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Just a Guy and His Dog

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Did you see "Marley and Me"? If you did, then you know how I feel about my dog.

Just a guy and his dog

Bruce Sallan: I rescued Simon from the pound after seeing him there, labeled a "dog-fighter." A big black dog, 80 lbs., whom they said would never find a home -- people were reluctant to adopt any large black dog, and the label he carried was a virtual death sentence.

He appeared scared, but loveable. We brought our other dog, a smaller pointer mix that we'd also rescued, to see if they would get along. They did -- and we adopted Simon.

Simon became my best friend, and saved my life during the dark days of my divorce. However, his aggressive behavior showed itself when he fought with a dog being walked by his owners. No injuries, as I got there in time to prevent them, but the lawyer/owner saw a lawsuit and claimed injury, which our home insurance settled rather than fought.

Sadly, years later, when we moved to a remote rural area, we had another encounter in which he mauled our neighbor's dog, digging under a fence. I leapt over the fence (still don't know how), pulled him off their dog, and saved its life, though she required surgery, which we paid for.

After that, it was doggie boot camp for Simon, at a considerable cost. When he came home, we followed their instructions, but regardless, we kept him on virtual lockdown, only walking him on a tight leash.

The other day, he broke the leash. He attacked another dog, a 110 lb. Rhodesian ridgeback. The owner and I didn't notice any injuries, but when he got home, his wife saw a gash on its side. We called, apologized profusely, and offered to pay any costs, which we did.

The loss of sleep, guilt, and my wife's anxiety hasn't been easy. I feel and am responsible. Simon has enjoyed eight years of our love, and has given us as much in return. What do we do? We found out the other dog was recovering and is fine.

My wife was clear that we were not going to put Simon down, but much tougher rules would be necessary. After a visit to the vet, and a home visit with a dog behaviorist, they assured us that he didn't pose a direct threat to people. So, we'll only walk him with a custom-made basket muzzle, and a choke and prong collar. I'm still worried about whether we're doing the right thing, but what do I know? I'm just a guy.

next: The Season of Giving
15 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wendi December 19, 2009, 7:36 AM

I think you are doing the right thing. I love my dogs like they are family, because they are. Keep in mind you don’t know what that dog had gone through before you got him. Some things just are harder to get over. I think the muzzle idea is a great one and it gives the dog the ability to be social with you and not risk hurting anyone.

Bruce Sallan December 19, 2009, 7:38 AM

Postscript - We have kept Simon and ANY discussion of putting him down is OUT! I love that dog and we’re going to manage him and make it work. So, please don’t worry about him. Worry about me in case he gets loose! Seriously, we got a custom-fitted muzzle and a prong and choke chain for complete protection when we take him for walks. And, I’m working on being trained better, as well. He was never the problem. Happy Holidays to everyone! Hope you’ll visit my web-site sometime and say “hello” or join my “A Dad’s Point-of-View” Facebook page. We’ve already got over 300 members and I love my momlogic friends. Hope to see you there, too!

denise December 19, 2009, 6:24 PM

Whew Bruce - you scared me for a moment. Sure glad you kept Simon around.

Anita (England) December 20, 2009, 3:11 AM

Wendi is so right, you don’t know what happened to Simon before you had him; and bless him, he can’t tell you. We once had an Afghan Hound that hated any one who wore glasses and a black, plastic raincoat. After some delving we found out that he once belonged to a butcher who wore ‘glasses and a black, plastic raincoat and would come home from the pub drunk and aggressive. With us, he found a very happy home. We felt we gave him back what had been taken away; and that’s someone being kind and loving. I have come to know Simon through your posts, and I also know you would ‘never’ let any harm come to him, because you are giving him that something he may never have had before he came to live with you. Good luck!

renee December 20, 2009, 6:40 AM

glad to hear you understand a dog is a LIFETIME commitment-yours and the dogs. you also have to remember dogs have their own rules which as humans we can not understand (even though we think we do) and that just like people, not all dogs will get along and like each other.

sally December 20, 2009, 9:02 AM

Go Simon. Love our dogs!

thewildmind December 20, 2009, 9:49 PM

Uh, yeah, this kind of hits really close to home in so many ways. I had a wonderful dog, her name was Stuka, she was a German Shepherd/Akita mix. In the end she had all the same encounters you mentioned your dog had (except she never hurt anybody, she only growled and threatened to snap at them after they came at her with brooms and other objects). In short, I was ordered to put her down. I would have so settled for a choke chain and a prong collar whatever. I wasn’t ever given the opportunity to even see an animal behaviorist. My take, count your lucky stars or start digging a doggy grave. It could be so much worse. My kids and I still grieve the unfair loss of this wonderful animal after over five years. Sigh.

Sonnie December 21, 2009, 8:32 AM

I’m glad to hear that you are taking measures to be able to keep Simon in your life.

Emma December 21, 2009, 8:59 PM

I found reference to this article on your Facebook Fan Page (which I love). I don’t have a dog myself but I am fascinated by the TV Show “the Dog Whisperer.” In that respect, I very much like what you said in your comment: “I’m working on being trained better, as well. He was never the problem.”

Wishing you and Simon all the best.

Cynthia December 22, 2009, 1:03 PM

I’m always grateful when I see a dog with a muzzle. It sure beats “Oh that never happened before” which I’ve heard 4 out of the 5 times my dog has gotten bitten. There’s no need to kill a perfectly healthy dog. Get a muzzle. Dogs that bite may still be wonderful loving dogs in every other way. When I see a muzzle, I just think somebody’s looking out for me.

Bruce Sallan December 22, 2009, 3:08 PM

Thanks Cynthia. I love Simon so much. A column I wrote several years ago tells the story of how I fell asleep at the wheel and crashed my car at 72 mph. Simon was thrown out of the hatchback and I thought I’d killed him. He showed up, minutes later, with a slight limp and a scratched nose. A real miracle. We are truly bound together. Find that column, if you’re interested, on my web-site - it’s called “Gratitude” and this time of year it sure is relevant!

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