I Regret Waiting to Euthanize My Dog
Being strong sometimes means being open to heartbreak as a result of doing what’s right.
Being strong is having the courage to face your fears.
Being strong is taking responsibility instead of sticking your head in the sand.
This was not one of my strongest moments.
I’m 100% animal lover. I’ve had dogs, cats, goldfish, horses, chickens, and even a hamster. I’m the girl that pulls over when she sees a dog loose on the street. I can’t watch movies in which the beloved animal character dies.
Losing a pet is NEVER "easy," but losing Lucky was one of the most challenging experiences of my life.
Have you ever gone to the animal shelter “just to look?” Have you ever NOT come back with an animal you supposedly had no intention of adopting? If you have, I applaud your will and fortitude!
That wasn't us. Not this particular day, anyway. The year was 2012. My then-boyfriend, Devon, and I were recently "back on again." I guess you could say we were honeymooning at the shelter. The not-so-surprising result? Bringing home bouncy, smiley, happy, Lucky.
Luckily...see what I did there?...Lucky got along well with our other dog, Izzy. Yay! We immediately got busy getting Lucky scheduled for vaccinations and spaying. There were many baths and snuggle sessions. We played. We grimaced as we watched the rate at which she destroyed her very expensive Kong toys. I forgave her for pooping in the backseat of my car while in the drive-thru at Burger King...
Maybe we got more than we bargained for with Lucky.
Soon, Lucky proved to be extremely strong. She had a powerful instinct for aggression toward other animals. Around humans, she was a snuggly lap dog. With small animals, however- toy breed dogs, cats, squirrels, etc- her first reaction was to lunge...hard. We tried our best to not find out what would come next. The dog boarding facility we occasionally used eventually stopped allowing Lucky to stay with them. I began walking Lucky with a muzzle on. Just in case.
We got along OK for a while.
Months later, Devon and I very foolishly agreed to keep my mom’s cat, Brady, for a few days while she was moving. While I was out one evening, Devon lost control of Lucky as they re-entered our apartment from a walk. Lucky broke through the closed bedroom door behind which Brady was, and she attacked him. Brady's wounds were fatal.
To date, this event is one of the biggest regrets of my life. 6 years later, I'm still heartbroken that Brady, a sweet old cat my family adopted when I was just a child, lost his life in such a violent manner. Brady was my responsibility and I failed him.
Houston, we have a problem.
I discussed the matter at length with my vet and he wasn't particularly optimistic. He suggested I look into re-homing Lucky, but felt that her aggression was unlikely to be modified with training. Around the same time, Devon and I moved to a new house and the whole issue got put on the backburner.
I’m here to be completely honest and transparent with you guys- I let the whole thing go to the backburner. Deep down, I knew an appropriate home would be tough (if not impossible) to find. I loved Lucky and I feared that I’d be forced to euthanize her. I was afraid of the pain that would cause me. I acted selfishly and irresponsibly.
In the meantime, Lucky jumped our 6-foot tall fence and killed several of our neighbor’s chickens. On multiple occasions. These chickens were not “just livestock” mind you- not that any are! In my opinion, a life is a life. No, these chickens were the beloved pets of the eighty-something year-old neighbor lady. Once again, I'd allowed Lucky to hurt someone.
FINALLY, plunged myself into the project of re-homing Lucky. My attempts were unsuccessful. The rescue organizations I contacted either didn’t have space or couldn’t accommodate a dog known to be aggressive. The responses to the classified ads I posted were either homes with small children or suspicious types whom I believed to have nefarious intentions for Lucky.
Both situations were ones I was unwilling to put Lucky in.
Forced to face my fears
I’m quite ashamed of how long it took me to face the final conclusion: I’d done everything I could for Lucky, but continuing to let her do harm was not an option. At this point, she'd killed Brady, a number of chickens, and had several close calls with other animals. I shudder at what could have happened if she for some reason attacked a young child. The responsible choice was to euthanize. So, that’s what I did. I made an appointment, took Lucky to the vet, and petted her and talked to her as she fell into that final slumber.
The outcome I most feared happened. I ultimately was forced to do what I’d been so afraid of. Yes, I was devastated. Yes, I ugly-cried the whole way home from the vet's office that day. I grieved her loss, but eventually I made it through.
The question I'm left with is: if I was strong enough to make that decision then, could I not have made it sooner and prevented harm? The answer is that yes, I absolutely could have, but I allowed my fear dictate my actions without awareness.
When emotion takes the wheel
In my experience, allowing any emotion to dictate our decision making is one of the most dangerous things we can do. Whether we’re talking about fear, anger, sadness, joy, or excitement- the feelings themselves do no harm. It’s the power we give to these emotions that can have negative consequences. It's our reactions.
While writing this post, I’ve realized we all act on emotions more than we may realize...
Sometimes the emotion propels an action
Telling my spouse I want a divorce out of anger
Staying out too late on a work night because FOMO
Cheating on my partner because I feel attracted to someone else and I'm lonely
Other times, it causes us to avoid taking action
Not starting my own business for fear of failure
Not asking my crush on a date because I’m afraid of rejection
Not ending a risky relationship in the name of love
Emotional awareness is still something I struggle with.
I'm no expert, but when I'm being my most mindful self, I take these steps:
Observe the emotion
I once heard a yoga instructor guide her class through a meditation. She advised participants to "observe their thoughts and feelings as if they were birds flying through the sky." To simply watch, perhaps with a sense of wonder or curiosity, but without judgement.
Identify or name the emotion
This bit is hard for me. My pride often gets in the way of admitting fear or hurt, so I avoid it entirely. Again, without judgement, I would attempt to identify the emotion I'm experiencing.
Make friends with the emotion
What do you do when you meet someone new? "Hi. How are you? Where are you from? What do you do?" Yeah, I thought this sounded hokey too, but try it. Innocently question the emotion.
Since starting this blog, I've come to appreciate the power of simply writing "it" out. Again, I think it's most helpful to be honest, but objective here. If it's a dilemma you're attempting to solve, a pros and cons list may be helpful. If it's an emotion toward another person or regarding a situation, attempt to write the story without any clear-cut hero or villain- write as a neutral narrator.
Now take action
If needed! The point here is not to deny our emotions or exclude them completely from out decision making. It's to increase our awareness of them and understand them before acting.
I’m pledging today to be better and more courageous. I’m going to acknowledge and process my feelings, instead of avoiding or dismissing them. I’ll be aware of my emotions when making decisions.
I urge you to do the same, bees! Not to overthink every decision you make throughout the day, but attempt to be more conscious of what you're feeling. Question yourself. Compassionately investigate your motivations. Have the conversations with yourself that you might have with a close friend.
It's scary at times, but you're strong enough. I promise.
Rest in peace, sweet Lucky