This is a tough one to write… but I need to so that I can find a way to close this chapter and move forward.
About three years ago, my husband and I adopted a dog. We had finally moved from an apartment to a house, and in my mind that instantly meant a dog was in our our near future. I spent nights scouring pet adoption sites, and anytime we spotted adoptions on the street, a meet and greet was required. My husband was not quite there yet, but I enjoyed my fantasy of finding the perfect dog, and I dreamed of the day we would bring one home.
I will never forget the night shortly thereafter that I met the canine love of my life. The stars were aligned that warm summer Saturday evening when I stumbled upon yet another adoption event. Amidst a crowd of cute but chaotic dogs, I spotted the one big, calm pup sitting quietly in a dark corner. I’m sure he was waiting just for me… as I approached, his ears perked, and as I knelt down, he offered me his paw. It truly was love at first sight. I instantly sent my husband pictures, and I knew this was the real deal when he didn’t scoff or roll his eyes. We both knew – this was our dog. Just three days later he was settled in our living room, and for the moment, our home felt complete. We named him Dallas, and he was the start of our growing family. Our beautiful, sweet, and gentle pitbull, Dallas.
Fast forward one year later, and we were introducing Dallas to our new baby boy. Like any responsible parent, we took all the necessary and recommended precautions: let him smell the baby blankets, let him kiss only the baby’s feet, and we never left them together unsupervised. Before we knew it, the two were thick as thieves, with Roger climbing and pulling all over him. My dreams of raising kids and dogs together were coming true – and I truly believe there is no better childhood partnership. Dallas was proving to be the perfect family dog, as most of these dogs are, and our future together was bright. Fast forward two years after that, and our family was continuing to grow. I was nine months pregnant with our baby girl, and Roger had grown into an active and wild toddler, still with Dallas glued by his side.
Now, we learned very quickly that once you become a pitbull owner, you become the breed’s greatest advocate, out of both necessity and out of love. Dallas was the most gentle creature with every human, large and small, yet we were frequently met with wary looks from both parents and passersby in the neighborhood. But eventually, even our skeptical family, friends and neighbors fell in love with our sweet boy. However, we also learned that no matter how wonderful and loving a dog can be, there are undeniable instinctual tendencies that cannot be ignored (regardless of breed or strength). With this knowledge, we learned about, and respected, our dogs own boundaries – we kept him out of dog parks, and we managed him around other animals, as any responsible pet owner should. We had seen the rawness of these instincts when he chased cats and squirrels in our yard, and even, on one occasion, defended himself against another dog’s pointed aggression. While these were, fortunately, minor things, they were enough for us to better understand our animal. All this said, we trusted him wholly with our family, loved him endlessly, and accepted him just as he was.
Needless to say, the decision to give him up, this was the hardest parental decision to date that we’ve ever had to make…
It was nearly three years to the day since Dallas came into our lives, on a warm summer Saturday evening in June. He got a hold of our neighbor’s cat, and in a matter of minutes turned our world upside down. He and my husband were walking from our backyard to our front, as they had a thousand times before, and in the blink of an eye the cat appeared and was in Dallas’s mouth. In an effort to stop the violence and save the cat, my husband jumped right in and did everything in his power to separate the two. As a result, the endured horrendous cat wounds that needed immediate and serious attention, and still, as we learned days later, the cat did not make it. This was a terrifying incident and a horribly tragic accident. Yet while we have forever scars, both physical and emotional, burned into our memories from that night, it was the aftermath that has the true lasting power. When my husband came home from urgent care with 3 injections (to start), 2 prescriptions and wounds that needed nursing for at least two weeks, I saw the fear and sadness in his eyes when he simply said “we need to talk about Dallas.” Coming from him, those words carried a lot of weight.
In the five minutes he had spent with Dallas and the cat just outside our door, he saw the complete destruction and damage that our sweet boy was capable of. Was Dallas acting out of line? No. Was he at fault for doing something wrong? No. Was he acting on his natural, animal instincts? Yes, 100% yes. But did he cause us emotional pain for realizing his instincts are more than we can handle? Unfortunately, yes. This was not the first time we had seen his defensive and protective nature, but this was by far the worst encounter, and it had to be the last. Less than 24 hours later, Dallas was out of our home for good.
I have not been able to write honestly about this for a few reasons. Firstly, I have been so pained by this entire ordeal, and my heart is shattered because of it. But secondly, I have feared the wrath from dog lovers left and right, as I too, have questioned every move we made. This was absolutely the most difficult decision we have had to make, but the only way to make it successfully, was to make it quickly. I sat on the sofa in our living room with my mother that Sunday afternoon, giant tears streaming down my face, while Roger was in nap time slumberland. My husband swiftly packed Dallas into the car and drove him off to his new home. I was extremely angry, horribly sad, and so distraught that this was actually happening. I feared for Dallas and his future, I felt broken that he would not longer be in our home, and I felt terribly guilty for taking him away from Roger. But the only reason I stopped myself from barricading my dog inside the house was that I had to recognize, as a mother, our current situation. I was nine months pregnant, we had a crazy 2 year old whose life was about to change with the introduction of a baby sister, we had just experienced great trauma – both emotional and physical – because of our beloved dog, and couldn’t risk any further disruption to our lives during this very precious time. And most of all, we were now parents, and had to put us and our children first. My husband simply couldn’t live with the unknowns of Dallas’s behavior in situations like this when we have little kids running around – even if they were never in any danger – and I couldn’t argue with that. Thank God Roger and I were not witness to the events of that fateful night, and thank God Roger was not caught in any path between Dallas and the cat. But as parents, we had ask ourselves “what if” – and it was not worth it to wait until next time.
It has taken me a long time to reconcile all the events of that weekend, and in many ways I don’t think it’ll ever be ok. But I know it was what had to happen in the moment – and it was the right decision for us to make at the time. Do I wish things were different and that we still had him in our lives? Of course. I miss everything about Dallas: his cuddles and kisses, his stretches, his love for Roger, and his follow-me-everywhere affection and loyalty.
My heart is broken. I don’t quite know how to bring this to a close, and I feel like I still didn’t do him justice in telling this story. I could go on and on, thinking about how this situation could have been different. I still feel like the bad guy. But I try so hard to look at it this way: we gave him a wonderful life in our home and he was wonderful for us while he was here. We have since welcomed our baby girl, and I am so grateful to have a beautiful and healthy family to love and care for every day. Roger will not remember this time in the same way that I do – and I have to find some solace in that. And one day, hopefully not too long from now, when our family of four is settled, we will find the perfect pup that will be a lifelong companion for us and our children. They will know the wonderful feeling of loving and growing up with a dog. It just unfortunately will not be Dallas. But I hope more than anything that he has found a wonderful and loving forever home, like he deserves. But this is one of those times (perhaps the first of many), when our parental instincts have to take over and make the right, though perhaps difficult, decision for our family.