Dog Daze: When the time comes to say goodbye

PUBLISHED: 16:05 23 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:03 20 February 2013

Dog Daze: When the time comes to say goodbye

Dog Daze: When the time comes to say goodbye

Our dog expert Sophia Taylor recalls a sad day, and a decision that many pet lovers have to face at some stage

Our dog expert Sophia Taylor recalls a sad day, and a decision that many pet lovers have to face at some stage

Last autumn we had to make one of the hardest decisions in our life when we had our beloved Otis put to rest.

Losing a much loved family pet is always hard especially when they have been with you for many years.

However, Otis was only five years of age with many years, we thought, ahead of him.

He was a very affectionate dog and right from the beginning he was a dream to train. He wanted to please and wanted to keep learning. He excelled in his training classes and even Glenda the instructor said "this dog adores his owner" !

Both his parents were health checked and both had superb temperaments, which makes it all the more upsetting.

So what led to this sad day?

Well, Otis was well socialised and up to the age of three years we would walk with up to a pack of ten dogs, three times a week. He knew his place within the group and was never any bother recalls were superb too.

As the business took off, we were unable to walk together quite as regularly, however, we still met up so the dogs could have a romp with their dog mates.

It was around this age that I observed Otis was starting to become reactive towards other dogs and naturally felt it was his age and that he was trying to assert himself. After much work to nip this behaviour in the bud he did seem to get better, but it was short-lived and I decided to enlist the assistance of friends to assess the situation, as I couldnt see the wood for the trees as I was in the situation. I felt fresh eyes were a must.

Both ladies were very helpful and between us we implemented a training programme for Otis.

Intially there was quite a dramatic improvement. However, after about a year to 18 months, he reverted back to his old behaviour and during the middle of last year Otis appeared to be getting more defensive and even more territorial. He was getting unpredictable with other dogs. For example, we would walk past the same dog for days with him being either gravitating to say hello (or wanting to play with the dog) to wanting to react toward it on another day.

Yes, Otis would bark like a majority of dogs would if someone was on their property but he was getting more and more agitated about the whole situation. We also noticed nearer the end that he appeared to be forgetting how to play with his dog friends and was feeling the cold more, even in the summer months !

However, Otis remained loving and friendly with our own pack of dogs and our cats and still absolutely adored people and children of all ages. He thoroughly enjoyed his training, especially the gundog work and the agility. Apart from getting told off from one of our other dogs for stepping out of line, our pack was a happy pack, who lived happily together.

It all came to a head in September. I will never forget this day for as long as I live.

We were out for our afternoon stroll when we encountered three college students walking towards us along a narrow path. I stepped to the side and asked the dogs to sit, which they did and had done hundreds of times before, so the students could walk past.

As the boys walked by they commented on the dogs, saying how handsome they were. I was flattered and we stopped and had a chat. I invited them to say hello to the dogs as they adored being fussed. The students were pleased and Guinness and Spider went and said hello. Otis on the other hand simply sat behind me, which looking back was not like him at all as he was very much the one who liked to be fussed first.

Without warning, not even a vibration down the lead, Otis launched himself aggressively towards the neck of one of the students who was about six foot tall.

I told Otis off quite sternly. He did not catch him or mark the student in any way at all, but I was mortified and said how sorry I was. The student was very understanding and said I was not to worry about it. He would have been well in his rights to be cross but he wasnt.

I walked home in shock.

At home Otis was calm and normal again. That evening, after the dogs had been fed Otis decided to have a go at Guinness for no apparent reason and for the rest of the week, there was an unsettled atmosphere in the home which we had not experienced before.

I put it down to his age and that he may be wishing to challenge his place in the pack. However as the week went on the situation became progressively worst. However, by the Saturday the dogs appeared calm again. In fact, I left them curled up together on their bed when I went out. "At last!" I thought to myself, normality.

About 3 oclock on the Saturday I had a phone call from Paul. He said I would have six missed calls as he had been trying to get hold of me for half an hour. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that the dogs had an enormous fight, even though all had been well initially when he got home from work.

Paul went to put the leads on the dogs to take them for a walk when Otis attacked Guinness. Paul took them for the walk and they were all fine but when he got home Otis once again went for Guinness, this time causing facial damage and just missing his eyes.

I knew there and then I had to make a decision as this was not our Otis at all, something was very wrong.

I drove home, calm and knowing what I had to say to Paul. I prayed on my journey home that the right vet would be on duty as I knew my vet didnt work weekends very often and that Paul and I would make the right decision for the dogs.

When I got in, Spider and Otis were outside on the patio and Guinness was in the kitchen shaking. His face looked horrid and needed treatment.

I phoned the vet and oraise God it was my vet Duncan Hole of Swayne and Partners. I explained what had happened and he said he was on the way to Newmarket and I asked if we could go there as I had made a decision!

Poor Paul was mortified, feeling it was a snap decision, but to be honest (and everyone will have their own opinion as to how they would have handled the situation) I knew it was the right decision and I guess the fact that Otis had launched himself aggressively to a human being earlier in the week was still playing on my mind.

I explained to Paul that there was a real risk that Otis could get out and hurt someone and I wasnt prepared to keep him muzzled in the house all the time. Attacking Guinness was the last straw as I could see that what happened to Guineess could easily have happened to a child. I couldnt live with myself if Otis had hurt a child

We took the dogs for a walk up the lane first and then drove to Newmarket surgery. Almost there and I started to break down, but deep down inside I knew this was the right thing to do.

I went into see Duncan and broke down in tears. Duncan was brilliant, he was understanding and didnt make me feel rushed. After talking about it I went to the car and Paul and I took Guinness in to be checked over and receive treatment.

We then went to put Guinness in the car and got Otis out but it was heartbreaking as the pair wanted to be together and were crying and pulling to be near each other. It was as if they knew what was about to take place. As I type this it is like I am reliving that whole day and finding it quite upsetting.

We took Otis in and Duncan checked him over, concluding that Otis had a central nervous system disorder (brain tumour). Duncan knows us very well and knows our dogs and being the experienced vet that he is he was left in no doubt that this was the cause of Otiss behaviour.

He was put to sleep and was individually cremated at the Risby Pet crematorium and his ashes scattered where his spirit is free.

We still miss Otis and to be honest we both feel numb. He was a huge part of our life.

So why have I chosen to share this with you all? Well, I am a dog training instructor, I help people and their dogs on a daily basis and in the majority of cases the behaviour can be modified and managed but dog owners need to be aware that on occasion behaviours cannot be modified or managed because the behaviour is caused by an underlying condition and in these circumstances the best decision for the dog is to be put to rest.

My conscious is clear knowing that Otis didnt harm anyone or anything and also that Otis had a full life albeit a shortened one.

It was a very difficult decision to make and one both Paul and I would not wish to make again in such a young dog unless it was absolutely necessary.

Rest in peace Otis. We really miss you and you will never be forgotten.


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