We are dog people. Not that there’s anything wrong with cats, lizards, birds, or the occasional adolescent boy, but my trailer has always housed a dog or two.
We are also “dog rescue” people. Not rabid dog rescuers*, we always “find” dogs that need a place to be… For us, “two” was a good number of dogs. They had each other for company during the long work/school days.
After losing the last of our first pair of dogs, we acquired a black lab mutt**, Turbo, and planned to find her a suitable companion someday. We turned on our “doggie radar” when Turbo was about a year old, after surviving her ferocious “puppy-chews-through-household” phase***. About this time, there was a buzz throughout the neighborhood about a friendly, stray dog.
Being good citizens, my ex and i checked out the dog, looked for tags, and talked with neighbors to get the history. She’d been hanging around for a week, was friendly – following the neighborhood kids everywhere. We did a “parental pow wow”, and decided to contact appropriate agencies, list her in the “Found” classifieds ads to see if we could identify the proper owner – while taking her in, cleaning her up, and seeing how she’d get along with our primary mutt.
Oh, but first the naming! Considering that this Chow was covered in dried mud? “Krusty” it would be… Krusty got along fine with children and primary beast, but she demonstrated Houdini-like prowess at escaping the back yard fence. My ex and The Boy decided to install an “Invisible Fence”, and went to work. Soon after, we took her to the vet for shots and a general health assessment. And the “stray rescue train” derailed…
Krusty had four different types of canine worms. Yum. Both dogs needed treatment due to the shared environment. Krusty would need to be brought back for the entire battery of immunizations after treatment, but other than her gracious hospitality for parasites, she was pronounced healthy. We made the veterinarians car payment that day…
The first week went well – lots of dog-medication, playful pups and happy children. Not a word from any potential owners, even with my daily calls to every animal registry in town. Soon, we noticed that Krusty showed signs of “territoriality”. Moderate concern – Chows are known to be loyal and protective. It was on the Saturday morning that my ex was to take Krusty to the vet for her immunizations that the first big ol’ dog fight broke out.
Krusty ferociously attacked Turbo. The Girl, not used to dog fights, tried to break it up and received a nasty bite on the hand from Krusty. Throwing a desk chair between the dogs, we stopped the brawl. My ex dragged Krusty off to the vet, and i took The Girl to Urgent Care for treatment.
Bites from stray dogs are serious Since Krusty was quite the mystery-mutt, she had to be quarantined – rabies was the primary concern. We had to wait 10 days. Rather than bringing the dog back home, we kept her in isolation at the vet. Ch-ching…
Since i’d reported the dog bite when The Girl was treated, a few days later Health Department and Animal Control officials appeared at our door. Reports of viscious dogs are treated seriously in these parts. Explaining the circumstances to the authorities, i assured them that the dog was under control – safely imprisoned at the cost of $25/day – and posed no threat to man nor beast. They informed me that we’d be subject to random “visits” so long as we owned the dog.
Keeping the “Found Dog” advertisement in the newspaper, i maintained hope that an owner would step forward and Krusty could be repatriated to her rightful home. But it was not to be. After quarantine, no sign of rabies, we retrieved Krusty. The Girl dodged a series of painful shots. But we were faced with a difficult decision.
Within five minutes of having Krusty back at the house, she again went after Turbo, sealing her fate. The next day my ex and i drove Krusty to the local animal shelter. We explained that she’d been wormed, vaccinated and was a sweet dog that would make a lovely pet for a home with no other dogs… The staff said that such a beautiful, friendly dog would have a good chance at adoption.
We thanked them, and as we were leaving i said we’d learned a lot in the process – “especially my daughter who now knows that you shouldn’t stick your hand in the middle of a dog fight, or you’ll get bit.” They stopped us – “the dog bit your daughter?”. i replied, yes, but she wasn’t attacked, it was incidental as she tried to break up the fight…
“I’m sorry, but we can’t place this dog. Any dog with a history of biting must be euthanized.”
We were both crying as we left. But my ex stopped the car as we were leaving and pointed out all of the other sweet puppies there, needing homes. We’d come back.
We tried. i second guessed our decision many times. Should we have simply returned her to the streets? The rescue attempt cost over $700, but that wasn’t what kept us awake at night. Sometimes, the fates conspire… There are creatures that simply cannot be helped.
* to the best of my knowledge, there is no group that goes out of their way to adopt rabid dogs. C’mon… you know what i meant…
** report from the prior owner of the puppy that it was “half black lab, half german shephard. she never got bigger than 2′ tall. half the fun of mutts is you never know what you’re gonna get when they grow up!
*** The Boy, who was about 7 years old when we got her, was her primary chew toy. Turbo was able to drag him around by his pant leg on the hardwood floors. Yeah, i know. Bad parenting. But it was funny as hell to watch…