This is one of the more difficult blog entries I've had to write. It's hard to type through tears.
We had to put Georgia--known as Georgia-Peach, Peach, or Peaches--down today. I've been through this before, but never with a dog in the prime of life and physically healthy. Unfortunately, not all diseases are physical. Or treatable.
I didn't want to do this. I didn't want to have to do this.
In a life full of dogs, I've never loved a dog the same way I loved this one. She was the runt of her litter, and it was apparent right away that she had some issues. She was terrified of--well, anything. Any change upset her. A leaf could blow in, and she'd eye it warily...if she'd even dare to look at it. Every once in a while she would yip and yowl at nothing, tuck herself into a little ball, and hide, shaking. You just wanted to hold her close and love her fear away.
She loved me from day one. I tucked her in my jacket the first time we saw her--she wasn't even the size of an actual peach then--and from that moment on she only had eyes for me. She was supremely in touch with my every mood and action. I'd like to think it was more than the fact that I was the Designated Thrower of Things such as Georgia-Balls and Frisbees. I was also the Designated Georgia Body-Pillow at night...she would burrow under my covers ("Under, Peach") and glom herself against me, and then go off to slumberland, chasing dream-Frisbees and sucking on stale bedfarts.
When she first came home she couldn't make it up the steps. She grew into a sleek, streamlined and hellishly strong dog. Her jaws made short work of almost everything they came in contact with, and she made it a point to sample things besides her dog food. Like...our bed. Like...twenty seven of Eva's Nintendo DS games, and the console itself. Like...countless pieces of clothing, sheets, shoes...all told she's cost us a little over fourteen grand in stuff she has destroyed.
All of this is no big deal. We called such things "peached" and we laughed about it--oops, there goes yet another pair of Ken's slippers or Eva's lacy underthings, damn it, peached again. You learned--at least you were supposed to learn--to keep stuff out of the reach of the Peach. It's a hell of a cure for any lingering materialism.
And seriously, not one of the things she destroyed ever made us think even fleetingly of putting her down. We considered her culinary adventures to be part of her mental illness and just something to be worked around, and the love she showed to and for us every day made things very insignificant.
She could sit for an hour without moving, watching my hands type a blog out, waiting for that telltale motion towards the monitor's on-off switch that signalled I was about to get up and--play Frisbee, I mean what else would I do? If she was really anxious to play Frisbee--such as, for instance, when Mommy came home--she would coo. It would sound eerily like a baby alligator crying, and she wouldn't have to do it long to get Daddy off his ass and playing Frisbee like he was supposed to.
Other than Frisbee, there was 'the bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-on-the-Peach"...scratch it and she'd twerk for you. When she was really happy, which was any time attention was paid to her, she'd snort and sneeze. (Tux yawns when he's happy; Georgia blew snot every which way).
Peach was most emphatically Daddy's Peach, that's for sure. But whenever she got into one of her scaredy phases, she would invariably cower behind the Mommy. We would turn to her and say "who scareded the Peach?" and she'd sheepishly wag her tail thump thump thump and gaze back at us as if to say everything scareded the Peach, the Peach is a scaredy Peach thump thump thump.
Probably the most endearing thing I ever saw her do was give her Georgia-Ball to Eva's mom's dog, who was visiting us and who was a really scared dog. Georgia noted the dog shivering on the couch, went and grabbed her Georgia-Ball, and dropped it right in front of her guest. I couldn't help but hear her saying "this is my Georgia-Ball and it makes me feel good. Maybe my Georgia-Ball will make you feel good, too."
Everybody who met her loved her. She felt a little threatened by strangers, particularly if they were standing, but she restrained herself to barking at them for a while before settling down.
There was, unfortunately, more to the story of our Peach--a side of her that other humans didn't see. When she wasn't scared pitless, our Peach tried to assert dominance, and as she grew older, aggression became a real issue. Not something you could predict, or even see very often, but when she got it in mind there wasn't room for anything else.
Still, we tried to work around it. One of the triggers, for whatever reason, was going outside. If Tux went first, Georgia would run after him and grab him. If Georgia went first, she would wait for Tux and then grab him. It always seemed like it was just one small step beyond play for Peach--and her 'brother' would stoically endure it...until one day she wasn't playing at all and he was yowling and howling so much I thought he was being murdered out there. I ran out and tried to separate the two of them--resorting, I admit, to a kick to Georgia's hind quarters when nothing else seemed to work. Eventually Eva managed to get them apart. Tux was minus some tufts of fur and had a small cut--it was a lot better than it sounded, believe you me.
That was concerning.
After that, I took great pains to make sure Georgia always had Frisbee or Georgia-Ball if not in mouth then firmly in mind as she went out. That solved the problem.
Until the cats came.
