Subject: Rescue - Nick
Date: Fri, 02 Feb 1996 The adoptive family wrote this explanation of what happened to Nick and why. Truly, our hearts wept and we extend to him and his family our sincere regrets.
Mark and I have been involved in breed rescue a little over three years. During that time, we have had ten rescues, including Nick, come through our house. When I think about it, ten is probably more than our share in three years' time. Maybe we have been lucky because until now, we have not had to put one down. Putting Nick to sleep was one of the hardest decisions Mark and I have ever had to make. While our heads said, "Put him down;" my heart was saying "But 99 percent of the time, he is such a good dog." Even now, as I am writing about it, I begin to cry. When you have a dog in your home for five months, he becomes yours, even if you know that eventually he will be going somewhere else.
Nick came to our home through the Kenosha County Humane Society. Mark got a call on Labor Day weekend, the same weekend I was delivering our previous rescue, Lily, to Iowa to be transported to Texas. "We have what we believe to be a Vizsla," the woman said when she called Friday night. Mark went to check it out on Saturday.
The dog he saw from a distance, at first glance, appeared to be a Chesapeake Bay Retriever; he was so overweight with a big, broad head. He weighed 87 lbs! The information we received on Nick said he was between 4-5 years old. This was Nick's second home. He was adopted from another Humane Society when he was approximately a year old, and he had always been a "kennel dog." He was turned into the Kenosha County Humane Society because his owners were expecting a baby, and didn't feel they had time for the dog. (Mark and I didn't think they had a lot of time for him anyway because they "didn't know" if he was current on his shots, and they didn't know the last time he had been to a vet.) He had been neutered, though. According to his previous owner, he had bitten once, when the owner's brother tried to take a bone from him. He knew sit and shake. He was not housebroken. He had never been in a crate. There were no registration papers. Thus, Nick came to stay with us.
The first two weeks Nick was with us, he ate maybe five cups of food total. He was so overweight, though, we didn't worry about it too much. We had him checked out by our vet, and he was given a clean bill of health. His shots were made current. He took to the crate like a dream come true--never even a whimper. Housebreaking was a breeze. Our only problems were he didn't get along with our dogs, in contrast to what his previous owner had said, and he was extremely possessive when it came to toys, bones, etc. We worked with him. We fed him from our hands. We made him sit before he could go out the door. We made him sit before we put his food dish down (and trust me, after the first two weeks, he was always anxious for his food dish to be put down). We played fetch with him, we made him sit before we took the ball or toy away, and praised him lavishly when he gave it up. Nick and I had "come to Jesus meetings" where he learned that I was the boss. I ALWAYS got the toy. Sometimes he was snarling with the hair standing up on his back; sometimes he was snarling and I was prying his mouth open while Mark said, "Just let him have it!" I ALWAYS GOT THE TOY OR BONE OR WHATEVER!
I felt Nick made great progress from September through November. During those months we had more than one time when we thought "Maybe we should put him down." I called Kate Payne, one time practically in tears, asking for help and advice. Kate offered support, but still, the ultimate decision was up to us. We decided Nick could be placed in a home with no children or possibly teenage children, as an only pet, with an experienced dog person. Nick would not be a hunter. He was extremely gunshy. (Mark would get a gun out of the cabinet and Nick would disappear into his crate.) We waited for the right home to come along.
And then, Nick's chance came. I received a call from the St. Paul Police Department. They were looking for dogs for their Narcotics Unit. The dogs would live with a police officer and go with him on patrol. They would be brought in only after the suspects were either arrested or subdued so gunshyness was not a problem. Training would be very similar to tracking training. The dogs would live with police officers who were familiar with training dogs. They would be kept in a kennel for a week while their health and temperaments were checked. Then they would be put in a police officer's home. With the help of the Twin Cities Vizsla Club, I checked things out. It sounded like a dream come true. Nick was delivered to the St. Paul Police Department Narcotics Unit for preliminary evaluation and training shortly after Thanksgiving. As it turned out, things were not as they seemed. Nick got very sick. The stress of training and being left in a kennel much longer than they had promised me affected him very adversely. The dog that had come to us at 87 lbs. and went to St. Paul at 67 lbs., was returned to us at 49 lbs.
Nick came back to us on January 7. He came into the house as if he had never left. He promptly started eating and gaining his weight back. He fell into his new routine. The first two weeks he exhibited absolutely none of the signs of possessiveness that had previously been his boone. About the third week, his problems started anew. He started showing mild signs of possessiveness. We could tell that our 13 month old bitch was coming into heat. We started trying to acclimate Nick to our kennel. We tried just 5 minutes per day, working up by 5 minutes increments. Nick didn't lose weight, but he started losing all the hair on his hind quarters (from the end of his ribcage back). He just could not adjust to any new situation. He started being more and more possessive with toys. The one incident that sticks in my mind the most involved a piece of bone he was not even chewing on. I had given him a rawhide and he had gotten the end off. Because of problems he had been having with diarrhea, I didn't want him to eat the whole thing. He was chewing on the smaller end, and I went to pick up the larger piece that was laying next to him. He lunged for me (not the piece of bone). It was only because I was quick that I did not get bitten. That weekend we had four incidences that we felt could have resulted in bites; he frightened us. The following week, Mark and I had Nick put down.
Like I said when I started out with this story, this was one of the hardest decisions we have had to make. Had Nick been our dog, we would have learned to live with his problems and worked through them. However, as people involved in breed rescue, we have to accept the responsibility that the breeders have not. It is up to us to make the decision whether a dog is placeable. People who are looking for a pet are normally looking for the "perfect" dog. Most of us know there is no such thing as "perfection." Mark and I had to decide whether it was fair to the potential adopters, as well as Nick, to place him in a new home. We decided it was fair to neither. The adopter, no doubt, would get more than they bargained for with Nick (no matter how much explanation we gave) and Nick had a lot of potential to be shuttled from home to home. Nick will always bring tears to my eyes. My head says I did the right thing by him, but my heart says "Ninety-nine percent of the time, he was a wonderful dog."