Sasha the Rez Dog
Our dogs got into a fight Monday. They say not to break up a dog fight, but I’m not gonna sit and watch them fighting in the living room.
Sasha had provoked a number of fights with Pepper, and Pepper would grab Sasha by the scruff of her neck and just pin her down while Sasha snapped and snarled; we’d grab a towel or blanket and cover Sasha’s head, then grab their collars and pull them apart when they started to calm down.
We’d been dithering about Sasha’s behavior and what to do. She’s totally sweet and loving with people, but for some reason she turned the normal play fights dogs have into real fights.
I looked into no-kill or rescue shelters in the area, but no one wanted to rehome a dog with the stipulation that she had to be an only pet. They all had lengthy waiting lists anyway.
Pepper’s our bigger dog; she’s a Catahoula Leopard Hound and she’s insanely powerful. Sasha’s a Black Lab/mumblesomething mix. If Pepper wanted to hurt Sasha she could have ripped her to pieces, but all she ever did when Sasha attacked her was pin her down like Sasha was a puppy.
Anyway, when they fought on Monday I pulled the blanket over Sasha’s head and the S.O. grabbed Pepper’s collar; as we started to gently pull them apart, Sasha pulled herself loose from Pepper’s grip and tried to lunge at Pepper again. My left arm got in her way as I was trying to pull the blanket around her, and she nipped my forearm.
Pepper pushed forward and pinned Sasha back down again, but much harder this time. I pulled Sasha away again and she howled.
I got her in a bear hug and held her while The S.O. put Pepper in her kennel; Sasha stopped struggling, so I moved the blanket to see if she was hurt.
She had a superficial cut on the back of her neck, but as I tried to examine it I realized she hadn’t just nipped me; she’d bitten me three times. I had two good chomps on my forearm with five or six punctures, and then a really nasty puncture between my index and middle finger knuckles.
We cleaned the punctures and I would have been okay with bandaging them up, but the puncture on my hand was too deep. I tried to approximate the edges and see if butterfly tape could close it, but no good.
So we went to the ER. They sutured me up and sent me home.
Animal Control called Tuesday morning, as I expected. The officer said he needed to come assess the situation and that Sasha would have to be quarantined for 10 days, but he thought we could probably do that at home.
I told him about their previous fights; I’d gotten a minor nip during a previous one; My Best Half got a nip and a jammed finger in a different one; Pepper had gotten a little tear on her ear in yet another one. The little nips here and there had progressed into more serious injuries. We were heartbroken, but it was just too risky to keep Sasha anymore.
I said I didn’t know what to do; we were seriously considering putting her to sleep since we couldn’t rehome her or get her into a no-kill shelter.
Turns out the Prescott Valley Humane Society is a no-kill shelter, and Animal Control could take her there with the condition that she needed to be placed with a family as an only pet.
Sasha was already a rescue dog; we’d adopted her from the Coconino County Humane Society. She’d been found living ferally on reservation land (I found out that happens so often they actually have “Rez Dog” listed as a breed in Animal Control’s database). She was in rough shape; she had a nasty case of demodectic mange and seemingly every species of worm there is.
When we adopted her, she’d been spayed, dipped and dewormed, and she just needed TLC, rest and food. She was 7 months old but she didn’t have puppy breath; her breath smelled like feces and gasoline from the worm meds. Her fur was brittle and greasy, she was still skinny, and she was afraid of everything.
I wanted to name her Dobby, after the house elf in the Harry Potter movies. She had big floppy ears and looked perpetually nervous. I was voted down.
We gave her a nice gentle oatmeal bath and just let her rest in her kennel; she seemed to feel safer in it. She didn’t take long to blossom into a wonderful dog, crammed with energy and personality and all the weird idiosyncrasies dogs have. Until couple of months ago, we were enjoying her and looking forward to a long, happy life with her.
So the officer came to the house and I signed the paperwork surrendering her to the Humane Society. I gave him Sasha, her medical records, the info on her chip and her favorite blanket.
And then she was gone.
We’ve been wrestling with the feeling that we made a bad choice, or that we failed her or gave up on her.
When you adopt a dog, though, you’re taking responsibility not only to provide for her, but also to do right by her when it’s time to make tough decisions on her behalf.
She’s only 3; I thought those tough decisions would be years away when she was old and the time had come to free her from suffering at the end of a long, happy life. I never imagined the tough choice would be to pick her up, put her in a cage in an animal control van, and close the door on her puzzled-but-trusting face.
All I can do is believe we adopted her when she needed it, and we nursed her to health and enjoyed her for a time, but that time drew to a close, and we had to send her on to be someone else’s beautiful, goofy, loving dog.
I hope they let her keep the blanket.