29 November, 2013

RIP, Piglet Ann - a good dog who also happened to bite people...

In December of 2007, a puppy was born in a litter of mutts. Her history is unknown, up to the point where she was picked up as a stray by animal control and brought to the humane society at about 6 months old.

In August of 2008 I bought my first home, located just a few blocks from the local humane society. I'd grown up with dogs, and had been dreaming about buying my house, putting down roots, and adopting a pet. Three weeks after closing on the house, I went to the shelter and found a mutt named Piglet.

I wasn't even sure I'd find a dog when I went there that day, and I wasn't in a rush. I wanted to find the right fit - I worked in a shelter in high school, and I'd had plenty of encounters with dogs being returned (or finding worse fates) when the new owners didn't work out. But as I walked by Piglet's cage, with the din of all the other dogs barking around me, I did a double-take.

She was sitting there quietly, head cocked, just watching me go by. When she saw me hesitate, she jumped up on the gate to greet me - still without barking. I told her to sit, and she immediately did so. She had intelligent eyes, and I knew that black dogs tend to be harder to adopt (they're so common, and most people pass them by without a second glance). We took her out into the yard to play, then into a conference room. I sat on the floor against a wall and just watched her sniff around. She had a lot of pent-up energy, but eventually she sat down next to me and tucked herself under my arm.

It was like we chose each other at that moment.

She was too scared to get into my car, but I coaxed her in eventually. She warmed up pretty quickly once we got home, but she didn't bark for weeks (once she started barking, though, she didn't stop - after all, when my doorbell broke, we had to have some way of knowing when people were at the door - right?). She had one accident in the front room, but seemed appropriately ashamed. She was completely housebroken after that. If a visiting dog had an accident or did something wrong, Piglet would always act guilty and apologetic herself.

Piglet had some weird quirks - and she was just odd, proportionally. Her ears were MASSIVE (hence the shelter's name of "Piglet"), but she only weighed about 50 lbs. She was the perfect medium-sized dog. She wasn't any stand-out in the looks department, but she had beautiful, soulful brown eyes.

She was a smart dog - she scored high on the doggy IQ test, and quickly learned how to "chillax," "sit-up pretty," and "pirouette." I wish I'd taken video of her doing her tricks.

Piglet loved chewing stuff up - but only her OWN stuff. She never destroyed anything that wasn't hers. She had her own stuffed animals (the hedgehogs were her favorite) and she'd make them last for weeks. She'd carry them around in her mouth, and occasionally disembowel and decapitate them bit by bit. Working the squeaker out was her favorite part - she felt that, by discovering the source of its squeakiness, she'd finally conquered the toy. One night, I woke up to the sound of her heaving in the hallway. I was surprised to hear her squeak as she vomited a noisemaker that she'd accidentally swallowed.

She did, however, tend to spray anal mist from time to time. What is "anal mist," you say? Basically, if she was startled by something, she'd shart. We called it "terror juice." It was the essence of fear.

The first time Will came over, Piglet was so surprised to see a big man walk through the door that she terror-juiced all over the kitchen floor. Will sat, bemused, and watched me scrub the floor (this was, by the way, only our second date). He gave me a kiss goodnight before leaving, and eventually married me, so I guess the terror juice didn't scare him off.

In 2009, Piglet was riding in the car with me when we got into an accident. Some guy ran a stop sign and t-boned us, hitting the car directly in the passenger door. Where Piglet was standing. With her head out the window.

Needless to say, Piglet terror-juiced at impact. Unfortunately, her rear was pointed directly at me (the driver) at the time. I was angry, and covered in poo, and I might have yelled at the other driver a little bit...

After a while, it became apparent that Piglet preferred Will to me. He'd toss his towel over her after his morning shower, and she'd just hang out underneath it while he sang random songs to her: "Pig-pig-pig!", or pop songs with her name somehow worked into the lyrics.

When Will would pack for an Africa trip, Piglet would lay around looking forlorn. One time, she took one of her toys and hid it in his suitcase. Will didn't realize it was there until he unpacked in Benin - and Piglet was delighted when he brought it back to her two months later.

She was my doorbell, my bodyguard. We went for long walks together around the neighborhood and at the dog park. She comforted me when my 4 year relationship ended and when our other dog Boss got hit by a car. Sure, she had a weird thing about licking people (yuck) and jumping on people when they first came over (I couldn't break her of that no matter WHAT I tried), but she was a good dog.

