Monday, June 26, 2006

There are three souls in my life who have been constant comfort the past few years.

There is my 10 year old American Eskimo mix who I took in as a puppy while I was still in college. She is the smartest dog I know, with a large vocabulary, both human and canine.

There is also my 4 year old English Setter. She and Lovely are the best of friends. They sleep together each night, and she has been a real therapy dog for Lovely's transition into living with her parents separately.

Then there is Tippy Tail, a 3-5 year old Irish Red & White Setter. I never did know how old he was. Tippy (not his real name, he would have you know), got sick I think sometime in the last 6 weeks. There was not a moment that I can put my finger on, but looking back, there are so many signs that connect.

Last Thursday night, Tippy Tail lost it.

There has been a problem with fence jumping for awhile now. Not just a little 4 foot fence, but a 6 foot wooden fence, with an invisible fence buried along the inside so he wouldn't go to the edge. Tippy didn't care, he would run through the shock, jump the fence, and be off to roam the neighborhood.

There was the day that my fiancé caught him and tried to bring him back to the house and Tippy bit him on the arm.

There was the change in the other dogs too. Tippy bit the older dog on the ear one day. She had started nipping at him in the house and trying to keep him separated from the rest of us. We thought she was just being old and ornery, but now of course, everything looks different.

Last Thursday night, the three humans were in the music room and Tippy was with us. My fiancé and I were sitting in chairs, practicing a song for our friends' upcoming wedding. Lovely was sitting on the floor, petting Tippy. There was nothing unusual about this. He loved that little girl. He would come to her for pets each night and often would sleep next to her bed at night. Everything should have been fine.

In an instance, I see Tippy lift his head and his eyes were like nothing I had ever seen. I had time to stop singing and think to myself, "That doesn't look right." Then he was on her.

He attacked Lovely right there on the floor with us sitting there. Completely unprovoked, and with no warning growls or anything, he jumped at her face and nicked her right above the eye. In that regard, we are very lucky. She was physically not hurt much, but emotionally has had a really hard time.

Tippy had to go. Right then. I did call his rescue group before I made any final decisions, but no one wavered on what had to happen. The unpredictable and unprovoked attack on a child could not be explained or tolerated.

I took him to the vet myself. The rescue group said that they would take him back, but they would euthanize him. I wasn't going to send him away only to do what I could have done. It took me about five minutes to get the story out to the vet once I arrived. Between sobs, they understood that I had Tippy in the car and needed to have him put to sleep.

I stayed with him until the end. He was scared I think, but then again, there has been a nervousness in him that lately that goes on the list of things I didn't connect with him. I had promised him that I was his forever home, so I stayed with him for his forever. I stroked his head and told him that I loved him, and then I said goodbye.

The next couple of days I spent beating myself senseless about the whole thing. Not one person doubted my decision, except me.

Then, yesterday morning, I woke up and realized something very important.

I am an adult.

There are people and pets and things for which I have responsibility for now, and I am competent enough to make tough decisions. Tippy was my dog, and I was responsible for him, his health, his safety, and most importantly in this case, the safety of those around him. Lovely is going to be my stepdaughter. Not only was she not safe, she didn't feel safe, and there was no way I was going to let her be afraid to come in her own home. Plus, if he would bite her, a little girl that he loved, he would bite anyone. This erratic behavior doesn't exist in a healthy dog. There was something wrong with my Tippy Tail, and even though I will never know what it was, I am confidant that I made the right decision.

That doesn't mean that I don't miss him. We all miss him. I miss his cold nose in the mornings, the way he would throw his head back and give a hearty, "Roo, roo!" when it was time to go outside. I miss him laying by my feet and looking up at me with those huge brownish red eyes that perfectly matched his brownish red spots.

Tippy was a great dog who had come a long way in his life as a pet. I loved him very much, all the way to the end.