make it good

My furry friend is sleeping at my feet as I write. For the past year he has rarely been far from my side. By his standards he’s been having a hell of a good week. Natasha was home on vacation and spent days taking long walks and lounging around home with him. Now she is away on a trip so Bubba and I are holding down the fort together. This morning we woke up early and worked our way through the Arboretum before the crowd of weekend walkers arrived. We wandered around some of our favorite spots, then hung out in the yard and garden for a couple hours. Bubba’s been getting extra love and tummy scratches, bones to chew every day, and yeah… even permission to come up on the couch. Our hearts are open wide and pouring out all the love we can lavish on him.

It has been a hard summer. What small hope existed for a happy ending for Bubba after his bite incident has been cut down at every turn. Rescue groups and rehabilitation centers were full or unresponsive. I’ve advertised Bubba online throughout New England and we hung flyers in the suburbs outside of Boston. A handful of serious people called, but almost everyone backed away after hearing he’d bitten before. Those who still wanted to meet him seemed out of touch with the reality of the kind of care Bubba needs. As I’ve imagined him in any of these potential placements, I’ve been struck with fear… mostly fear that he’d be overwhelmed by the change and lash out at his new family, but also fear that he would be misunderstood and treated too harshly or leniently, that he would be under-exercised or ignored, that too much would be expected of him, that he would be given away or sold or abused. It has been painful and sad reality check for me to have to explain Bubba’s challenging behaviors to each interested person who has seen his adorable picture online. Yes, he is so cute. He has also really hurt someone, and is basically guaranteed to do it again.

We’ve done our best to quiet things down for Bubba. No more trips away from home, except for days at the office which he still seems to enjoy. We stick with what’s familiar. Still, his anxiety has grown. On walks, he’s become obsessed with sniffing and marking as much as possible, and is constantly on the lookout not only for other dogs, but also bikers and people… especially children. He has begun to target people more often and in unexpected circumstances. For example, the other day he heeled just fine while walking through a busy crew of road workers, only to lunge and bark repeatedly at a police officer standing on the sidewalk just up the street. This is the same behavior that preceded the bite back in May. If I didn’t have him on a short leash that officer may have been bitten. Bubba has never been able to contain his energy when meeting people, but when he was younger it was an excited, affectionate energy. That affection has been replaced with anxiety and fear which makes him behave unpredictably. It’s been sad and confusing to watch him become less and less able to cope with his world.

There are a few things I have come to understand. One is that we have given our best to this dog through every challenge we’ve faced this past year. We give him unending attention and direction. Despite all that, there is more stress building inside him all the time, coming out in explosions of hyperactivity or aggression. I can’t imagine anyone being more patient or understanding with him than we have been, which makes finding a home where he’d be more successful seem impossible. Another thing I understand is that he is dangerous. He acts aggressively toward people without cause, especially toward kids. He has even shown aggression toward Natasha and I. I believe it’s inevitable that he will bite again and I’m afraid of it being much worse than before. I hate saying these things about my dog, my buddy, but it’s the truth.

The reality is that it’s not safe for us to keep him, and it’s not safe for him to be rehomed. The responsible and necessary thing to do is to put him to sleep. His continued behavior deterioration over this summer, specifically his growing human aggression, leaves us without other options. I have come to a point of acceptance, but I am heartbroken by this. I wanted so badly to be able to fix it, but I can’t, and things are getting worse. I am surrendering the battle because it’s selfish to continue to fight.

So for the next week, big guy, you are the king. You will have happy days, extra long walks, eggs in all your meals, and some tears soaked into your fur. I’m glad there is no way for you to understand what’s happening.

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