Goodbye, Big Dog

Sadly, we had to put Big Dog down today.  It was heartbreaking.  Here she is in happier times:

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We got Big Dog as an adult dog from a rescue organization.  The rescue organization called her Dispatch.  We called her Ripley.  She got her name from Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien, mostly because we like science fiction at our house, and not because of any particular similarity with the character.  There was nothing, at least outwardly, badass about Ripley.  She was all marshmallow.

DSCF3964We are softies for a hard knock case, and boy, was Ripley a hard knock case.  When we took her in, she was depressed and shy and withdrawn.  She spent weeks huddled in a corner staring at the wall, or hiding in her crate.  She refused to eat.  She didn’t want to go outside.  We finally adopted Little Dog (who we named River after River Tam of Firefly), because we noticed that Ripley perked up when other dogs were around.  It really seemed to work.  Big Dog stopped staring at the wall.  She started playing with Little Dog.  She suddenly loved food.  She had her issues, mostly involving being scared of strangers, and upset by people coming into our house, but she was improving.

DSCF4109-1A big, sensitive beast of a dog, Ripley loved my son and my husband, lived for bike rides and hikes and treats, and felt passionately about her people.  For several years, things went relatively smoothly, considering the mysteries of Ripley’s background that had left her leery and scared.  She came to accept us, and then to trust us, and then to love us.  We thought she was pretty great.

A few years in, however, we started to see some changes.  It started with the mailman.  She hated her.  Then Ripley broke through our French doors trying to get at the UPS guy.  Twice.  Then she started attacking River.  It took very little to set her off.  Sometimes, nothing at all.  Most recently, it was a book falling over on the bookshelf.  River weighs 40 pounds, to Ripley’s 65.  River would flatten herself to the ground and cry until my husband would drag Ripley off her, snarling and lunging.  We reached a point where the two dogs couldn’t be out together.  Then we reached a point where Ripley couldn’t be out during the day at all.  The world is full of sounds, and Ripley couldn’t stand any of them.

P1000032-6We consulted with doggie doctors.  We worked with a behavioral veterinarian.  We hired a trainer.  During our most recent training session, Ripley attacked my husband in much the same way as she normally attacks the other dog.  Something to do with the doorbell.  She had to be dragged, snarling and lunging, back to her crate and contained.  The trainer told us that Ripley might hurt or even kill someone.  She said that she was worried that Ripley had a tumor, or some other issue in her brain, that was causing her to become increasingly violent, despite all of our best efforts.  If we rehomed her, and she killed someone, how would we feel, the trainer asked.  But even if the violent outbursts weren’t an issue, we knew we couldn’t rehome her – the sadness of yet another abandonment might have killed her anyway, and we didn’t want our dog dying that way.  The trainer suggested that we put her down.  Better a shorter, happier life, said the trainer, than dying alone and scared and sad, and surrounded by strangers.

So today we put her down, because we couldn’t bear the thought of turning her away, but also couldn’t risk her hurting someone.  It broke our hearts.  We have owned a lot of dogs, and have never had to do anything like this.  We feel that we failed her.

DSC_6774-2-1I told my son that there was something wrong with Ripley’s brain.  This likely was true, given the escalation in violence, the unpredictability of her outbursts, and her complete non-responsiveness to a wide variety of treatment options.  Z wants to know if I can still do Little Dog and Big Dog, if there is no Big Dog anymore.  I said I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t think my heart is in it.

So I guess I’m on hiatus for a few days, who knows, maybe longer.  With the husband out of work, and me unable to work, and the dead dog, and all the rest, it feels like we are one beer and a pickup short of a country song, and who wants to listen to that country song?  I know I don’t.  Country songs are the worst.

The purpose of this blog was to celebrate all the funny things everywhere in this mud-licious and puddle wonderful world, not to memorialize its miseries.  I guess that means I’ll swing back by when I am feeling less miserable.

Until then, gentle readers.

-Rusty.