This last September, though, Piglet started acting more aggressive. I think it was a combination of my heightened anxiety (work, health issues, financial woes, etc) and the new baby learning to crawl. Piglet had never been good with kids - they were too volatile and unpredictable, and they made her nervous. She started nipping at people; a friend, the AC repairman, and then the baby. She drew blood with the baby, and we knew we couldn't risk keeping her at home with us anymore. What if something worse were to happen? We wouldn't be able to live with ourselves.

But we knew that Piglet wasn't a vicious dog, so we wanted to find her a new home - without kids, of course. We had 3 different options available, and none of them worked out for various reasons. Finally, my mother-in-law, Sandra, took a liking to her and offered to take her on their farm.

It was the best of possible rehabilitation scenarios - Piglet was on a huge farm in the middle of nowhere, with two other dogs who were well-adjusted and well-behaved. There were chickens to chase and cow manure to roll around in. She lived out there for 2 months and seemed to be very happy in her new home.

But then, last Monday, she bit a jogger. And I found out that she'd bitten their neighbor, and tried to bite my brother-in-law. On more than one occasion, she'd drawn blood.

Even though she was not even 6, it seemed as though her eyesight was failing. My guess is that her escalating aggression was due to her vision issues exacerbating her protective, nervous nature. Vision problems or not, it was unacceptable. We consulted with two vets and the humane society, and the verdict was the same from all sides: she had to be put down.

With heavy hearts, Will and I knew what we had to do. The probability of her really hurting someone was rising and, as much as I fucking love that dog, Will and I knew it was our responsibility to make the final call. My husband and family agreed and supported us in our decision, and on Wednesday we took her to the country vet.

I expected to have that dog until she was 12-13 years old... that's the average lifespan for mutts of her size. She was just shy of 6 years old, so it feels like her life was cut in half. It doesn't feel fair.

I worked hard to make the end easy on her. I should have won an Oscar - I kept all my emotions at bay, knowing I'd have release when it was all over. But at the time, I needed to be calm and strong for her. I didn't want her to sense anything was wrong, because dogs are good at sensing emotions, anxiety especially. So we went for a nice hike around the farm property (she got her tongue stuck on a weird sticky bush by the pond? It was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen but we had a good laugh about it). I brought her treats and we practiced her tricks like old times. She seemed happy and loved running around the farm. It felt like she was showing me around her new place.

We went for a car ride to the vet. It was actually nice, because the vet came out and gave her the shot in the back of our car, so she didn't even have to go inside the clinic. As a result, she really didn't know what was happening and was very calm. She rested her head on my leg; I stroked her fur and cooed at her until it was all over. Then we took her home, crying the whole way, and Will buried her in the backyard.

I loved my dog. I miss my dog. I don't care if she bit people towards the end; I think her intentions were good - she was just trying to set boundaries and protect us. She was a good dog, but if we'd let her live there was too much risk of someone actually getting hurt. Of us being sued. Of her being euthanized by animal control after something awful happened.

It was just better for us to do it ourselves, lovingly, carefully, quietly.

Oh, those ears... so giant, so soft. 

Napping in the trunk of Sandra's car.

She looks a bit like a grizzled old man here. 

Seriously, why did she lick EVERYTHING? So gross. 

Piglet wasn't a big fan of playing dress-up... 

But she DID enjoy chillaxing in the hammock. 

Waiting breathlessly for a treat to fall.

IMDb head shot. 

She loved her family, and had many dog friends. 

Now that both she and Boss are gone, Will and I miss our old dog family. 

If there's a dog heaven, this silly licker is totally in it. 


Tanya said...

I'm not a dog person, but I can't ignore the beauty of her spirit or the love you convey in this post. I cried. Thank you for giving her a good life, and a good death.

DWei said...

You did the right thing. Better to have done this with you and in the comfort of people she knew rather than forcibly when the bites got worse.

A Bridger said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you did everything humanly possible for her. I know she will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.

A Bridger said...

I am so sorry for your loss. What a hard decision and it sounds like you did everything you could. I am sure she will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Katyenka said...

Poor Piggy! I'm so sorry.

José De Uriarte said...

I happen to have adopted a dog like yours in January. I found yours through an image search at google. Mine was born last December, is black, from labrador mother and herding unknown race father. Destroys a lot, bites frequently, sees poorly and is very smart dog. Now that I have read your description she will get strolls more frequently, your comments make me think that might help. Thank You. jose.uriarte@gmail.com

José De Uriarte said...

I have a dog which looks a lot like yours. She also behaves close to your dog's behavior. After your comments, I?ll take her out for strolls more frequently. Thank You for sharing.

L-Diggitty said...

Jose - that's a good idea! I think the more exercise, one-on-one time, and socializing/training you can give your dog early on, the better off you'll be.


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