My sophomore year of college, I lived in a ground floor off-campus apartment with a friend of mine. Our landlord lived above us, with his wife, two kids and three dogs; a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Dachshund and a shorthaired mix – Maggie. Maggie had a honey colored coat, long legs, a narrow snout and a perky tail. When my friend and I moved into the apartment, our landlord warned us to be slightly cautious around her, because she had a tendency to “fear bite.” Overall, we didn’t have much interaction with the dogs anyway, but they all seemed like perfectly pleasant canines.
One morning, as I was leaving my apartment to go to class, my landlord pulled into the driveway. He opened his car door, and the three dogs came charging out towards me. Being a dog lover, I crouched down to pet them. While the first two dogs greeted me cheerfully, Maggie chomped her teeth around my arm. Alarmed, I abruptly stood up – at which point she jumped around to the back of me, and…well…chomped on my backside. My landlord came over and apologized, and took the dogs inside. Bleeding profusely and in a hell of a lot of pain, I promptly hobbled my way to my school’s health services facility.
A nurse cleaned me up and bandaged the bites, and then told me that I was required to file a police report. All in all, the bites really weren’t that bad. They hurt like hell and I definitely had some teeth marks in me, but there was no severe damage. A couple bandages patched me up pretty well. But regardless of the severity, regulation was regulation. So a police officer came to my apartment later that evening, and I filled out a report about what happened. Only then did I find out that my landlord had just been to court a few months earlier because Maggie had bitten someone else. He was legally required to keep her on a leash at all times.
I chose not to press charges, because I held nothing against Maggie. If nothing else, I wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t punish her. She’s a dog. I didn’t know much about her, but I knew my landlord had adopted her from a shelter a year or two prior. Animals can come with emotional and behavioral baggage just like people – especially if they’ve spent a chunk of their life living in a cage. Regardless of how nice some shelters may be now, no dog ever actually wants to live in one.
The police told me that nothing would happen to Maggie unless the town itself chose to press charges, but she was quarantined for ten days to make sure she was clean of any diseases. I don’t even know where she was quarantined – at the vet, or in my landlord’s house. But about two weeks later, my landlord slipped a note under my door. It was a vet record, stating she had passed through quarantine with no issues. And she had been euthanized.
It’s hard to describe the devastation I felt. I ran into my friend’s room, showed her the slip of paper and cried my heart out. I was completely and utterly heartbroken.
I don’t believe Maggie deserved to die, despite whatever aggressive tendencies she may have had. I know that she was a perfectly pleasant dog around my landlord’s family. I don’t believe that she was a bad dog. But I do believe that he was a bad owner.
A dog-human relationship is supposed to be filled with love and trust. Your dog trusts you to take care of it, to love it. Dogs love you unconditionally. They are so good, so pure; they ask for nothing but love, affection, and maybe some treats. A place to call home. A dog only comes to distrust a person when it has been wronged by that person in some way. It is the owner’s job to protect their dog, to ensure their safety to the best of their ability. And if the owner can’t handle that, then it is also their responsibility to pass that dog on to someone who can.
My landlord had one simple task: keep Maggie on a leash around people. But he couldn't be bothered to follow a simple guideline to ensure her safety, and the safety of others. Whatever behavioral issues Maggie may have had might not have been my landlord’s fault – but they were definitely the fault of somebody. Maybe they were even a combination of human and situational faults. But somewhere along the way, someone let this dog down. And because of it, she lashed out at others.
I truly believe that if she had been placed in the proper environment, with the right person, Maggie would still be alive today, wagging her tail. But my landlord was not prepared to deal with the personal damages that Maggie came with. And instead of passing her on to someone who was, he failed her. And then he gave up on her. And it cost her life.
Don’t give up on your dog. Because they would never, ever give up on you.
Maggie – I know you’re a dog, and I know you can’t read, and I know you’re long gone but – I hope you know how truly sorry I am that you became the victim of this story. And I hope there are lots of treats up in doggy heaven.
(The very sweet boy featured in the cover photo is named Torro. He is a 1 1/2 year old Pit Bull mix who was abandoned several months ago. He is available for adoption from the NHSPCA in Stratham, NH. Please help him find his forever home! Visit the NHSPCA website for more information on Torro: http://www.nhspca.org/)