Saturday, November 6, 2010

Willy gets some peace at last

Looks like this is my year for sad dog stories. Back in March, I had to put Argos down, and on Thursday I had to put Willy down. This is a rather different sort of a story though. With Argos, he had a pretty clear-cut physical illness that was going to kill him. With Willy, he had a mental illness that would have made him a danger to the other pets in this house - and potentially even my son.

Unlike Argos (and my current dog, Freyja) I didn't get Willy as a puppy. He was at least a year old, and he had been abandoned. A coworker of Kirsti's found him, and asked if we wanted to keep him (after checking to see if anybody had reported him missing at animal control). When he first came over, Kirsti and I instantly fell in love with him. I wanted to give him a Germanic name, so I named him Wilhelm, with the intention of us actually calling him Willy.

He was a sweet, friendly, mellow dog. The first night that we had him, we put some blankets down on the floor and told him to lie down there while we went to bed. He did this no problem, and he continued to sleep in our room up until his last night with us. He fit right in, and he even got along well with the cat, even though he'd shove his nose into her every so often just to make sure she was still alive. (This cat was Tyson, who we put down several years ago at the age of 18.)

Still, there were some issues. On a camping trip, he got pretty aggressive and attacked our friend's dog. We were able to break it up pretty quickly, and no major damage was done. We figured that it was just a fluke thing, since they were both right next to each other in the back of a truck and had gotten along just fine the rest of the time.

When we got Argos, the two got along just fine, but Willy would often try to dominate him. This went on until Argos got a bit too big for that sort of a thing and started fighting back. The two got in a really bad fight, and Willy came out the worst in that one. I remember at the time thinking that the issue was Argos, since he came out on top. Little did I realize that as time would pass, I would learn that it was Willy who was the real instigator. It's a long story as to why I concluded this. One thing is that Argos got a "roommate" when we took in Kirsti's old dog, Molly, and there was never an issue (but Willy had attacked Molly one time). I was also able to have Argos play with other dogs at the park without an issue. Lastly, Argos was good with kids. In fact, he even would go into a super-polite mode when children were around.

Willy though, he had issues. We were able to keep him separate from Argos, and this worked out okay. We had to keep him in a crate while we were gone; otherwise, if a car backfired or something like that, he'd freak out and either destroy the inside of the house or dig his way out of the yard. One Fourth of July, he lifted up a fence and tore up his paws while trying to dig through concrete. He was found on the other side of town. It got to the point where when we bailed him out of animal control, it cost us $300. Having him in the crate actually seemed to mellow him out a bit though, and he always eagerly went inside when it was time for us to go to work. I guess he felt safe in there.

He got along fine with our new cat, Oliver, but there were a few incidents with him as well. One time Oliver got too close when Willy was eating; another time he got too close while Willy was playing with a chew toy. Both of these incidents prompted an attack from Willy. (Don't get me wrong - with all of these attacks that I have mentioned, with the exception of the big fight with Argos - absolutely no blood was drawn. It just looked a lot more dramatic than it was.) Other than that, the two were pals, and I even have pictures of the two cuddled up next to one another. With Freyja, it was pretty much the same thing. They got along, but he attacked her a couple of times. I was able to break it up before anything bad happened.

The thing is with Willy is that this was all a slow process of his mental health going downhill. When Logan came to our house, I didn't exactly like the way Willy approached him. It wasn't to attack, but it was with a bit too much concern - unlike Freyja, who seems aware of the baby but indifferent. The bottom line is that I didn't trust Willy to be around Logan all by himself, not that I really trust any dog, but I especially didn't trust him - especially once Logan starts crawling around and wants to check out the chew toys lying around the house.

I suppose that it's been in my head for a couple of years now that I might have to put Willy down due to his anxiety issues. As time passed, we had to keep him in the bedroom most of the time. He liked it for the most part, but when he wanted out, all he would do was pace. I tried taking him on walks, but he was such a nervous bundle of energy that I felt like I was going to have a mini heart attack each time we went. (And I pride myself in having been able to get some supposedly difficult and even "impossible" dogs to walk just fine.)

The final straw was when he, for the second time in a week, randomly decided to attack the cat. He finished his food and then raced all the way to the other side of the house to find Oliver and attack him. With this, there was no longer a way to even anticipate what sort of a thing might set him off, and with a child in the house, I just wasn't willing to take a chance. Turns out that Kirsti was pretty much on the same page as me.

When we told the vet his whole story (and I realize that with as long as this blog entry is, I'm still leaving a lot out) she agreed with our assessment that putting him down was the best thing for him, as his anxiety disorder would likely only get worse, and he could make our house an unsafe place. We made a point to see our regular vet, as she was there with us for Argos' last appointment and Freyja's first. In other words, she knows what kind of pet owners we are, and wouldn't jump to the conclusion that we were putting our dog down just because he became inconvenient for us. (The fact that we kept him for 10 years should testify to that.)

Unfortunately, he didn't go down easily. She gave him a sedative to calm him down, but it only made him more anxious. This didn't surprise us, as when we gave him some tranquilizers on the last Fourth of July, it had no effect despite the fact that we gave him twice the recommended dosage. The vet asked if she should try more, but we told her to just put him down, as we didn't want to prolong his torture. Of course, once the lethal injection took over, he went down very quickly, and then it was over.

I loved that dog. I had a lot of good times with him, but he was sick. I will always have a nagging feeling in my mind that I could have done more for him, but I need to just accept the fact that maybe he was fighting a sickness that had no cure. I know that he had some happy times, but the last couple of years he always seemed anxious. I cried, of course, but not like I did with Argos. I feel more relieved than anything now, and I'm glad that I was able to do for him what I could. At the very least, Kirsti and I did more for him than his original owners ever did.

Rest in peace, Willy. Maybe you and Argos can finally play together again.

1 comment:

Jennifer Baker said...

So sorry. Such a hard decision. The most important thing is your sons safety... You made the right call. I'm so sorry, must have been so hard.