We surrendered Nebo to the animal rescue on Saturday. He is no longer living in our home and he will never be returning. As some of you may recall, he has become increasingly difficult over the past several months and things came to a head Friday morning when he bit Oscar on the arm.
The bite was entirely unprovoked; Nebo was lying on the floor (not sleeping) and Oscar crouched near him to pick up a book. Nebo casually leaned over and bit him. No warning growl, no nothing. It happened so fast I nearly missed it. Oscar cried out and stood up, holding his arm, "Nebo bited me on my arm!"
I'm very thankful that it was not a bad bite. There were red marks on Oscar's arm, but they faded quickly and left no bruises. But I knew in that moment that Nebo had to go. The bite was not bad, but what if the next bite (and I'm certain there would be a next bite) were bad? Was I really going to wait for that, for him to take a chunk out of one of my kids? Or out of someone else's kid? No. I couldn't. All I could do was remember what our dog trainer had said, that after five bites a dog is a biter and there was nothing you could do to change that; you could only try to prevent the dog from biting. Oscar was Nebo's fifth bite.
I called the no-kill shelter where we adopted Nebo, and they were very understanding. They said that I absolutely should not keep a dog that had bitten my child. That I should not feel guilty surrendering him. That it was the right thing to do.
The shelter's animal trainer/behaviorist called me today and she and I spoke for more than 20 minutes. I told her how much we love Nebo; that we think he is a good dog and could do well in a home with no children. That I could not wait for him to hurt my kids.
She was incredibly kind and understanding and reassuring. She was also very sympathetic as she herself had to put down a dog for aggression several years prior, and she is a professional trainer.
"I understand. Just because a dog bites or becomes aggressive does not mean you don't love that dog and feel sad to see it go."
I told her all we'd wanted was to give him a good life.
"And you did. For five years you did."
She was also very apologetic.
"I'm just so sorry. It's not fair. No one should have to go through this, and I'm just sorry we adopted out a dog that was aggressive. It's not fair to the dog and it's not fair to you."
She also told me that the rescue organization's animal behavior department is much more sophisticated now than it had been five years ago, and that she would have never put a dog of Nebo's age and temperament (over three-years-old and very anxious and shy) up for adoption.
Nebo will be evaluated sometime early this week and that, along with some other factors, will determine if can be re-homed. If he cannot be re-homed, he will be put to sleep, a decision not taken lightly by this no-kill shelter.
We briefly considered trying to re-home him ourselves but with his history, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't give him to someone else knowing he may bite again. That would not be fair to anyone.
Oscar. It has been hard with Oscar. Yesterday morning, he was helping me feed Valentine.
"Hey! Where's Nebo? Where's his white bowl? Where's my brown dog?"
"Remember, Nebo went to live with a new family? [shameless lie to our 3-year-old] He took his bowl and his hedgehog to his new home."
"But I love my brown dog!" [He started tearing up, oh my god.]
"I know, and I love him too, but he wasn't a happy here so we had to send him to a new home."
"Oh. This is not the perfect home for Nebo?" [Yes, he really said this and yes, it killed me.]
"No, buddy, it's not. He went to a new home where he'll be happier."
"Were you crying last morning 'cause you miss Nebo?"
"Yes, buddy, I miss him very much."
"Me too, Momma. I miss Nebo."
It's HEARTBREAKING, but we don't want Oscar to know that Nebo is leaving because he bit him; and that is not really why. Biting Oscar was the last straw but not the only reason we surrendered him. We surrendered him because we decided the house was just not a safe place as long as he was here.
In many ways, this has happened under the best possibly circumstances. No one was seriously injured; it was my own child who was bitten and not someone else's child; he did not have to be removed by animal control; he may still have a shot at being re-homed.
It breaks my heart. I do not want Nebo put to sleep. I didn't even want to get rid of him. I love him. But, I love my kids more and creating a safe home environment is more important than trying to keep a dog who bites my children. Letting Nebo go has not been an easy thing, but it is the right thing.
We've asked to be kept informed about Nebo's case and if they choose to put him down, Nelson and I have requested to be there with him when it happens. That won't be easy either, but we owe him that. He was our dog and we love him.