Ding Dong! The Dog is Dead!

This is going to come off as somewhat cruel, so for the more sensitive animal lovers among you, turn back now.  Really.  You’re not going to like what I have to say.  If you click on the <MORE> button, you’ll probably regret it.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Okay, now that we’re past that, I wanted to say that my 12-year old akita died recently.  And good riddance to him.  He was a pain in the ass from the day he arrived.  And no, he’s not dead in that picture, he’s sleeping, that picture is from 2005.

He came to us as a stray that wandered into our yard when he was about 6 months old.  He was emaciated, abused and so full of ticks it took us literally 3 hours to pick them off of him that first night.  He ate and drank like there was no tomorrow.

We didn’t want to keep him.  We tried to find his owners for weeks, then we advertised in the local paper for a new home.  Both failed.  I knew from the beginning that finding his owner was pointless, clearly they didn’t want him and he was dumped.  Lots of people dump animals around here.  We checked the local rescues, they were full up and they couldn’t place most of their akitas either.  The shelters told us he was too large, if we turned him in, he’d be put down immediately.  Advertising came to naught as well, akitas are big, big dogs, prone to lots of health problems and, as we found out, most people won’t touch them.  They look great, they’re a ton of trouble.

How much trouble you might ask?  Ours was a prolific digger.  By prolific, I mean our back yard has looked like a lunar landscape for the past 10 years.  Nothing would dissuade him.  I put chicken wire about 6 inches under ground across the areas he liked to dig, he just moved over to the edge of the wire and started there.  He destroyed every plant we had in the back yard, including cactuses.  He ruined the furniture that he could gnaw on and pushed over the stuff he couldn’t.  The planters were destroyed, the grass was dead, it was a disaster.

But it didn’t stop there.  Akitas are also prolific hunters, it’s what they’re bred for.  They have excellent hearing, that’s why they dig, to get at prey underground.  He ate everything that would fit in his mouth.  I used to clean up carcasses weekly.  Possums, cats, birds, rabbits, gophers, you name it.  There were entrails everywhere.  He eventually decided to take a chunk out of my chihuahua, necessitating major stitches and weeks of recuperation.  He still bears the scars where a big chunk of skin, all the way down to the muscle, was ripped out on his side.  That was the last straw, he lost access to all the other dogs except our dalmatian, which was too large for him to bother with.  The only issue we had there is, akitas are food paranoid, they protect their food bowl against all intruders.  He protected *ALL* food bowls, his and everyone else’s.  We had to take to feeding the dalmatian separately or she’d have starved.  He didn’t necessarily eat all the food, but he’d attack anything that went close to it.

He would have been a terrific guard dog, I’ll give him that.  He barked at everything.  He scared everyone, including my gardeners who refused to do the back yard while he was in it.  While I don’t necessarily blame them, he really was a good, kind dog.  I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression, he wasn’t a monster, he was very loving, intelligent and protective, so long as he couldn’t eat you.  He loved people, he wanted to cuddle with everyone, he wanted to play games, he loved to fetch, he was trained to sit and stay, etc.  He wasn’t a bad dog, he just was the wrong dog for us.

But I guess that’s the problem.  My philosophy has always been, if I take in an animal, I do so for life, no matter what.  I tried to place him, I failed.  Therefore he became my lifelong responsibility.  I gave him a very good life, he was happy, he was well cared for, well fed and never wanted for anything.  I was the sucker who took him in, that obligated me to provide for him, no matter how difficult it was.  Just because he’s an inconvenience doesn’t stop him from deserving the best life I can provide.

I really only bring this up because it’s a big part of my rescue philosophy.  People ask me why I don’t want to take in troubled animals that need help.  Blame the akita.  He’s my example of what happens when you simply take what’s thrown your way without regard to the long-term consequences.  Sure, I could take in birds with behavioral problems, I could adopt cats with physical ailments, there are animals out there with quirks of all kinds, but the reality is, I have to be more concerned with forming a cohesive family environment for everyone, human and animal.  I’ve seen what happens when you don’t.  I can’t allow my heart to override my head and make decisions that are simply bad for everyone involved.  I’ve seen how it turns out.  It’s not good.

Now he’s gone.  The typical lifespan for akitas is 10-12 years and he made it close to 12 years.  Towards the end, we watched him slow down, we saw him slowly go blind, he hardly moved, but so long as he wasn’t in pain, and we were assured he wasn’t, we allowed him to slowly drift away.  On Wednesday, he was gone.  I buried him in one of his own holes.

Can I say I’m sorry he’s gone?  No.  Can I say I’ll miss him.  Absolutely.  No matter how many problems he caused, no matter how many holes he dug, animals he killed, he was my responsibility and one that I took seriously.  I wouldn’t want him back, but I regret his passing.  I’m not going to miss the problems, but I will miss him putting his giant head in my lap.  He had a good life, certainly better than it started out.  At least I get my back yard back, I can replant the grass and the plants, I can replace the furniture, and there will always be a certain place in my heart for that big galoot.  Maybe I’ll plant something special over his grave site, just to remember him by.

Farewell Arthur.  May you rest in peace.

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