drifted off. He fought the drugs to help him relax, another sign of brain chemistry being off is what the vet said. I best myself up for weeks because I let him down. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. A few months later we adopt 7 1/2 weeks old male/female littermates so I wouldn’t have to deal with an unknown life. All was good until the female started fighting with her brother and displayed fearful behaviors. We saw theVB immediately, got her on meds and a training plan and have kept both pups separated since January. They now play through the gate and we’re preparing to reintroduce them. The male is fine. He’s in training to be a therapy dog, loves people and dogs. Our girl still is fearful of people and dogs but we’re working hard at counter conditioning and desensitization. I hope I don’t have to make that horrible choice again and she’ll be ok.

  39. Melissa Ditty

    I just read your story about pickles and how right you are when you talk about how training should go into the dogs as puppies. I too had a very similar situation with a rescued dog I thought I could fix. I kept him for 3 years and he was 75 pounds of aggression with people. I tries so many things and techniques but nothing seemed to help. You could tell his reactions were always fear related. It finally took a wise person in dog rescue who told me how awful it must be for him to live in such fear. I then saw from his perspective and realized his quality of life was not happy. Not even a little bit and I made the decision to have him put to sleep. I am not sure what happened to him as a puppy but when I found him it was obvious

  40. What a brave and beautiful heart you have, thank you for the work that you do.

  41. You did the right thing for Pickles. Having been involved in rescue for many years I know that sometimes there are dogs who are too damaged to live a happy, normal life. It’s so heartbreaking. The rescue I volunteer had one several months ago that was so profoundly aggressive that he wasn’t safe with anyone, it’s a sad,sad situation.

  42. I wish more of the “dog lovers” who think that every dog can be saved could live through what you have been through to better understand this. I am so sorry that you had to make this difficult decision. I know that you asked all the questions and did all the work required to make his life better. Sadly, there are too many dogs, like Pickles, out there and there not enough homes to help them, even if we could. Thank you for putting yourself out there. To share and educate through your own experience.

  43. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it’s new to
    me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking
    back regularly!

  44. I commend you for making the right decision. It is heartbreaking to have to do, but as you said, there are many many others to save. I think personally, too many well meaning rescue people try to save animals at all costs, and so much money is spent that could be spent to save dozens more. You did what you could do, and you could not put this dog with a family. Again, you did the right thing, and great that you posted. I wish people could learn from you.

  45. Hi, I am just reading this article now and I am so sorry for the loss. A rock sinks deeply into my stomach reading this article. On the one hand, I acknowledge and commend the steps you have taken and am thankful for being able to read it. On the other hand, it greatly concerns me too, given that I have a dog from apperantly a non-reputable breeder that has been more challenging for me than any previous dogs, including rescue dogs. In fact, I soon began to call I my rescued bought dog. After a few days only and then weeks, I contacted the breeder (whom refused to take it back) and I found out that his litter mate also had been returned for the same lack of anti-socialization reasons. It would be both for the 3rd time. I have had a challenging situation myself and chose to leave to more free roam able areas where we can roam around more. As well meet more safe and scheduled people. To be honest, my dog never walked in the beginning. It just wouldn’t, it still can’t if people are nearby. It wasn’t used to respecting no. However, he is now is able to run around in specific environments, has most commands, except for if the wrong combo of a person is around. Many of the described ‘fear’ and ‘brittle’ dogs symptoms are very recognizable to me. I have continued to work hard with him. Everyday. As long as we can walk in free areas, on and off-leash and schedule planned save other dog meetings it is ok to work out. The progress is amazing, in my eyes, but the obstacles sometimes make me feel very guilty, question myself and it definitely has me easily under attack. I do not look like the kind of person that can have a beautiful dog like this and then people are more likely to expect it to meet their own expectations of attentions, assuming or reporting me that I stole the dog. The local authorities know about this and assessed that he is well off (enough?) with me, and I spend a lot if time requesting some space or explaining that it is indeed my dog. He has not been aggressive to others and loves children, as I have gently continued him expose him to them, but I continue to question whether it won’t go wrong at some point. Like really wrong. His cuteness disarms a lot of people, but that does not make it less concerning for me. In fact, the whole like Oh it is ok, makes it ok. Especially not for me, in certain environments or for others and are a sign of distress. I do not even know how to write some of his symptoms here. I have been able to give him the choice to leave in most situations, but this does not less concern certain vets, behavior specialists. However, in a complete calm and laid back environment, where people, including vets, whom do treat me respectful and less judge mental, he also calms down seemingly and opens up some. He racked up expenses over $10,000+ In medical care coming from the breeder, even though I have very high premium health insurance. He is the love of my life And also has become the center of my life. Reading some of the similar feelings of having to do each day the same challenging walks or situations has been a relief. I remain concerned. It’s returned litter mate is apparently used to be bred due to it’s beauty, but their temperament is just different than most other dogs I have ever met. Other more dominant dogs seem to sense this from miles, like predators attack and victimize vulnerable individuals. He is at the moment relaxed sleeping on it’s back and we are having another couple of hours nature trip ahead. This does not mean I am concerned and focused on safe socialization opportunities. I realize now that I got him way beyond that window and that we weren’t in the ideal situation, but I am hoping there is hope, for both of us. I really would hate to loose him. I know that he always going to have challenges, but I wish I would be able to access people whom are willing to work with me to give us together a chance. I am willing to move for it. He likes to have a job, and feels much more relaxed when he can help me. It is when I give him a break that the anxiety and behaviors return immediately. I am sorry if I come across as not treating him right, I am going lengths everyday to advocate, care for and love him, and still fear it might not be enough. I have blamed myself until I found this blog; it only increases my sense of responsibility to him and it makes me tearful. People whom meet us in the open calm me down, but plenty others are so ready to judge and often do not contribute to the better for him. Hoping for a better future while having a heavy future ahead regardless.

