I often run ads that ask, “Does your dog pull on the leash, jump on guests, bolt out of doors, act aggressively, ‘help you drive’?” In 2007 when a four year old Airedale named Dazz came to live with us, he pretty much did all of that. He wasn’t aggressive really, but he did lunge at every dog, squirrel, and truck that went by, which made walking him a challenge.
His back-story was not unusual. A young couple had gotten him as a pup. The husband was in law school; the wife was a nurse. I suspect they doted on him and clearly they weren’t much into the whole discipline thing. As time passed they added a baby to the family and the husband graduated law school and went to work. Life got very busy and there wasn’t a whole lot of time left for the dog. Dazz let it be known he wasn’t happy about these new circumstances. Among other things, he pooped in the baby’s room and I think even on the baby’s bed. The couple was at their wits end. Dazz’s breeder, as many of them do, had said that if for any reason they couldn’t keep him, they could return him to her. Providentially, I had just met this breeder at the annual Governor’s Foot Guard dog show. Dazz fit perfectly the description of the dog I had told her I was looking for (minus the behavior issues), so when Dazz was returned, she emailed me.
We took him on a two-week trial basis, but we knew right off that this rambunctious rascal was going to be ours. So bad were his manners that, for the first six months, I had him drag a leash around the house whenever we were home. Gradually his penchant for throwing himself at the end of the leash with total abandon was tamed. What a wonderful dog he turned out to be! We called him the “party dog” because he loved everyone and greeted both friends and strangers as if they were long lost family members. He often went with me to my clients so I could use him for demonstrations and as a distraction. I told him he was the world’s handsomest dog.
A couple of weeks ago Dazz went off his food and seemed listless. I thought maybe he had a tick- borne illness and took him to our vet the next day. It turns out he had an auto-immune disorder called hemolytic anemia. He did not respond to treatment and in a period of four days he aged four years. Given the prognoses, we had to put him down. We miss him a lot.
People sometimes ask me what is the best way to handle the grief that comes with losing a dog. I think the best you can do is to think of his or her time with you the way you would of a really wonderful vacation. Reminisce and bask in the blessing of the time you had together, and be thankful.
Remember too that if there is a particular breed of dog that you like and you’re willing to invest some time and money in training, you might look into breed-specific rescue organizations. Somebody else’s problem might become a great source of joy to you.