On the 26th of November, my cat Marley was attacked by my dogs. The scene still plays in my mind. The blood. The sight of Marley, and the blood on my dogs faces. And so it began… the roller coaster of emotions that has left me so heart broken, and so tired and so very drained.
On the day I would have killed my dogs with my own bare hands. But some serious anti-anxiety meds and a deep sleep helped me be strong minded enough to know that I needed to think for a while about what to do.
Marley was in the vet for 6 days. He had a hole through the bottom of his jaw, the top of his mouth and into the back of his eyeball. The muscles on his paw were ripped and he was covered in hardened dog saliva and blood. They cleaned him up and examined him and a friend took him to her home for rehabilitation so that I would be able to leave the dogs with James and go ‘away’ to think and make my decisions.
It was suggested that I build an aviary for Marley. It was suggested that I re home him. Re home dogs. Put Marley down. Put dogs down. And with each bit of advice, by well-meaning people, I just… broke, more and more. Because, it was not ever that simple.
For someone who is not a lover or cats or dogs – this will make NO sense. So do me a favour and stop reading.
But for those of you who have loved an animal like it was a part of you, and extension of you – only YOU will understand that having to make choices that all feel wrong is the hardest thing to do.
I have had individual people who love either my dogs or my cat – cry – and BEG me not to put them down. Adding deep pain to my already gaping agony. I have had facts and stats and third party opinions given. All well-meant – all valid – but me, and me alone had to make the choice.
My cat, Marley who’s journey has already been a phenomenal one. He was a miracle before he even made it to me. He walked, over a two week period, a 24km distance (15 miles), crossing an 8 lane highway, back to my brother’s house – because that is where he wanted to be. He had ‘adopted’ them after being abandoned by his previous family, and they couldn’t keep him and he was shipped from person to person until without any of us knowing he was given to a cat home where he stopped eating. He landed up in the vet and as soon as he was strong enough he decided to bugger the system and head back to where he wanted to be.
He was skin and bone, and they begged me to take him, as they already had too many animals. I reluctantly said yes, having just come out of rehab… because I wanted to be alone and without anything to depend on me.
Despite my previous lack of ‘love’ for animals, Marley and I bonded. He followed me everywhere. He slept at the foot of my bed, and he became a fundamental part of my life. In my darkest moments he became the reason I chose to stay alive. He saved me as much as I saved him.
When I got dogs he was cute with them. He slept next to them, ate with him, played with them. They were a good trio.
Lyra came next. I got her when she was three months old from a friend who already had a few Pitts and I was over the moon. I chose Pitts because they tough, and misunderstood. I identified, and believed it would be good for me to have to learn to be calm and disciplined. She taught me patience, and self-discipline. She was demanding and energetic – and I had to change gears in my mind and that was good.
Then came Jack. Jack came from a puppy mill and he was only 3 weeks old, covered in mange and was very sick. He looked like a little raisin and he was kind and lovely. I fell in love with him, like I did with Marley and with Lyra. They were all different and brought something different and beautiful into my home.
Marley routinely ‘went missing’ when actually I found I had just locked him in a cupboard. Lyra melts over James and was brilliant with Jack. Jack just doted on Lyra and hoarded my shoes in the corner of the garden. Night time was a family affair – where James, Marley, Jack, Lyra and me would all be on the couches in the lounge. Jack would fart, Marley would sleep in the armrest and Lyra would do her best to sit on James’ lap. It was, my odd, and beautiful little family. Something that rolled around in my mind, like walking over broken glass.
My memories. My feelings. My pain – under a microscope – when it wasn’t simple. James wanted dogs, because he had not bonded with Marley. I wanted to keep Marley and the dogs, but that was not possible for many reasons, the two most important being that I refused to put them in a shelter when re homing TWO Pitts together would have been impossible, especially as they had bitten another animal. It would be a cruel punishment.
Secondly, human emotions aside – I could not ignore the reality of the situation. If I re homed Marley – he would always, always try and come home. No one would ever be able to successfully keep him, and his pining would kill me from a distance. Also, he hadn’t done anything wrong, he came over the wall, like had so many times before, and this time… my dogs reacted badly.
I understand, with more clarity than most have given me credit for – that my dog’s didn’t do anything wrong. Naughty – on human terms, but they are not bad dogs. If anyone should be to blame, it is me- for not being consistent in my behavioural training.
On Thursday night, I had reached the limits of what I could cope with emotionally. I was a monster either way. And every time I felt like I had made the right choice, someone would phone and move the goal posts in my tired, sore heart. The lady keeping Marley for me had realised that she wouldn’t be able to, and said as much in a message on the phone. So I made arrangements for him to go back to the vet where they would keep him until I could pick him up today.
I made my choice. I could no longer listen to any one. I could barely deal with my own voice in my own head, never mind the advice (all different) from a handful of people. I was not angry with anyone, I was just so SO confused. Especially because much of what I was being told was biased or showed no sensitivity to the fact that ALL three of my animals were my family.
Also, who was going to be the person to stand WITH any of them, while they looked at me with trusting eyes – not knowing that what I was about to do was confirm that their lives were less important than the others?
It’s easy to throw facts and stats around at someone who is breaking – when it’s not you who has to choose. It’s not you who has to watch the life disappear out of their beautiful faces. Before anyone runs off and takes this personally, I am not AIMING it at anyone. I am illustrating how hard it was for me to try to appease others when ultimately – I would have to live with whatever choice I made. Not all the people dishing out advice. Just me. Me alone. I would never do that to James and they were my dogs, and my cat long before James came along.
So on Thursday night when Marley was returned to the vet, my mom offered to take him. I was not comfortable with that because she would be away over December and sticking him in a cat kennel or having him ‘looked after’ by someone who has no knowledge of cat rehabilitation was just cruel. Also she has two dogs – who have never met a cat before, and even if they DID approve of Marley – he would make his way back to me anyway.
So this morning, at 10 am, I led my dogs through the back entrance of a vet into the room where they would be put to sleep. I sat on the floor with them both and they sat up against me, afraid of the environment. I sobbed, and THEY comforted ME.
I had to put the muzzle on Lyra, and she was first onto the table. She let me put that muzzle on her because she trusted me. They lifted her onto the table, and less than two minutes later, she was dead. Dead weight with her open but now lifeless eyes. Still… looking at ME. Her mother. Her guardian.
They removed the muzzle and in my snot and tear covered face I put it on Jack. He closed his eyes in fear. I was then that I was no longer able to stay composed in my pain. I cried so loud for my heart and my babies that the assistant stopped what he was doing and came to hold me, literally, wrapped his arms around me and let me sob into his chest. When I looked up, Jack was dead too. His eyes, also on me.
Both of my giant, beautiful, loyal, perceptive and amazing animals, laying still, and lifeless.
I touched them both, stroked their faces, told them I love them, and clutching their harnesses and leads to my chest I left. My mother hugged me and the vet came out to tell me that I had done the right thing – BECAUSE I had done my research with behaviourists and vets, and had not made a snap decision based on emotions that were about other people and what they wanted. He validated for me that it was ultimately my choice, and only could make it. He said that I mustn’t feel like a monster. It was too late for that, but I appreciated the kindness and the humanity.
We left from that vet, to the vet where Marley was. I didn’t want to put my dogs down at the same vet that Marley was at. My mind couldn’t wrap itself around that. When we arrived there the ladies at the front desk could tell by my red and swollen eyes that I had made my choice.
They did their best to comfort me and told me that they were glad that I didn’t bring them there to be put down. They loved my dogs and had known them since they were both puppies, but respected and understood my choices. But they were also frank with me about the realities and the potential for human harm, which I was grateful for because it meant at least I was not a monster in their eyes. They offered kind and comforting words and I got hugs all round – and we left.
Marley is now under the bed, and is surveying the perimeter from where he thinks is safe while he figures out that there are no dogs anymore. He has eaten, and he is happy to be here. Home.
To those of you that are hurt or upset that my dogs have been put down – I am sorry you are heart sore, and I am sorry that you disagree. For close on two weeks I weighed up EVERY option. I chose the dogs, then I chose Marley, then I chose the dogs, then I chose Marley… and finally, I had to make a choice based on the facts and not my heart. Because at one point – I was going to put them all down to spare myself a fraction of the guilt of having to choose, and cause a HUMAN being pain.
For anyone who may resent me for my choice- please remember that they were my dogs, and it was me who held Marley on the way to the vet with his blood covered coat and his gasping for air. And it was me who put the muzzles on my own beautiful dogs before they were put to sleep. It was me that had to choose which family member(s) to ‘kill’.
It was me who had the bond with all three of them, and it is me who has to remember them, lifeless, on a stainless steel table, having not taken their eyes off me.
So this post serves two purposes.
- A tribute to my animals. They didn’t deserve to die, but Marley didn’t either, and when you weigh up the REALITY, Marley came out on top. Not because he came first or because he saved me, but because ending his life because he was the victim of an attack, by my dogs (meaning I would never be able to re introduce them to each other), would be a gross injustice to the journey he has already made.
- To let all of you know what my choices were, and why.
Thank you Mary-Ann for caring for Marley for the time that you did.
Thank you Sheila (James’ mom) for the unbiased conversations.
Thank you Gaby for introducing me to Pitt Bulls and for showing me what a beautiful and magnificent breed they are. I am sorry… I really am.
To those of you that have been patient, kind – and understanding – and even to those of you have been downright obnoxious about it – thank you for caring enough to speak up anyway.
I will end off by saying though – that if ANYONE is unkind to me about my choice – or has something to say that is anything other than supportive – I warn you – it would be very unwise. I love my dogs, and that was one of the most soul destroying things I have ever had to do – so choose your words wisely.
Or I will feed them back to you.