Again, it wasn't something that developed immediately. But Georgia would on occasion hump Mooch--obviously a dominance play--and Mooch, who is the most submissive cat I've ever known, would simply roll around and take it. Bubbles, on the other hand, had a zero-fucks-given attitude that would occasionally elicit growls and lunges out of Georgia. One of us was always there to stop her, but again...concerning.
Yesterday morning, Georgia tried to kill Bubbles.
I had had class the night before: I don't get home until 11:15 or so and I'm ravenous when I do get back, so bedtime was a long time coming, and I was asleep when Eva got up. The dogs accompanied Eva down the stairs. Peach caught sight of Bubbles in the top of his cat tree and the switch flipped. Eva had two seconds warning or so, and she tried to stop Georgia. It didn't work. Georgia climbed the cat tree, dragged Bubbles down and started shaking him in the death grip.
Eva tried to separate them, couldn't, and grabbed the baby gate, which is something in this house that strikes the fear of God into Georgia. Eva whacked her six or seven times with that gate before Georgia was even aware she was being hit. Then it dawned on her, and she released Bubbles and ran and hid under my computer desk.
I slept through the whole attack. By the time I got up and stumbled downstairs, Georgia was docile and she stayed that way all through the next two days while we debated what to do.
OPTION 1: KEEP HER, ISOLATE CATS ON THEIR OWN FLOOR, BE VIGILANT against future attacks the way I have been with Tux going outside.
--not fair to the cats who have had the run of the house; what happens when Alexa and Lily come?
OPTION 2: SELL/GIVE HER AWAY. Screen carefully: she needs to be the only pet in a home with no kids.
Still too risky. No other owner would be willing to put up with the other behavioural issues, and who knows what might trigger her next. Could be a month, could be a year from now, could be tomorrow. I don't want that on my conscience.
OPTION 3: GET RID OF CATS.
OPTION 4: PUT GEORGIA DOWN.
We were leaning towards option 4 but really wanted somebody to talk us out of it. Unfortunately the vet told us that Georgia's aggression would get worse as she aged, and that there was no treatment for it.
He was really good--I was worried he would make us feel bad for not adequately training her or something--he has certainly given that vibe in the past. But I think now he understands what it is we have been dealing with. The fact is, in most families Georgia would not have lasted this long--the fate of her litter-mates proves it.
Still, it hurts. It hurts for more than just the obvious--almost eight years of Peach-love. This sounds really stupid, and I know it sounds stupid, but I can't help feeling it. She's mentally ill. She's not aware of what she's doing and she's not doing it on purpose. It feels wrong to kill something that is mentally ill. If a child was prone to biting and temper tantrums, you wouldn't kill it.
I get it...she's a dog. She's not a child, and I'm as guilty as the next person of turning my pets into little human beings that they aren't and can't be. It still doesn't feel right. It feels, quite honestly, like a cop-out.
And I'm worried about Tux. He was our only dog for over a year before we got Miss Peach...but it's been almost eight years and as far as Tux is concerned, Georgia is part of the pack. I'm sure Tux is going to act out over the coming days--his only consolation will be that we can now keep the bedroom door open and Tux can lay on the bed to his heart's content...all day every day, if he wants to, and he'll want to. (Before, the bedroom door had to be kept closed when we weren't at home to guard against the Peach destroying another bed...)
I did everything I could to make Georgia's last day...not extraordinary, but extra-ordinary. No change from any other day. Why? Because Tux is exquisitely attuned to the emotional tenor of this house and Georgia took her cues from him (and from me). There was some discussion about me staying home when Georgia made her last trip to the vet's--partly for Tux, partly because I was breaking down at the mere thought of accompanying her on her last car-ride. I needed to see this through, though. Partly for Eva, partly for Georgia, partly for me.
I've held it together today. Mostly. Occasional quick bursts of tears as I think about how we'll never see her drag herself off the couch, front legs on the floor, back legs splayed against the back of the couch. About how you'd never expect a dog with jaws as powerful as hers to daintily take treats the way she unfailingly did: cheese went into her mouth exactly the way debit cards go into bank machines...zzzut! About how even though Georgia antagonized and baited Tux, he absolutely loved her. That one time when we took Tux for a car-ride (Georgia could take or leave a car-ride, whereas they were some of Tux's favourite things in the world) and he saw a dog who looked just like Georgia, he barked fit to split. About Georgia's single-minded love of Frisbee, and before that, Georgia-Ball. Oh, who am I kidding, I've been fighting tears most of the day.
We decided, in the end, to bring Frisbee along--it was Georgia's security blanket, and she usually had it in sight when she went to sleep at night. It only seemed fitting that she have it to go to sleep this one last time.
Georgia-Peach...come...it's bedtime...go bedtime, Peach.
RIP GEORGIA "PEACH" BREADNER November 2006-October 2014