The first time she bit Justus, he deserved it. She had just joined our family and had recently received some very painful shots in her back. Despite our supervision, and despite repeatedly telling him not to touch her there, he did. And she gave a warning snap. It scared him. But we knew it was provoked and we gave her another chance.
The second time she bit Justus, it was less provoked. He was playing with her and fell onto her. Again, a warning snap. Again, us reiterating (both before and after the incident) that he could not climb on the dog, hurt the dog, fall on the dog. Snapping was her only way of telling him that he was hurting her.
The third time, although I was standing right there, I’d just turned away and didn’t actually see what happened. This time, she punctured the skin, albeit barely. One small drop of blood on Justus’ face. “I didn’t do anything!!!” he cried over and over.
“Tell me what happened.”
“I just grabbed my blanket. That’s all!” I believed him but I didn’t see it.
“Justus, we have to take her back.”
“NO! I love her! She’s my dog!”
One more chance, I thought. One more chance for this dog who’s been through so much. We talked to Justus over and over about how to treat the dog, how to approach the dog, when to leave the dog alone.
Yesterday he was sitting in my lap, Georgia laying on the sofa beside us. He leaned over and reached down, to do what I don’t know. A snarl, a bite on the back of his head, and the last straw.
“Justus, buddy, I know you love her but she has to go back to the shelter. She cannot keep hurting you. You have to be more important than the dog. I am scared that she’s going to hurt you worse. She is going back. She needs a different family. We are not the right family for her.”
“But I love her!”
“I know you do honey. And someday we will get another dog, one that doesn’t hurt you, one you don’t have to be afraid of. But this isn’t safe.”
Sniff. “Okay, I understand.”
When I called the shelter, they were terse with me. “Why do you want to bring her back? What were the circumstances?”
I questioned my decision but stood firm in my belief that my child is more important than any dog.
On the ride to the shelter this morning, I asked Keith, “Do you think we’re doing the right thing?”
He was quiet much longer than I’d expected. “I don’t know Babe. You know animals better than I do.” Again I reiterated to myself the importance of my children’s safety.
When we arrived at the shelter, the kids got out of the car to hug her goodbye. Then I walked into the building. The tone of the shelter employees was completely different than on the phone. I explained again everything that had happened and my belief that she just needed a family without small children. I filed a formal bite report. They agreed that I had absolutely done the right thing, reassuring me that my children’s safety was the priority.
Then they told me she probably would be unable to be placed in another home. I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. “Because she is one of our dogs, we may be able to get her into a rescue that will work with her,” they told me, “But we don’t want to mislead you. She will probably not be able to go to a new home.”
I had just given our sweet dog a death sentence.
When we came home tonight after a children’s birthday party, Thalia looked up at me with her big, blue eyes. “Where’s my Georgia?” And I began to cry again.