The past two weeks have been very hard. I keep expecting to wake up feeling better one day, but I don’t. There is a heavy sadness that hangs over me and weighs down my days. Grief hits me in repeated waves throughout my day. Pretty much everything in my house is a trigger. I miss my boy.
The foster dogs are keeping me busy and preventing me from hiding in my room with my grief, but I wish they would find their homes. I worry they can sense that my love right now is hollow. I am operating by rote.
Desperately searching for answers or any form of peace, I have been reading and researching. I need to learn from this, grow from this, harvest something good, something that will finally propel me forward again. So I read and take notes and I cry and I search for an answer that my soul realizes does not exist.
I’ve found a degree of comfort in the incredible outpouring of love and support I have received from my dog-hearted community. I apologize for not always responding, but please know that you are holding me afloat.
Behavioral Euthanasia is a term I scarcely knew but now consumes my days. Sharing my pain and unrelenting grief with others who have experienced it has helped and at the same time saddened me. I had no idea. And I wish I still didn’t.
I miss my boy.
In all my reading and researching, though, I am learning a lot. One thing I’ve learned and need to be VERY CLEAR with all of you about is that Frankie did not do this because he was a ‘pit bull.’
If you’d like to read an excellent book that separates the fact and science from the myth and hype, consider reading Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey. It’s extensive and well-written, but most importantly it is well-researched and fair, digging through all the history and science and stories to uncover the truth about this remarkable and misunderstood breed(s).
Frankie was a near-purebred American Staffordshire Terrier, according to a DNA analysis. Amstaffs fall under the umbrella of ‘pit bulls’. Reading about Amstaffs has been enlightening. I have always just loved my dog, not really caring what his breeding was.
And now having done hours and hours of research, I realize that Frankie did not attack my daughter or any of the others he threatened because he was an Amstaff, he did it in spite of his breed.
According to all that I’ve read about Amstaffs they make horrible guard dogs because they love people so much. In fact, unless it’s another dog breaking into your house, there is much more danger of being licked to death than bitten.
Any reader of this blog knows that Frankie loved every foster dog and puppy he ever encountered. He could convince any shy, scared dog to come out of its shell. He has been the best friend of so many dogs who struggled with other dogs, Gala and Gracie being two of his first converts. He was gentle with even the tiniest of puppy and patient with the most guarded of dogs. At the dog park, he made friends far and wide.
Amstaffs, by breed, many times do not do well with other dogs. So Frankie, clearly was an outlier of his breed, something was askew in his genetic makeup that enabled him to unabashedly love every dog he ever met.
People were a different story for him, again not a common characteristic of his breed. I never understood why he was so frightened of them, but I tried to reassure him and when I couldn’t, I tried to manage him.
I can’t blame his actions on how he was raised—we knew him from six weeks of age, loving him beyond reason, spending hundreds of dollars and endless hours on training, proudly watching as he passed his Canine Good Citizenship test and enjoying his latest foray into the world of agility. He was socialized with all kinds of animals, traveled with us, visited local stores and dog parks and festivals. We did everything we knew to set him up for success, to make him a good dog.
And it wasn’t enough.
I don’t doubt that we made the right decision, but I want to be very clear about this.
Pit bulls are great dogs. They are great pets. They are the best of friends.
I want to be sure I am not adding to the misinformation and hype.
In my shock and sadness, I shared with you what one behaviorist said. A behaviorist who had never met my dog or me but was only going on her experience. Frankie’s actions would have condemned any dog, of any breed. And now having talked to so many others who have also had to experience behavioral euthanasia, I know it can and does happen with any breed.
I love pit bulls. They are the most remarkable breed – smart and happy, so darn willing to please with goofy, fun, effervescent personalities. And oh my gosh, the love of a pit bull—there is nothing like it. It is vast and pure and unrelenting.
So, when my heart feels strong enough, when it is ready again, you can bet that my next dog will once again be a pit bull.
Cause that dog-shaped hole in my heart? It has a wide forehead and a strong, muscular build, tiny little ears, and a goofy smile that never stops.
Thanks for reading!
If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, visit AnotherGoodDog.org, where you can find more pictures of the dogs from the book (and some of their happily-ever-after stories), information on fostering, and what you can do right now to help shelter animals! You can also purchase a signed copy or several other items whose profits benefit shelter dogs!
If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog Facebook group.
Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now: