by Carole
We adopted Zoe when she was around 4-6 months, from our local county shelter. She was a stray, so no one knew her history. We already had three dogs, Layla, a yellow lab mix, Roxie, GSD, and Jasmine, GSD. Zoe initially growled at the other girls, which concerned me, but then she seemed to become part of the pack without problem. She was intended to be mainly my son's dog, at his request, but being mom, I took care of all the girls.

When Zoe was around three, she changed. She snarled, growled, lunged, and even bit us. She would start fights with Layla or Jasmine, which would turn into a four dog fight, something that is truly terrifying. At that point, I called trainers to our home to work with our pack. I took Zoe to the vet to make sure she didn't have a medical issue, and she was found to be completely healthy. I contacted a vet "shrink" who said she'd never seen a dog like Zoe, but tried her on three different medications to try and change the behavior. We recognized that it was anxiety/fear, but no idea why as she was always treated with love, as our other three, and they had none of this behavior. All the training, meds, and love just made no difference. Our vet, the shrink, and a few trainers recommended we euthanize her, but I did not want to do that to Zoe.

So, hoping that she might mellow as she got older, we held on and kept trying behavioral modification with training, positive reinforcement, and love. I also considered that re homing her might be the answer, as Zoe was always wonderful when I would take her alone for walks. We had to put a muzzle on her when she was in the house, then a harness with a leash, because she kept attacking Layla, and Layla had developed significant arthritis in her hips and could not fight back.

Jasmine developed Sudden Acute Retinal Degeneration and went 100% blind in 24 hours. She was already hard of hearing due to chronic otitis, so it was a huge challenge. It also was cruel as she was an amazing frisbee dog, graceful and strong. She then became a target for Zoe, too.

Our house was full of gates, Zoe was wearing a muzzle and harness, we never had friends or family visit us, and we all walked around on eggshells, knowing Zoe would charge us at any time. I called no kill shelters, and they refused to accept Zoe, based on the aggression. Our local shelter told us they would probably euthanize her as she would be very difficult for them to re home. I tried Facebook and Instagram, local rescue pages, and many individuals, and could find no one willing to take Zoe. I felt that we had no choice but to let Zoe go, as her behavior was only getting worse, her snout was beginning to break down, our other dogs were showing signs of stress, and our home was like a jail.

One of my friends had a vet come to her house to euthanize her dog, and said he was wonderful, so I called him and we set the date so that everyone had time to say goodbye. On that day, Zoe was held, hugged, and kissed. She had lots of time outside to play and chase the bunnies in the yard. I gave her whipped cream and filet mignon for lunch. When the vet came, she was already drowsy from medication I had given her, so when he sedated her, it was not awful, just one cry. After 20 minutes, she was asleep, and we held her as he gave her the final shot. We told her she was a good girl and that we loved her, and my little girl stopped breathing. We cried so hard, and I am still crying two days later. I wish I could have saved her somehow.

I am trying to hold on to the good memories. She loved her walks, riding in the car with her head out the window, getting brushed. Her aggressive behavior was like a cancer that could not be healed. I worried about her being in a shelter, feeling abandoned, or being adopted by someone who wouldn't treat her well. At least we never abandoned her and gave her all the love we had, and gave her a send off that was at home, surrounded by love. I still feel horrible, guilty, and wish it never had to happen, but it did. I will live with her memory in my heart, and hope that the pain will ease eventually.

For anyone else going through this with an aggressive dog, I understand and support you, and acknowledge how hard it is.
Comments would be appreciated by the author, Carole
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