Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Memory of Sal

Today I had to let my foster dog Sal go to the Rainbow Bridge.  He was only with me for a very short time, and it wasn't nearly long enough.  When I first met Sal, it was in the parking lot of a McDonald's halfway between my house and the animal control facility he'd been turned into.  A volunteer met me there with him, and she told me Sal had just finished enjoying a hamburger while they waited for me to arrive.  I met this muscular brown pit bull who looked very pleased to have just eaten such a yummy meal.  He greeted me happily, and was on his best behavior all the way home.


Once we got home, Sal quickly made himself comfortable.  It took a few days to get him introduced to the other dogs, but before long he was running around and playing happily with all of the other dogs.  The more I got to know Sal, the more I knew what a great dog he was.  Sal absolutely loved to eat.  As soon as he saw me approaching the area with the food bowls, he began his "happy dance".  He did his happy dance while following me back and forth across the room as I put each bowl down into an empty crate.  He often tried to run into a crate that wasn't his just so he could get to eat sooner.  Finally, it was Sal's turn, and he ran into his crate and gobbled down his food.  Then he lay there quietly and waited while all the other dogs finished up.  When meal time was over and the dogs were out of their crates, Sal went from crate to crate looking for any missed pieces of kibble.  Only when he was certain that there was no more food remaining would he return to my side, ready for his after-mealtime belly rub.

Sal loved belly rubs.  He would jump up on the couch next to me and press his nose against me and look at me with his big brown eyes as if to ask "what are you waiting for?"  Then I'd start petting him, and he'd roll over on his back and wag his tail and smile.  All he wanted out of life was a good bowl of food and a person to cuddle with and give him belly rubs.  And for a week, that's exactly what he got.

I thought Sal was perfect.  He was good with other dogs, and fine with cats.  He was friendly and easygoing and even though he was a deaf pit bull, I was sure he'd be able to find a home.  I took him to meet a dog trainer so he could start working toward his Canine Good Citizen certification.  He didn't even know how to sit on command, but with a little practice I thought he could learn quickly.  The first incident happened when the trainer greeted him.  He suddenly growled and then lunged at her for no apparent reason.  We both thought it was odd.  I hoped that it was just that he was excited - maybe he was trying to play.  I had never seen any aggressive behavior from him and neither had the volunteers at the shelter where he came from.  The trainer tried to figure out what caused it and tried to get him to react to her again, but the rest of the time he was calm and friendly.  The event worried me, but I decided to just wait and test him with her again later to see what happened.  We went back home and things went back to normal.

Until today, when we went to the vet's office.  Sal needed some shots and a heartworm test before he'd be ready for adoption.  The vet took Sal to the back and a few minutes later I heard a commotion.  The vet then returned to tell me that Sal had growled and lunged at her during her exam.  It was before she did anything invasive or painful, so she didn't know what had triggered him to act that way.  This was the worst possible news.  If Sal was aggressive with people, especially when we were unable to recognize what triggered the aggressive behavior, then he couldn't be safely adopted out.  The fact that he'd been aggressive with two professionals - people who knew how to interact with dogs and could easily read their signals if they were uncomfortable - was a clear indicator that he could become aggressive again with anyone at any time.  I didn't want to make the decision to have him euthanized.  I wanted to believe he could be saved.  I've saved dogs who were much more people aggressive than Sal - how could this be happening?  But I knew that Sal was a special case because he didn't have any obvious triggers that made him become aggressive.  The vet also believed that Sal may have had distemper and could be having mini-seizures when stressed.  The cute sideways head tilt that I found adorable was a sign, the vet said.  So was the silly air-licking that he did sometimes, and the funny gait, and the pacing.  So after talking to the vet, the rescue group president, a trainer and the volunteer who drove him to me, I made the tough decision to let him go.

I petted Sal and gave him the hand sign for "okay" and "good dog" as the vet euthanized him.  I'll miss him every day.  This is the hardest part of rescue - the ones we can't save.  Rest in peace, my Sal.

