Last week, very late one evening I found out that a dog was going to be euthanized the next morning. He was sentenced to execution after a severe biting incident with one of the family’s one-year old twins. At the same time many others were writing to me to please contact the family. Could AWL help this family and dog?
As with all biting incidents, I wanted to know the full story, and also to get more documentation and facts from friends and veterinarians. I started to search for the family’s phone number and several people that knew the family texted them to call me. I was amazed by the help I received from people that I didn’t know.
At 21.00, I finally got in contact with them.
The family was very upset and heart broken. Many different emotions were tumbling around inside of their hearts and minds. Their love for Mozart, a Dachshund --- he had been their baby for seven years --- was colliding with their horror and concern after he had suddenly bitten their one-year-old so badly in his face. They had to go to the Emergency Room and ultimately the boy’s face required 15 stitches. Imagine a small doll head with 15 stitches!
They don’t know how badly scared their sons face will turn out growing up, undoubtedly, some plastic surgery might be required in the future. When I spoke to the mother, her voice broke down many times as she told me about the incident. You could hear the guilt in her voice, because she thought they had been protective towards the children knowing that Mozart had always been food aggressive. The family had always kept the twins away from the dogs at feeding time, and no treats around when the kids were there. The only explanation the mother had as to why this biting had happened, was that out in the garden Mozart and the other dog chased lizards and were keeping guard. The twins were also playing in the garden. The mother was also outside, but for just a moment had turned her back --- which is when it happened.
In any unexpected situation, a normal human seeks an explanation to explain what happened and why. One’s mind is spins with all the emotions like a tornado --- with guilt, fright and desire to protect. Had a lizard come between the little boy and Mozart? It was the only explanation the mother could come up with.
The veterinarian would see Mozart the day after the incident, to go through an examination and evaluation. In that exam, Mozart was declared to be not sick. Mozart came home with the family, and had to stay for 10 days in quarantine and then would be euthanized. What horrible torture! The family cried! Mozart didn’t understand why he was quarantined and kept away from his pack. They just couldn’t bring themselves to go through with the euthanasia! He’d been with them so long. They asked for help, among friends on FB.
The day came for Mozart to be put down! The mother asked her husband to please let them wait a couple of more days. Maybe someone would show up? She was praying for an angel to relieve them from the task they didn’t want to do. But they couldn’t keep Mozart, frightened that something else could happen between the dog and one of their twins again. It was clear, Mozart could not be together with them.
Three days past the deadline we found out about this case.
I asked the couple for a few extra days to find a solution. The family was very helpful. I was very thankful since I had in the past met so many others who just said, “no the dog has to go, NOW!”
I called Martina and told her the story; we both loved rescuing when we knew that something wasn’t wrong with the animal. Martina got in touch with an Italian rescue organization in northern Italy that are very well known for adoptions of this special breed. To find the best family, they had a great working team in behavioral and training skills that Mozart first had to be screened by. They didn’t want to send a dog that they didn’t know anything about to a new family, for the concern and safety for the dog. In the wrong family he might come back, or worse. Better to know and understand the dog and then find the best family for his temperament and needs. Many families responded in the northern Italy, and the organization would have time to evaluate them while evaluating Mozart.
Every day I maintained contact with Mozart’s family to tell them about our plans. After a couple of days, Mozart was ready to travel to Rome where a lady with other dogs would start the new journey in Mozart’s life, evaluating him for his future. Mozart’s original family said he was protective of the family around other dogs, so this lady would determine the extent to which this trait existed among her other dogs.
Volunteers Barbara-Ann, her husband and their daughter Chloe-Rose picked Mozart up at the family’s house, to take Mozart to the lady in Rome. What mixed emotions Mozart’s family experienced. On one hand, they were “happy” that Mozart would get a second chance in life, that someone had been able to help him stay away from the executioner. But at the same time so heartbroken to have to say good-bye to their long-time little buddy. Barbara-Ann told me that you could see their love for this little dog.
The journey started first to Rome, and Mozart loved every minute of the travel. Everyone that met him he touched their hearts, such a positive little guy. The evaluation lady told us that Mozart is doing great. You could see that he had been so much loved by the family. He always wants to be up close and cuddled. I can report that Mozart is doing wonderfully, has found new friends, and we are waiting for his new life up North to begin. Stay tuned as this story unfolds.
With dogs and people, every case is unique. A lot of “home work” needs to be done especially with professionals in the relevant fields. A family dog bites for different reasons, the cause always need to be investigated. Too often, it is the dog that loses the case --- and his life --- even if he isn’t entirely to blame. The dog cannot talk and defend himself. Re-homing the dog, in this case, is often the preferable solution, and while it is traumatic for the dog to be uprooted from his pack, it is better than the alternative (euthanasia). The most important thing is to keep the family in the contact during the transition.
Many people say, “never leave children alone with a dog.” Of course, this is very good advice. But, as a mother I know that an accident can happen in the blink of an eye. I also know that different children are different towards animals. When people ask me how a particular dog is with children, I can never answer 100% accurately. There are so many variables: It depends on the children, on other dogs in the household, on what activities are taking place at the given time, on food. We had a case were a dog nibbled (no stiches) two children. This dog met other children and never bit again. It is neither the children’s fault nor the dog’s. Many times it is the provider that hasn’t taught the children animal manors.
Yesterday, a lady told my son how to say hello to a dog. Then she realized who I am and blushed, apologizing saying, “Your son knows this better than anyone.” Yes he does, but I have to remind him very often, it is easy to forget. Never stop educating your children or yourself.
I don’t defend any dog that bites but I know there is always a reason. Every case has to be looked into with many open eyes and educated minds for everyone’s safety…. and mostly for the dog’s very life.
St Fransesco Roma, Serena, and Patrizia Ibassottiperibassotti.org , Chiara Biagio, Sora Lisa.