Saying Goodbye — Tailored Dog Training

Today I had to do a very hard thing. I had to put down our family dog. I am still in a bit of shock. The whole scenario is a bit odd for those on the outside looking in. I didn’t see Harley as my dog, yet for all intents and purposes, he was for the last year and a half.

Harley, as all dogs, has a story. I feel I would honor him by telling it.

13 years ago, my dad decided that it was time for us to get a new dog. He had been divorced from my mother a few years and was finally back in a house and felt that my autustic brother would benefit from a dog because he always missed the dogs that were at my mom’s when we came to visit my dad every other week. We had always gotten puppies from breeders, but for some reason, my dad decided we should check out the shelter. We drove to Antioch to look at the dogs in the pound and my dad gravitated toward the one dog that he was sure no one would want. A large black dog that was bouncing off the kennel door. He was a BBD, Big Black Dog, and I learned later, those are the dogs that don’t have the best chance of fidning a home. It seems Harley was around a year of age and dumped by his owner when he kept getting larger and destroyed a lot of their home. His bio said he wasn’t good with cats or other dogs. I tried to talk him out of the dog, but he was sold, especially since my brother adored him. He paid $50 for him and was given a leash, large bag of Nutro dog food and a bright neon pink gentle leader that we thought was a muzzle at the time.

We took Harley home and the very next week we embarked on a motor home vacation with our new dog. He ate all my books I brought with me, slept in the bed with my dad and had a few days of not going to the bathroom till we figured out he would only do his business off leash! He scared quite a few dogs at the camp grounds, swam in many lakes and rivers and swalled a fish hook with no repurcusions. Thus was Harley’s life. He ate chocolate, porclein figurenes, decks, chairs, hoses and never was sick. This dog was a dog of steel! He never did have an issue with our cats or other dogs that came into our lives, but was always a huge reactive mess on leash and only my dad could walk him with the dreaded prong collar. Be that as it may, he went on many outings and vacations and really loved life. He was the only dog allowed his own leather couch and basically had no rules.

He was always in the background of my life. He wasn’t my dog, Lucy was my dog, but Harley was always there and usually causing some trouble of some sort like eating the Thanksgiving turkey off the counter one year. He was never really in trouble though, my dad adored that dog.

When we all decided to move in together (keep in mind I went away to college and lived with my nuclear family for a few years), Harley was a bit of a strugle for me. This was a dog that had been induldged his whole life and I am a dog trainer! It didn’t take him long to learn my rules and after a few months, things were harmonious. However, in the last 6 months, we had stopped joking that he would outlive us all. We knew he was declining. He was having accidents in the house several times a week. Sometimes on the couch he slept on, sometimes just all over the downstairs area. He couldn’t make it outside in time. He couldn’t take in enough food to sustain his body. I tried to feed him more and he would only eat so many cups of food a day (even meat and rice and homemade diets). Harley slowly needed more pills and meds each day. He spent most of his time laying on the couch or laying in the grass. He didn’t bark when I played with Lucy anymore, didn’t try to compete with her and would fall down frequently. I beleive my dad kept hoping nature would take it’s course and I remember feeling upset that he couldn’t do what needed to be done. That was until it became my responsibility. My choice.

I know now why my dad didn’t want to make the choice. Why he didn’t want to be in the room. Didn’t want to load up his dog for his last ride. Having a 14 year old dog stare up at you while he slowly drifts away and you feed him treats is a heart wrenching experience. Even if he wasn’t “my” dog, even if I resented him at time for making epic messes, it is incredibly emotional when one of god’s creatures is alive one moment and not the next. Even if I made the right choice, it was a painful choice. Rest in peace Harley.

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