21 comments:

waldobungie said...

I am so sorry to hear this...big hugs to you!

Amanda said...

Bless you Laurie, again and as always. Your heart is so big and I'm sure it grows with each dog that fills a little corner of it, no matter which way this life takes them. I'm glad Sal got to spend time with you before it was time to move on.

Tucker The Crestie said...

Oh, no, I'm so sorry to hear this. Just heartbreaking.

Black Dog Mom said...

So sorry to hear this. He was blessed to have spent his last week with you.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for Sal and you. It is very hard. I'm glad you were willing to give him a chance. Linda

Mango said...

It sounds like he knew love and the company of dog pals during his final weeks. You did your best and it must have been a wrenching decision. I agree that a dog who gets aggressive for no reason is just too dangerous. It can't have been easy for him either. It seems like he was a pretty happy guy and then something would take over that scared him for no good reason. He is free now, running with so many dog pals.

Mango Momma

Barb said...

My heart breaks for you, Laurie. I'm so sorry. This sucks big time, but you had no other choice. The best thing is to remember all the lives you HAVE saved and found homes for. Those are the ones that keep us going.

Cr8z4Cats! said...

I'm so very sorry Laurie! That is by far the hardest decision to make, but you didn't have any other choice. Sal knew love for the time he was with you and not every dog/cat has had the same opportunity. I know how sad you must feel but just know that you have saved so many lives over the years and are a true inspiration to many of us and a guardian angel to our furry friends. Hugs!

Mollie Jo and Bobo said...

Rest in Peace sweet boy!

Much support, prayers, and crossed paws for you Laurie. We know its hard.

Wags and licks,
Mollie JO and Bobo

Frankie Furter said...

I know this was a DIFFICULT decision, but I am also SURE that it was a good one... there were obviously some Hidden Issues that could have been a disaster in the making.

Cyndi and Stumpy said...

I am so sorry for your loss and pain. Please KNOW that you did indeed save Sal, from many things... an unknown future filled with misunderstanding, for one.

Thanks for doing what you do! Always putting the dogs needs ahead of your ego. Not everyone can do that!

Happy, Waggin' Tails, FUREVER!
Stumpy and me

Casey Jones' Mom said...

Lauri - My heart goes out to you. It sounds like he had a wonderful time at you home and you know that is what he has now that he is on the other side of the bridge. You did the right thing, imagine what would have happened to him if this had happened at a forever home,as almost did with Casey previously.

Stefanie said...

Oh Laurie - so sorry to hear this. What a hard decision - but in the end, the best one in this situation. You can hopefully take some comfort in the fact that you gave him a wonderful week in your care. God bless you for your kindness to animals, even if that means having to make tough decisions like this for them. Hugs and prayers to you.

jen@inubakablog said...

I'm so sorry... you are such an inspiration, to be so selfless with all these foster dogs. Especially the hard ones, the 'can't be saved' ones. You did save him though, his final days were filled with love and comfort, no doubt.

mayziegal said...

Laurie, I'm shedding tears for Sal and for you. I know what a difficult and heartwrenching decision this must have been and as always, I am in awe of your courage. Sal is at peace now, running free at the Bridge and thanking you for loving him so much.

Hugs,
Amber

Pauley, the Mr. or the Mrs. said...

I can only imagine how difficult this was.Thank you for all that you do.

H Ski said...

This brought tears to my eyes, and I can only imagine what you are going through. No matter what, you provided a good home for him. Thank you for the amazing things you do for these wonderful creatures.

Susan Blatz said...

I am so sorry. At least he got a chance, and left this world with a full tummy and knowing he was loved, if even for a short time.

Bobby said...

It is so hard to make this desision, but it does have to be done.
We are still upset over little Gina she was so sweet.
Licks Bobby

Tucker said...

Poor Sal, at least his last days were happy.

woof - Tucker

Kate said...

I'm so sorry to hear this :( It's never easy to let a dog go, especially under those kind of circumstances.

RIP Sweet Sal.