It's time to tell the story

Today is the day the finalists of the Quilting Arts Magazine Calendar Contest are announced. I have changed the homepage on my browser to the Editor's blog, where the finalists will be posted, and am checking it obsessively. Whether I make it or not, I thought today would be a good day to finally tell the story of my entry. This is what I wrote and sent in with my entry. I've added pictures for the blog that were not included.

In December of 2004, I decided I was ready for my first dog. I started reading as much as I could about training puppies, comparing different breeds and talking to people who have had experience raising good dogs. My boyfriend Ryan and I went to the Detroit Humane Society the day after Christmas. We walked past rows of cages with adult dogs in them, and could see down the hall there were cages with animals that would not be adopted for one reason or another. We found our way to the puppy room, it was a small room with stacks of cages against three walls, there were quite a few litters of puppies that were 6 weeks old, and only a few puppies that were older. The top left cage caught my eye. A 12-week old female, white with huge black ears was whining and wagging her tail, so excited that we were talking to her. We grabbed her paperwork off her cage and went back up front so we could take her out and play with her. The employee took her out of the cage and we went into a little room where she jumped all over us and licked our faces and was so happy. I loved her instantly. We kissed her and put her back in her cage and told her we’d be back in a couple days. Back up front I took care of the paperwork and was told to come back on Wednesday, after she had been spayed and given the routine veterinary care.

We went back on Wednesday to pick her up, I think we waited in that waiting room for hours and hours, but it was probably only 15 minutes. A doctor came around the corner holding my puppy and I could see that she recognized me. Her tail started wagging and her ears laid down against her head. As soon as the doctor put her in my arms she peed all down the front of me. I got some final instructions and signed more paperwork and we were on our way home.

The first week was rough. That may be an understatement. The first week was a nightmare. I had no idea what I was doing. I had taken the week off work so I could stay home and get my puppy, who I had decided to call Olive, acquainted with her new surroundings. I spent a lot of time on the phone with my mom, my sister, and with Ryan, usually crying. I was having feelings like I had made a mistake. I didn’t know how to raise a puppy. I wanted to work in my sewing room, but every time I sat down, Olive peed on the floor, whined or needed some other attention. I don’t know what I was expecting; I guess I thought puppies slept a lot. This one sure didn’t. At the end of the week I had decided to stick with it, to keep working with Olive and she would be the best dog ever.

The next couple months brought lots of good things, along with bad. She was potty trained by the age of 4-1/2 months; she hardly ever chewed anything she wasn’t supposed to; she could sit, lie down, come when she was called and we were working on ‘roll over’.

Olive was about 8 months old when the aggressiveness started. It started with just some barking, whether we were outside with another dog in view, or inside looking out at another dog outside. The barking developed into growling and snarling. It got so bad that when she would sit by the window and see another dog outside, she would jump all over the window, sending the vertical blinds all over the place. At first, I would pull her by the collar and talk to her calmly. After a while, when I reached for her collar during one of these “freak-outs”, she would turn and snap at my hand. I refused to let her become the alpha dog in this house, so I kept pulling her back and was more firm with her especially when she snapped at me. Nothing worked. After about a month of this, and three separate attacks on Dakota, the 10 year old German Shepherd Husky mix at my parents house, we were on a walk with Olive and happened to pass by a woman in front of her house. Olive started barking at her dog through the fence, and this struck up a conversation with the woman, who happened to be a dog trainer. She worked with Olive for a few minutes and thought she could be a good dog with the correct training. As the woman was talking a man with two Jack Russell Terriers walked by. Olive, predictably, stood on her hind legs, barked and snarled and leapt at the dogs across the street. The woman stopped mid-sentence and just said, “oh my”. I told her how often that happens and that she has started to snap at me and other people who take care of her. Her unfortunate recommendation was to have her put down. Dogs with that much aggressive tendency are just not safe.

As we continued on our walk, I talked with Ryan and my parents, but no decisions were made. I was assured that they would be there for me whatever my decision was. I wrestled with every possible option available, but could only think of one thing. What if Olive hurts someone? I knew I could not keep her, but if I took her back to the Humane Society, she would be adopted to another family, possibly with another dog or small children. I couldn’t let that happen, so I made the awful decision to have her put down.

The morning of June 22, 2005 I left for work after a lot of kisses and scratches and hugs for Olive and quite a few tears. My mom came shortly after I left and took Olive home with her. My dad picked her up and took her to the vet. He had already made arrangements so that they could come in the back door, where she wouldn’t come in contact with any other animals. As soon as the vet laid eyes on her he told my dad he could see why we had been having so much trouble.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Olive was my responsibility. I volunteered to be her sole caretaker and give her everything she needed. I felt like such a failure, I would look around at other people walking their dogs and get sad and jealous. So many people have dogs, what is wrong with me that I couldn’t keep mine? But I have slowly realized that it wasn’t my fault. I did everything I could to keep her and take care of her so she could have the best life, and so that I could have a great companion as well. But I see now that sometimes, no matter how hard you try; some things just can’t work out the way you want them to.

My quilt is a portrait of Olive sitting in her favorite spot by the window keeping watch over the yard. I used hand-dyed fabrics and some commercial fabric and over-dyed commercial fabric. It was fused and then hand and machine quilted.


Linda J. Huff said...

My MIL had a Jack Russell. She had her for a number of years and one day the dog started getting very aggressive and started snapping at the grandkids with no warning and no reason. The grandkids were all 10-12 years old. There was nothing they could do to change her behavior. They were lucky though. They were able to find an individual who works with over aggressive dogs and had lots of property were the dogs could run and not harm anyone. My condolences for your loss.

Anonymous said...

Candice, you should not feel guilty at all for having to put Olive down. Remember, you took "pot luck" at the shelter, and in Detroit, there are many, many dogs that are bred for abusive purposes (drug dealers, dog fighting, etc.) My hunch is that Olive made it to the shelter because she didn't initially display the tendencies the person who abandoned her had wanted, but that she had been bred to be aggressive. When you decide to adopt a dog again, you might be better served exploring a full-bred from a reputable breeder. You can then select the kind of qualities you want in a dog and not be as uncertain about what the outcome will be.

Gilli said...

Don't give up on the humane society dogs. Perhaps it would be a wise choice to adopt a slightly older dog. That way you would know what it's personality is like, and they are less likely to get a good home. The best animal friends I've had in my life were adopted from shelters or vets. Blessings.

Shannon said...

Love you, Gigi! Not that I've ever patronized their company, but I am now officially banning Quilting Arts Magazine. They don't know a kick ass quilt when they see it. I would like to congratulate you on being the first place,gold ribbon (better than blue) winner of the Shannon Schuyler Best Quilter and Best Sister Award 1983-2006. That's right, you've been our leading contender for 23 years in a row! Some day we will obtain the funds to reward you appropriately.