Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life. Right now, it feels like the worst. My dog died. My constant companion of 9 years is no longer on this earth. I've lost dogs before to old age and illness, and that is devastating, but different. My dog was killed, and it was my fault. Years were ripped away from him and he came to a painful and cruel end, and it was my fault. And the guilt and pain are completely destroying me; I cannot cope.
Our smallest dog, Gidget, and Kaedmon, my spaniel, have never been friends. Accepting roommates, but not friends. Over the years, they have had their scuffs and scuttles, but nothing ever life-threatening or terrible. They just didn't care for each other. Over the last few months, this has changed drastically. Kaedmon had surgery to remove some benign tumors, and just a little while after, I came home one day to find him bleeding all over his ears and head from an apparent attack by Gidget (Bao was locked up and Romo...well...Romo doesn't move from the couch). This was a much more vicious issue than we had ever had before, but still seemed like an isolated incident. Until just a few weeks later, when I went to take Aurora to school, left all the dogs out, and came home to find Kaedmon half-dead and bleeding on the floor from wounds all over his legs, head, and neck. This time, Gidget had not acted alone, but rather had Bao as an accomplice as evidenced by some of the larger bites Kaedmon suffered.
At this point, we took a step back and looked at our dogs and what we were doing, because we firmly don't believe in bad dogs--just bad owners. We moved away from one food dish and started feeding all the dogs individually. We bought extra beds so that the dogs were never forced to share resources. We researched. We talked to training professionals. What appeared to be happening was a "pack issue." When there is a younger dog in a pack that wants to lead, and the eldest dog in the pack gets too old or gets sick (such as Kaed after his surgery), the younger dog and any members in the pack following the "new leader" will remove the elder dog. It's "pack mentality" all the articles said, and it happens more frequently in packs that consist of dogs of varying sizes. Unfortunately, there is really no fix for this issue other than one or the other dogs finally submitting (which was not happening), or to keep the dogs apart from each other for safety. So, we started locking Bao and Gidget up every time we left the house.
This worked for awhile, until I was in the hospital and got a call from Colten that they had tried to attack Kaed in the middle of the night. Colten had been there to take care of it, but he asked if we should try re-homing one of our dogs. I couldn't bear the thought and insisted things would get better once I got home and things settled down again (as stress does make these issues worse). This is just one of my many regrets. Yesterday, we were running around trying to get to the hospital for yet another transfusion, and I walked out the door without locking Bao and Gidget up. I walked out. I didn't even look back, never had a nigging doubt in the back of my mind, just walked away. And condemned my dog to death. After getting to the hospital, we found out I definitely needed a transfusion but that they had to retype my blood and it would take about an hour to do that. My nurse offered that they type my blood and then I come back in today (Wednesday) for the transfusion because she didn't feel that my counts were so low that I couldn't wait a day. I didn't want to come back today, so I made the decision to stay until the late afternoon yesterday getting everything done. Another regret.
As we walked up the steps to our apartment, my feet hit the second to last step and I heard Gidget bark. Immediately, I felt a sense of dread. Gidget never barks in the kennel. Colten opened the door, and the image of my sweet spaniel laying unmoving on the living room floor in a pool of blood will be seared into my mind for the rest of my life. I couldn't stand. I passed out in the kitchen. Colten rushed Kaedmon to the bathtub to wash him off and assess the damage, but he only took a few more breaths and he was gone. If only I had gotten home sooner, he would have lived. If only I had locked Gidget and Bao up, he would still be here. If only I had been willing to consider re-homing Gidget or have someone watch a dog temporarily, my precious, precious friend would still be with me. I will never forgive myself. Never. Colten cleaned Kaed up so that I could come in and say goodbye, and all I could do was tell him how sorry I was and how much I loved him. He'll never know. His last memory will be a mom walking out the door and leaving him to his tormentors. He must have been so scared; he must have wondered why I abandoned him, whether I would come home to save him this time.
I cannot cope with this. There is no bright lining. There is nothing that makes it ok. I killed my dog, and it was a terrible, terrible death. I can't find any peace. I can't tell myself he is in a better place, that he lived a good life, all the things we tell ourselves when a dog passes with love. His last few months have been torment. His last month of life I wasn't even here. He should have had so many more years. I am so sorry, Kaeders. I am so sorry. I cried all day. I cried so long and hard my eyes swelled up. And I cried all night. And I have cried many times over today. I cannot see an end. I cannot eat. I cannot sleep. I cannot let go of the guilt.
So what of the murderers, you might ask? This is part of my continuing pain. Because they aren't murderers. Cats kill mice, and we praise them for this natural instinct. Many of the articles I read constantly reinforced that dogs (and other such animals) don't have "morals" as we do, they don't sense a right and a wrong in killing. They only kill for a purpose or due to an instinct, and what seems a brutal act to us is only natural to them. Some dogs kill cats, even kittens. They do not mean to be cruel, but to us the acts seem to be such. The same can be said of this situation. I was surprised to find in my research how many times dogs actually kill other dogs, as it seems like such a vicious, rare occurrence. It happens most frequently between dogs of very different sizes (i.e. big dog eats little dog).
I wanted Bao and Gidget put to sleep. I asked Colten to kill them as I said goodbye to my best friend, fully believing that they had no right to live when his life had been so grossly ripped away. Colten went to have Kaed cremated because there is no place here we could bury him, and I could not accept taking him to the dump. I sat and cried. And I thought. Unbidden and unwelcome memories from my childhood crept in. When I was young, my family and I rescued three kittens whose mother had abandoned them. They were only a few days old, and we raised them all the way to adulthood in our house. Mel, Si, and Jabber. Their faces are also firmly burned in my memory. I came home from school one day to a doorway full of feathers and blood, and the very broken body of our cockatiel, Moe. Cats kill birds. It is their natural instinct. But I saw nothing but the brutal killing of my favorite bird. I picked up each one of the cats and threw them out the front door, into a world they had never known and were not equipped to live in. The general consensus of the family was that they should become outside cats, and they stayed that way. I will never forget seeing their faces in the kitchen window in the dead of winter, not understanding at all why they were being denied the warmth of the home they had always known. None of them made it through that winter.
Animals are not people. We try to make them something better than human, sometimes, and maybe they are and maybe they aren't. I feel like my faith in and love for dogs has been shattered. I don't know that I will own any in the future. My husband thinks those are the words of a broken heart. Maybe. All I know is that something I was so passionate about, loved so much and took so much comfort from I now can only associate with incredible sadness. They aren't people. Gidget and Bao are not mad killing monsters that will rip out the throat of any dog on the street. And they definitely wouldn't harm a human being. They don't understand that they did something heinous, because it was just natural to them. The pack has now been altered. And my family destroyed.
The main thing that matters is that we, as pet owners, are responsible for taking care of our pets. For controlling them, keeping them safe, seeing to their needs. My family should have done a better job securing our cockatiel's cage. I should have put Bao and Gidget in the kennel before I left yesterday. These were human mistakes, not animal ones. Mel, Si, and Jabber paid for one mistake with their lives. I don't feel that Bao and Gidget should do the same. But I can't look at them. I can't pet them. Imagining playing with them again, or snuggling them on the couch as if nothing happened makes me feel like I am betraying Kaed. I don't think I can care for them like they deserve anymore.
We have talked and talked. And cried. And cried. We have decided it might be best to turn Bao and Gidget into the local humane society. They have behavioral experts and trainers to work with dogs that have been aggressive, and they are a "no-kill" shelter, meaning they are as much no-kill as possible (no shelter is 100%). This has many of its own problems. Gidget is Aurora's favorite dog, and she is heart broken at the thought of her leaving. And my own heart is broken. As much as I am disgusted by their actions, I still love them both. I don't want them living in cages for years, waiting for a home. Gidget has never been caged. She has been with us for 6 years. I think a shelter experience might be the end of her. And Bao. We rescued Bao. We were supposed to be his forever home. What will he think returning once more to a cell? But is it right to keep them here, where their actions will forever be remembered and held against them? I don't know. There is no good answer. My heart is broken. My family is broken. Our house is empty and cold, tainted by the carnage done here. I am broken. And I see no hope of mending anytime soon.