Monday, May 24, 2010


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.


Michele said...

I am so sorry. We had to do that also and it is right up there as one of the hardest things to do. You did the right, and really the only, thing you could do. Good luck to Nebo. May he find a place where he fits.

Jan said...

Oh, Jenni. I'm so sorry, but you've done the right thing, as hard as it was to do (and those kinds of white lies to a 3-year-old are never anything to feel guilty for).

I read a blog by a man in Australia not too long ago - they have a law there that if a dog bites a child, it MUST be put down, and his husky, that had been his faithful companion for nearly ten years, bit his 2-year-old son on the face. Like Nebo, it was completely unprovoked, but wasn't a bad bite - just a red mark and a small scratch. But he had no choice. His series of posts on the subject were some of the most heartbreaking I've ever read.

Aliceson said...

Oh no. So sorry you're going through this, but you did the right thing. you certainly can't have an aggressive dog with children around.

We found out last week that our St. Bernard Oliver is fading on us. He's almost 10 and he's having a hard time breathing. We took him to the vet last week because he was in pretty bad shape. (This humid weather isn't helping either.) The vet gave him some meds for the fluid in his lungs and a steroid to help open his airways. Over the weekend he has improved but the vet did mention that the meds won't work forever. Tough decision for sure to decide when enough is enough (in your case and in mine) but a necessary one. It's the right thing to do.

Again, so sorry...

Strawberry said...

So sorry you had to make such a heartbreaking choice. But you did do the right thing and we know you love that dog.

Barbara said...

Oh gosh, I'm so so sorry for all of you.

You have done the right thing and I'm hoping so much that they can re-home Nebo.


Stephanie said...

I'm sorry Jenni. I know it had to be a hard choice to make, but you shouldn't feel guilty. You made the right choice. Best of luck to you guys and to Nebo.

VandyJ said...

I'm so sorry. Be prepared though to have many conversations with Oscar about Nebo. We had a dog get sick and we had to put her down and Turbo still talks about her and he was two when it happened. I hope this goes well for Nebo and for you.

Nancy said...

So sorry you had to get rid of Nebo. I saw a post last week about Nebo on FB, and talked to Justin about it. We have two dogs, who are half brothers. They are 9 and 10. Our 9 year old, Sam, is SUPER anxious and has "nipped" a couple of times, BUT last week bit Caroline and left a bruise on her chest. I did not see it, but Caroline said she bumped into him by accident. Not sure what to do. We have been to behavior specialist, tried Xanax, etc. Anyway, i sympathize with you and Nelson. YOU DID THE RIGHT THING. Your piece of mind and your kids safety is top priority.

Mrsbear said...

I'm so sorry, Jenni. I'm tearing up just reading about it. What a tough decision, but you made the right one. The only one, really. These pets become such a big part of our family, but if the safety of your child is compromised there's nothing else to do. I hope it gets easier for you and that Nebo finds a family and doesn't have to be put down. :(

gretchen said...

You did EXACTLY what you had to do. You had no choice at all. No question. It's sad for Nebo, but you were absolutely right to put the safety of your kids first. It's just like someone with an abusive spouse, they don't want to believe that the spouse will ever be violent again, but then they always are. Imagine if the next bite was on Oscar's face or something. Or if he bit another child. Too scary! You must not beat yourself up. You did the right thing.

Michele R said...

I'm sorry Jenni and I know it hurts. I am so glad that you had a great lady at the shelter who talked to you.

jen maselli said...

oh, jenni. i'm so, so sorry. that is heartbreaking. you are doing the right thing, though. know that. love and hugs from across the country.

Casey said...

Ugh, I'm so sorry Jenni. But you absolutely made the right decision. You had to, your kids come first. We have a borderline aggressive dog here who has snapped at the kids a couple of times and we have to stay on constant watch because of it. It's extremely difficult having to know where the dog and kids are every second of every day and if she lays one tooth on my kids, she's a goner. Love her to death but kids come first. I'm sorry sorry about Nebo though.

Kate said...

I'm so sorry about this. Knowing it was the right thing to do doesn't make it any easier.

justjane said...

I'm sorry-you're doing the right thing :(

Sprite's Keeper said...

I don't even see this as being a choice. You had no other option. The only decision was the right one. I hope Nebo finds a home and I hope you find some peace with this.

Suga T said...

Jenni, I'd like to donate to the shelter that helped you through this painful transition. Can you shoot me a message with contact info? -TL

Keely said...

Oh, hon, I'm so, so, SO sorry. I hope that he can be re-homed. That is so difficult and heartbreaking; but fortunate that his 5th bite was not a serious one.

Oscar will recover, and the behaviourist was right - you gave Nebo a great home for 5 years.


Heather said...

I'm so very sorry. It IS a heartbreaking situation. Family pets aren't just animals, they are part of the family. I teared up when I read that part about Oscar asking where his "brown dog" sad!

Becky said...

Oh I'm so sorry Jenni! I am a little behind and I missed this. Your conversation with Oscar had me all teary. You know that what you did was right. I wish every dog owner was as careful and thoughtful as you guys.

Hugs to Oscar!