It’s been one year since we’ve said goodbye. I miss you tippy tapping on the kitchen floor. I miss the weight if your massive body at the foot of the bed, stretching out, hogging my side. I miss the way you’d sneak into the bed and go to sleep before us, then sigh with great annoyance when we disturbed your slumber. I miss the way you’d come push the top of your head on my hand, forcing me to pet you. I miss the way you’d wag your tail while I playfully called you vulgar names while scratching your ears.
I miss listening to you chew on your favorite toy, a blue racquetball, and dutifully dropping it when I would snap ‘Tai! Knock it off!’. And you’d give it three more slow chews:
and then you’d drop it. You always had to chomp it three times before you’d drop it or hand it over.
I miss watching you drool over your weekly helping of hot wings, every Sunday with your dad. Or the way you’d playfully chase Kitty Kat – whom you so vehemently hated from the moment you set eyes on her. You’d zip out of the room after her and then proudly trot back in as if to say ‘That’s right. I showed her what’s what’. I miss the way you always tried to comfort us when we were sad by snuggling up. I miss the way you’d let me draw big white, Joan Crawford-style eyebrows on you just so I could have a good laugh.
You were the best worst dog I’ve ever had.
I remember when Christian wanted to adopt Tai in late 2003. He sent me a link from PetFinder.com of a beautiful 1 year old black and white pit bull. Christian was in love. I tried to convince him not to adopt this dog.
You don’t know his breeding.
You don’t know where he came from.
A dog like that is a huge commitment.
But what do I know? I’m just this chick that he started dating a few weeks ago. I don’t really get a say. A mere five months later, I’d be moving in and trying to keep that damn dog from literally eating my cat.
Christian acquired Tai from an organization called Rott’nPity. Initially we were only supposed to foster Tai with the option to adopt. We soon realized there wasn’t much ‘organization’ to this group. Within the first 72 hours, we realized that Tai was not a good fit for us. But we couldn’t get in touch with anyone from the group. Eventually their was some feigned attempts on their part to help us with Tai. But eventually we lost all contact with the group and were left to our own devices.
We didn’t know much about Tai. We know he came from Virginia, he had been moved from home to home until he found himself in Philly. We know he had scars on his face and he was terrified of other dogs. The mere sight of another dog, even from across huge fields, would send him into fits of snarling and barking. Heaven forbid we cross paths with a dog that was within a few feet or yards of us. The result was more snarling and barking with a side of violent thrashing and biting at the air or his leash…and at times, us if we got in the way.
We also knew that we were Tai’s last shot at a home. He was days away from being euthanized. How could we not keep this dog? Didn’t he deserve a chance at a good home? Surely with enough love, time and patience, we could turn this angry bully into a good boy.
We got so close but it was still too far to make it last.
When we took on the challenge that was Tai, life was very different. Christian worked for a storage company and we lived in the on-site apartment. We didn’t have to worry about other people and other dogs. We had nearly absolute control over this animal. The cat and dog eventually adjusted to each other (read: they stayed away from each other and always slept with one eye open) and we didn’t have any children to worry about. If something bad were going to happen with this dog, it would be to one of us. At the time, we were willing to take that chance in hopes that we could fix this dog.
Like all things in life, circumstances change. Christian and I became engaged, eventually we bought a house and moved. In 2007 we were married and by the Fall of that year, we were expecting our first child. We had made some impressive strides in Tai’s training but he still had issues. He had mellowed a lot over the years and in the house, he was just a sweet, wanna-be lap dog. But other dogs still caused the thrashing, air biting fits that made him nearly impossible to control. Christian was definitely better at it than I was. However, when you consider that he was about 90lbs of pure muscle, the idea that you could lose control of him was very scary. He also had jealousy issues with the cat – so this worried me when I thought about him cohabitating with a child.
