How do you deal with fighting dogs at home?
There is a lot being said about dangerous, fighting dogs, or high-risk dogs as they are called by insurance companies lately. However these dogs also play an important role within a family unit. This regularly causes disputes about these breeds and the human emotion, which is accompanied by far-reaching decisions for well-intentioned and very conscious owners of these dog breeds. By labeling them as ‘monsters’ or ‘danger’ you are making a mistake. If you truly understand the nature of those dogs, you probably will not use those labels.
I am a great lover of the Staffordshire Terriers, I have known this breed for about 20 years now. As an owner you have diamond in the rough in your hands, but what makes me very sad, these dogs often fall into the wrong hands despite of their great love for humanity. Roos is one of the dogs that has lived with me on her way to a better life in the years that I own this breed. Only I have had to make a terribly difficult choice due to some circumstances …
How unreal became the reality
Fortunately I have an automatic car, because driving with one hand is not easy. It is a spring day in March of 2012, when I am driving through the street with my Jeep Cherokee after a day at the petting zoo. This is a handy car, if you do not value a sterile interior and scratch-free boot. Ideal to transport my pack of Staffordshire Terriers without worrying every second about new scratches in the car. Fien, my daughter is laying with her head against the window, blond hair moves softly from the wind. She is sleeping.
Separating fighting dogs
Two weeks earlier, half of my thumb disappeared in a fight between two dogs and I was able to have a part reconstructed the last week at the hand surgery department. The thick bandage is hiding the throbbing stitches and loose thumb. In fact, my arm should have been in a sling. You can call me stubborn or strangely wise and I count myself as the second kind. When I am driving on the driveway I am feeling uncomfortable. The two warriors whose battle almost cost me my thumb, are now separated. One in the hallway in the crate with the door closed and the other on her couch in the living room. Through the glass in the door I can see what is causing my feeling; the door between rooms is open.
I am letting Fien sleep in the car and open the front door where blood odor catches my nose straight away. There is urine, stool and a lot of blood. The blood is splashed everywhere the ceiling, the doors and the floor. Bikkel and Tonka are shivering on the top step of the stairs. In a corner is Rose, her leg and a part of her chest have skin deep bites. The trail of blood can be traced where Jesse is unconscious and breathing shallowly. Her ear is torn, her belly is open and the wound on her leg shows bone and tendons. Blood is gushing over the couch in the rhythm of her heartbeat. I am realizing that she is dying.
I am extremely angry. Not on Rose, a dog can not help being a dog. I am angry with myself. The moment I fell in love with Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Terriers, I read about the breed and never let myself be blinded by the wide smiles. But I have underestimated the strength and the instinct of my beloved breed more than I ever thought possible. I pull a blanket from my bed, roll Jesse’s lifeless body in it and run out the door. I put her on the backseat of the Jeep. Fiene opens her eyes and I am telling her that she should keep sleeping. I start the car and in the meantime call my vet and briefly explain the situation. They will be waiting for me.
I could easily be front-page news of the local paper within 2 months. There are enough headlines that shout about “Aggressive Dog bites Gucci / Kiki / Doti or Boomer to death.” All Staffies with an owner with good intentions, but too rosy ideas about their beloved dog. Because let’s be honest; there is no other race willing to fight for man until their last breath. And that says enough about the drive and the instinct that makes these dogs so beautiful, but at the same time so vulnerable. I often have to stop myself from commenting when dog owners are surprised by the natural behavior of their “oh-so-well-behaved” high-risk dog.
Blinded by the love for the breed
Are they not sweet, those Staffs and Pitbulls? Yes. They are very sweet. I can not think of any do as dear, more loyal, obedient, cuddly and funny dog for me. They are amazing but the have at most time an unseen secret. They were carefully bred to fight for you. Not against their best friend, human, but against other animals. Are there no exceptions? Yes. There are always exceptions. But remember what the word “exception” means. A social, everyone-friendly Staff is about the same exception as a 6-legged horse, a pig that speaks Spanish fluently or a dolphin that can walk. The problem lies in the fact that some owners assume that their dog is an exception. Breeders and owners are blinded by love, faithfulness and intelligence that their dog shows to them(and some companions!), while forgetting what the dog was really made for; fight for his boss!
A Social Fighting Dog
The Stafford and Pitbull problem are now global. The shelters are overcrowded with misunderstood these loyal friends. Dogs who were push away because they could not fit into the picture. Fikkie is still chasing the cat or neighbor dog while on television you can see how you can throw a Pit loose in a group of Chihuahuas. And that is what we want, a social fighting dog. The fact is that the incidents are unavoidable is the owner is not ready to take off the pink glasses.
Her last breath?
Meanwhile -we are back in 2012- I am driving to the emergency room to my vet in Meteren. A gurgling noise comes from the back seat and I feel that Jesse is taking her last breath. When I enter the practice with her in the blanket, everyone is ready to resuscitate her immediately. Jesse is put under anesthesia, the hair around her wounds is shaved off and I am , assisting when blood is being drained from her head, her ear is being stitched and the legs are being attached. In the car Fien is awake and while I am assisting the operation she begins to scream. Jesse looks like an inanimate Frankenstein with bald spots, stitches, staples and drains. But she is still alive. It is the second time that my dog took part in a bloody fight between two dogs in a short time. I am feeling guilty. When we drive home she can sit in the front and I hold her small paw with my free hand. The thumb -in the bandage- rests on the steering wheel. We are singing a song and watching the sun go down. Jesse will fully recover, although this process can take months. At home I clean the blood stains with Dettol. I comfort my two boys Bikkel and Tonka and talk softly to Rose while I scratch her behind her ears. At the time when everything is back to norm, the police knocks on my door. They want to report the accident because a dangerous situation has arisen for the second time in my house between two fighting dogs.
The next day I am waking up Roos and we are going for a long walk while the sun rises and a red glow spreads over the beaches. We sit on the beach in silence and she puts her head on my lap. I stroke her with my hand and hold her leg with the other. A few hours later, my vet puts the lethal injection into that same paw. Her head on my lap, a deep sigh. The life of a misunderstood dog has ended on the cold table of a veterinarian. I could not give you the life that I had promised you. I buried Roos at an animal cemetery in the Betuwe. Near the river. After I lowered her body into the grave and planted a rose bush, I never went back.
The grave of Roos
Last Sunday Fien suddenly appeared with a bunch of roses and asked whether we could stop by the Roos’s grave so she could lay down the flowers. No matter how small Fien was, and how frightened with everything that have happened; she never forgot Rose. Like me. Only I never had the courage to go to her again and I made excuses every time Fien mentioned a visit. We made it to the destination in a beautiful surrounding. Stephen, Fien and me. The sky is clear blue and the sun spreads a golden glow over the landscape. Just as gold as Roos’s coat. A bunch of yellow roses are sticking out of Fien’s bicycle bag.
Rest in peace, big girl
We park our bikes and walk into the cemetery where old and new tombs are showing up. Half decayed leashes and collars adorn gravestones with names carved on them. Children’s drawings, lanterns and fake flowers … In the far corner there is an empty spot. Anonymous. I only recognize the sign with the grave number. Fien lays down her roses and makes a big heart out of stones. A hedgehog rummages in the leaves. Around my leg I feel the warmth of a dog’s body that is no longer there while the wind plays with my hair. It is dead quiet. I have buried my pink glasses with you Roos and I am glad that I have taken on the confrontation with my failure as an owner. Rest peacefully, big girl. I hope that your story may serve as an example for owners who refuse to take off their glasses.
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