An open letter to the person who abandoned my dog
In February of 2013, my grand old man, about who this article was written, was euthanized by our vet after a rampant infection which took his health in less than 24 hours. Gunther died in my arms. To the end, he was smart, dignified and never questioned the devotion of his family.
In April our family adopted another 5-month old purebred Rottweiler puppy who had been abandoned to a high kill shelter. He currently answers to the name of Puppy and is on his way to a career as a high quality ambassador for his breed and for all rescue dogs.
You know who you are. You are the person who purchased a purebred Rottweiler puppy from a breeder but didn’t know what you were doing. You didn’t realize that that crowded muzzle was going to result in crowded adult teeth – a condition which disqualifies for dog shows.
So at eight months you dumped him at a rescue with all the right platitudes, wished him well and walked out the door without a second thought or even a glance back.
Now I’m sure you said he was a “good dog, house broken and obedient,” but then everyone says that. However in his case, it was true.
This is the part where I come in. My family had just lost a phenomenal member of our family – another rott rescue with a much muddier pedigree but an equally idiotic first family – and were seeking another dog. That first dog, Shadow, had taught me a lot about Rottweilers, about the breed and the love and dedication of which they were capable.
And with a little luck and a really smart adoption coordinator, your castoff because our cherished family member.
You told that breeder you’d happy to take her largest pup, but rottweilers aren’t meant to weigh 150 pounds. So thanks to you, and that irresponsible breeder who knew there was a market for oversized dogs, our dog has experienced a lifetime of orthopedic problems.
At seven he had surgery on his leg, again at nine. He’s done water therapy to strengthen those muscles, but now at 12 and a half, his left back leg is very weak and his right, tired from so many years of doing more than its fair share.
But not to worry. When he came home from surgery those times, I slept on the floor with him so he wouldn’t wake frightened. I took days off work to stay home until the medication wore off and he recognized the family again. But he deserved it. I’m sure he would have done the same for me.
I’ve held his large head while the vet drew blood, cleaned teeth and even removed sutures from his eyelid after a precancerous growth popped up. He’s never growled, or snapped or acted irritated. He knows I won’t hurt him unless it’s necessary.
And over the years, truthfully, there have been medical bills, surgeries, dental work, water therapy, special stuff for a dog that’s more horse-size than canine. His dog bed is a twin size human mattress. But at least the sheets are cheap.
Truth be told, I’m glad he’s with me. I shudder to think what you might have done if his knee blew out while you were showing him. Would that precancerous growth have been a death sentence?
He’s earned his retirement, his warm spot in front of the TV in the family room and the right to decide if it’s too cold to walk outside.
He can’t go down stairs anymore and he’s too large to carry so the deck has become his bathroom. We are ok with that though. It’s a bit more work to clean but it’s not his fault. The vet says the hip is bone rubbing bone so we don’t want to generate pain. Perhaps another gift from that breeder to whom you paid all that money.
But he never was keen on stairs – apparently a gift from whoever it was that either kicked or threw him down a flight. For years he wouldn’t let anyone walk down behind him. And even when he learned to tolerate it, I was the only one he’d trust.
I could weep when I think of all the times in the first few years when he woke up growling and screaming because of the nightmares. What was he remembering?
And even, 12 years later, he still has memories of you. He hates feet. They scare him. If anyone steps over him while he’s sleeping, sprawled out in whatever spot he chooses, he screams and recoils. He’s been kicked and even all these years later, he recalls that.
Laundry baskets terrify him. Did your kids put one upside down on him?
He’s never licked a face. No matter what – hands, fingers, but never a face. Did you punish him for that?
Now I know I’m what my husband calls a “crazy dog person.” Four live in our house. They drink only filtered water and their food, what is not raw or home cooked human food is grain-free and organic. He takes a handful of supplements, vitamins and minerals each day.
But it must be working. According to the vet, the dog you abandoned, now 12 and a half, has nothing wrong with him other than he is “ancient.” You probably never dreamed he’d live that long. You see rottweilers don’t generally live to this age. I must be doing something right.
He gets lots of care, comfort and love. We consider his needs, his pain, anticipate potential problems and try to keep him in the best health possible.
I find it hard to believe you would have done that, considering his teeth were reason enough to toss him away.
You may wonder why, after all these years, I’m writing to you. Well, it seems my grand old man is entering the last stage of his life. We will keep him happy and comfortable as well as long as possible. But our family has started to talk about the day we know will come. My best scenario is that he dies peacefully in his sleep in his favorite spot in our home. But I may not get my wish.
Rest assured though. When that time comes, his head will be in my lap; my family will be petting him and speaking softly to him as he crosses over the bridge.
Now maybe you’ve read this and congratulated yourself for giving that dog up all those years ago. He did go to a much better home. But I’m not writing this to give you comfort. I’m writing this to tell you what an amazing opportunity you lost, a great family member you dismissed; and to tell you he’s had a great life despite you.
Oh and one more thing: this dog is a kind and loving and has probably long ago forgiven you. But I haven’t.
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