This was posted on facebook. The support and love was comforting and much appreciated:
Arwen December 12, 2012 – March 23, 2019
I first saw Arwen’s little face on my facebook feed. Westjet had flown her in from Saskatchewan for a local rescue group. I applied and the rescue agreed that this would be the best home for her. She was 4 months old, had been found abandoned on a back road and had gone through 3 foster homes already. She was a handful. The timing was perfect; I had just suffered a loss and needed a distraction.
When she was brought to my place, the volunteer for the rescue showed me how when you tickled a certain area on Arwen (she was called Winnie) then she would really kick those little legs. I recognized that as an allergy response; but thought “no problem”. I was so wrong!
Arwen was, to quote one of her veterinarians (she had a team) “allergic to everything”. It took 18 months to figure out the 5 ingredients she could tolerate. And just as much time to figure out what dietary supplements and meds she could tolerate.
I like to think Arwen was a difficult dog because of her allergies. But in all honesty, she wasn’t a very kind dog. Ozzie was a kind dog. Arwen had an edge to her and seemed to find bullying those that were fearful or not confident a favourite pastime. Because of this, she was always kept in check and most of the time her name had the intonation of ArrrrWEN!! Ozzie kept Arwen from getting into too much trouble. He always split her off from chasing another dog.
Because Arwen was such a control freak, she made for a dream dog to train. I would show her something once, she would ask me “do you mean this?” and I would say yes. Simple. She made me look good. We attended classes at the CRDF for Rally-O and Arwen was brilliant.
Arwen helped clients see what successful behavioural adjustment looks like. She made a great demo dog because she was always a great dog when fully engaged.
Many saw Arwen in my agility classes. She loved that sport.
She loved to freestyle dance and knew so many moves we could do a routine that lasted an entire song…something we did alone in the living room together. I wish I had set up a video cam for that.
She was the best hiking companion. Would call away from anything and seemed to genuinely enjoy being in my company. We often walked just the two of us because Ozzie was off and running and the others were trying to keep up with him.
We couldn’t go public because she would do whatever it took to steal some food or convince some unknowing person to give her a treat. Then she would suffer for days by ripping out her own fur. On our last walk together, I handed her a beef liver treat – this is something that would set her off immediately. We had worked diligently at the “leave the beef alone” so when I handed her a treat, she backed away and looked at me all puzzled “is this a sneaky trick?”. She got to eat so many things on her last day!
Arwen taught me so much: more than I ever wanted to know about diet and allergies and the dog’s endocrine system. She taught me what my reactive dog clients go through and kept my empathy skills strong.
Arwen taught me that helping a dog through reactivity takes a team. This is something I share with my clients all the time….the support and consistency from family members and caretakers of their reactive dog is vital to success. Ozzie was our team leader and without him, things turned bad very quickly.
If Arwen were an only dog or if she were a dedicated client’s dog then forgiveness would have been easier to find. But Arwen lived here, with me, and dozens of dogs coming and going on a regular basis.
Her behaviour deteriorated quickly after Ozzie’s death. At first, I though it might be grief – and maybe it was. But honestly, I think without Ozzie to be right there by her side and redirecting her away, she suddenly had this “bring it on” attitude. Management wasn’t working. Redirection wasn’t working. She became determined to do what she always wanted to do. So, the first bite to a known person was forgiven because it was someone who knew her. The second bite had me wondering if it was time to let her go. It was the attack/grab/shake of a little dog that made me realize Arwen had become more than I am prepared to keep in this environment. Finding a new home for her wasn’t an option. At the risk of sounding like only I could be the perfect home for her, that’s not at all why I didn’t. I did not look for a new home for her because re-homing a known aggressive dog is morally and ethically wrong. Not to mention, she ran on average of $250 per month in dietary and medical needs.
I didn’t ask friends and colleagues to take her on. I cried for a couple of days. Told a few what I was going through and then made the call.
Arwen knew. It was the first time ever she didn’t scream or try to escape at the sight of a needle. She climbed onto my lap with her very full belly and snuggled. The sedative took effect and when the vet slid in that final needle, she didn’t even flinch. I held her in my lap and told her she was a good girl. I told her I loved her. I told her I was sorry but that I really did do the very best I could for her. This final act was what was best and kindest for my little Arwen.
I want to thank the numerous people who have helped me with Arwen over the years…Susanne Clothier for your wonderful behavioural advice; the teams at Balanced Paws Vet, at Courtenay Vet, at Puntledge Vet. Local trainers who have put up with having her in your classes. Both friends and clients that have patiently supported us. Dave for being there with me at the end.
Over at the Rainbow Bridge, Ozzie is running cancer free and playing with Arwen who is no longer suffering with her allergies. Some day, I will bury my face in both their furry coats and be with them again. Until then, run free my friends.