  46. I love your blog but I have to completely disagree with your decision. I realize the time and effort it would take to rehabilitate a dog like Pickles. But his life was just as important as the other twenty dogs and he deserved his chance to get better. If you did not have the time to rehabilitate him (and I’m not saying you should have made the time) there was somebody out there who would have. Here’s an article that I think puts in words better than I can. I hope you can take the time to read it.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/irremediable-psychologica_b_8709722.html

  47. Laurie, I know of two dozen rescues and shelters who are looking for your “somebody out there”. Your article not only demands absolutes, but has strawman arguments and misses the science. You argue there’s no such thing as a dog who “wants to die”, but nobody claims that, talking instead of quality-of-life and public safety, aspects you seem to ignore. You seem to assume most issues are due to “unimaginable cruelty”, but that’s false. There I’ll agree with Dr. Ian Dunbar’s decades of work showing that most behavioral issues are primarily due to lack of early socialization and training. And, as in humans, there are behavioral pathologies relating to neurological issues that cannot be resolved by either behavioral or pharmacological therapy.

    Over the past few years I’ve seen several of them, then heard people speak of how they “must have been abused”, simply because they don’t know any better. Alternately, I’ve had many direct abuse cases, with starvation, embedded chains, broken limbs and such, but nearly all of them are saved. The “backyard dogs” often take more work than the overt abuse cases.

    As for those who were used in dog fighting, I know what is needed, know what to do, but very few places have the resources. And even if I did, that would result in many other dogs being ignored. There, you speak of the Vick’s dog’s rehab, but you don’t know the whole story, as nobody wanted to speak of the failures and issues that arose. Yet, I saw what happened with many of them.

    Sara, I think you did everything reasonable and made the best choice possible.

  48. Thank you for trying to help pickles, something or more likely someone influenced his behavior and it wasn’t his fault or yours for making the hardest decision. We had a stray show up at our house a few years ago, it was pretty clear that she hadn’t been someone’s pet but more likely their “dog out back”. She was sweet to people and indifferent to dogs at first. We found a rescue to help her, but when she got barrier aggressive to small dogs and food aggressive they backed out and left us with the hardest decision. She was high hw positive, not spayed and now “too aggressive and a pitbull type”, everyone I talked to wouldn’t help us, they couldn’t take a chance on adopting her out. We took her to our vet and had her humanly euthanized. I bawled my eyes out the entire time, but it was the best thing for her and us and she knew love and kindness for a too brief moment in her life.

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