There are people out there that say we were insane to bring a child around this dog. I can appreciate why people might think this as you are only seeing a small slice of Tai’s life. If you knew Tai though – he was not an unpredictable monster. He was a sweet dog who had issues and we took great care to not put him in situations that made him react badly. Besides, we were not the type to give up a pet just because a child was being brought into the home. But Tai had mellowed over the years and we honestly felt we wouldn’t have any issues.
He was always so sweet to Izzy. Stealing kisses during tummy time on the floor. Anxiously waiting for dropped food or licking chubby hands that dangled down from the high chair.
He’d lay there like a lump when Izzy would toddle over, flop herself down and roll over his back.
But in that last year he began to change. His temperament had changed. While he wasn’t very old (only 6 years and some odd months at this point) it seemed to us that time was catching up to him. He was graying and became more prone to snapping at the cat or giving us ‘the look’ that made us give him a wide berth. He was showing jealousy toward Izzy – pushing her out of the way, especially when Christian showed preference to her. I was concerned but not to a point that truly I feared for anyone’s safety. He still had more moments of sweetness than he did of adverse behavior. But we still had conversations about the ‘what ifs’ just in case we should ever experience them.
Then ‘what if’ happened. January 28, 2010 was the worst day of our lives so far. It was the day we knew we’d have to say goodbye to Tai.
It was an average day. Christian and I had been home from work for about an hour. We sat in the living room and played with Tai and Izzy. After a while I got up to do some chores. I was in the back of the house. I heard Tai bark (not unusual) and then a few moments later I heard Izzy scream (also not unusual) and she quickly stopped fussing. At first I didn’t make a connection. As I walked back out to the kitchen I called out to Christian and asked if she was okay and he replied yes. He thought she just bumped her head on the hearth. Izzy was still unsteady on her feet at that point and had already fallen and bumped her noggin a few times that week. When I came into the kitchen,Izzy came to see me asking for ‘jooz’ and completely happy. But there was red on her left cheek. I looked closer. Blood. Blood was coming out of a huge tear under her eye and from a puncture wound in her cheek. He bit her. The dog bit her! We have never been exactly clear on why it happened.
I remember every second of what happened in the few minutes between getting Izzy in the car and getting her to the ER. I was screaming at Christian that Tai bit her (he didn’t believe me at first) and how devastated I was that this dog hurt our perfect baby. I was working so hard to bite my tongue and not blame him for ever bringing that dog home. I was furious and frantic and any love I had for Tai dissipated within seconds. I wanted that dog out of the house before we came home from the hospital. Oddly enough, Izzy was happy as a clam and seemed to be in no pain at all.
When Izzy was getting stitched up, I couldn’t even stay in the room. They had to swaddle her and Christian and a nurse had to hold her down. The screaming was beyond description. I can hear it in my head as I type this as clearly as I heard it that day. I felt all the blood fall away from my face, I was nauseous and on the verge of passing out. Christian told me to leave and a nurse confirmed that it would be over in a few minutes.
I stood just outside the curtain wishing over and over that it had been me the dog bit. I was wracked with guilt over how a dog came within millimeters of blinding our precious baby. My brain was just swirling with what lay ahead of us. What would we do with the dog? Will the city come and take him? Will social services get involved? What is Christian thinking? Will he resent me when I insist we re-home this dog? Can we re-home him? What is the responsible thing to do here?
Finally we made our way home in silence. I finally asked ‘What are we going to do?’ and Christian replied ‘I’m not giving up my dog.’ For now, the line had been drawn and war was declared. The next few days in our house were Hell. I won’t even get into the fight we had that night. It doesn’t matter. No matter who ‘won’ the battle, everyone would lose and no one would be happy.
Christian and I talked about the options. We argued about the options. We cried over the unspoken reality of what we needed to do. After a day or so I became more empathetic to what Christian was going through. One way or another, he was going to lose his best friend. I also began to realize that I had no right to be angry at Tai. He wasn’t like this by choice. My anger had effectively faded to grief and worry. What would become of Tai? We can’t just give him to anyone. Would anyone take him? If we had to do….that…would Christian and I survive this?
Ultimately we decided that Tai needed to be put down. It was not a decision we came to lightly. But as much as we loved him, as sweet as he could be, Tai was very temperamental and needed very specific precautions taken to keep himself and others safe when out in public. We called to make an appointment and discovered that we’d have to quarantine Tai for two weeks to ensure he didn’t have rabies (despite having records). This was torture. We knew in our hearts we were making the right choice but this gave us time to chew on it. We questioned ourselves. I made several desperate attempts to re-home him, even though I knew it was wrong. I was desperate to give Christian some peace and give Tai a better, longer life. I made the appointment and arrangements for his body and the return of his ashes. It was surreal.
It was a Monday that we took Tai to be put to sleep. It was the most horrible thing I had ever witnessed. We were warned by the vet that because Tai was so healthy and strong that the process would go much faster. She reassured us that he would not feel any discomfort. They gave him a sedative and then whatever medicine is used to put an animal down. He was gone before they even finish pumping the medicine into his veins. This magnificent animal and his troubled mind were finally still. We were told to take as much time as we needed to say goodbye. Claiming his ashes a week later was so sad. How could such a great beast be reduced to so little?
I don’t think we’ll ever get over the loss of Tai. Some friends attempted to comfort us by saying ‘he’s just a dog. You can get another one.’ We’ll ever know another Tai. He was not just any dog. He was a truly special animal. I often question the choice we made. But really, there was no choice. As sweet as he was, with his history, no rescue groups would take him. Believe me, I tried. Even though I would have liked to re-home him, I was not confident that anyone else would take the care and precautions we did with Tai. Nor could I live with myself if he hurt someone else. Dropping him at a shelter was not an option. Period. He would have suffered the anxiety of being surrounded by other dogs before he would ultimately be euthanized without us by his side. We owed him a peaceful passing and the respect of being there in his last moments.
Some may argue that we did Tai a great disservice but I will respectfully disagree. He got five years he was never meant to have. Five years of good food, snuggling, ball throwing, cat chasing, kiss stealing, bed hogging joy. I often struggle with the idea that we ceased the life of a physically healthy being. But we know something wasn’t right with Tai – and it never has been. I console myself with the fact that we gave him a better life than he had ever know and a longer one at that.
Would I ever adopt a pit bull again? Absolutely. These things didn’t happen because Tai was a pit bull. These things happened because of bad breeding, abuse and bad circumstances. I wish I could have removed that broken part of Tai’s brain and kept him in our home until he went on his own. But I truly believe that this was all the time we were meant to have with Tai. Despite the bad things that happened, he will forever be missed in our home.
I’m sure you are wondering what happened with Izzy. She received two stitches under her eye and one in her cheek.
The wounds were large but animal bites are only sewn up enough to bring the skin together to cut down on the risk of infection. The doctor did not want to trap any bacteria in the wound. Her wounds have healed beautifully and only those that know she was bitten notice the scars. If one fortunate thing happened in this mess, it was that the larger wound happened right in the crease between her eye and her cheek. In a few years, I doubt the scars will be visible at all.
Izzy has no fear of dogs. In fact, the night of the incident, upon returning from the hospital, Izzy attempted to give Tai a hug.
In the Spring of 2010, we decided it was time to adopt a new dog. This time we decided to go easy. We adopted a jack russell/ pug mix that we named Tuna. He’s no Tai but he is still pretty cool. I only have two complaints about him. I can no longer leave laundry on the floor for fear that he will take a dump in it. Also, for a 20lb dog, he sure does take up a lot of space on my side of the bed…..maybe we still have a piece of Tai with us after all.
If you have any interest in learning more about Pit Bulls and what a wonderful breed they can be, please check out the sites below.
badrap.org (they took in Michael Dick’s dogs)