Belle died on Saturday morning, November 11th, at about 10:30am.
Belle, also fondly known as Bunny, came into my life in June, 2003. I had been looking for a chocolate girl for a few months - I wanted Cole to have a buddy to play with. I contacted CILRA (Central Indiana Labrador Rescue & Adoption) and on June 28, adopted this goofy, skinny girl who just loved to play with Cole. Belle had a sad history, as a clearly puppy-mill bred dog who had been wandering the streets, starving. She was shy and frightened, and so I suspected possible mistreatment. There was also evidence to suggest she'd had a litter, but we couldn't be 100% sure.
Unfortunately, she tore her left ACL on the day of adoption, and with CILRA's support I helped her through TPLO surgery and recovery. She gave me quite a few scares during her recovery (jumping off the pool deck and falling 8 feet into my yard at just six weeks postop)...but came back with complete bone healing on August 20, 2003. She was a healthy and fun girl, although some serious "quirks" were starting to come out in her personality.
Prior to that date, she'd begun showing some food aggression but it didn't strike me as anything too serious until she gave my boyfriend-at-the-time five puncture wounds in his hand as he was trying to pet her while giving her a treat. She had always been very anxious around food. This dog would go into my yard and eat the bark off of tree stumps to stay full. She would eat grass, goose poop, anything she could find that might resemble food. When she would pick up garbage on walks (like dangerous chicken bones), she would not drop them without an "argument", if at all. After the bite incident, I contacted CILRA right away, and we had her medically evaluated to see if she had a physical problem that could be explaining this behavior. She came out clear, (no brain tumors, pain, or thyroid problems) and so I spent four months and about $1000 with various trainers and thera pies (behavior AND medication) to rehabilitate her. Unfortunately, nothing worked, and she actually became more reactive. She growled not only at mealtimes, but with treats, if you asked her to perform a trick, if she had a bone, if she was sleeping and was approached, and she also gave Cole a dime-sized puncture wound in his side during a particularly nasty spat one day.
In January, 2004, CILRA suggested that I put her down - she couldn't be rehomed, and I'd tried everything available as a possible method of rehab. But I looked into her little face and chose not to do it. I chose to manage her as best I could and pray for a miracle, living every day with her as a gift. I knew that if I ever had my own baby, she would have to be rehomed or most likely, put down since she had a bite history. I just decided to take each day as it came and accept her as who she was.
So for nearly 3 years, I managed her. I knew what set her off and knew how far I could push her, and as a single woman there wasn't much about my routine that changed often enough so that it created issues. I had friends who helped me with feedings when I needed it, people who understood how she was and helped me to work around it. My parents would dog-sit and deal with her issues as well. For that I am eternally grateful. She did get a little bit better, and I believe that had everything to do with routine.
In late 2005 I met my husband, Ron, and that summer the dogs went to live with him for a few months, between the time when I sold my house and the wedding. I moved in with friends until our wedding, and finally in mid-August was able to settle down and live in the house as a family. This was not without problems and strife. Belle had an appetite for my stepdaughter's hamster, so we always had that to be concerned about. Bunny still growled at us at every meal, even though Ron was able to get her to a point where she would somewhat respect boundaries during feeding times. However, at least once every few weeks we'd have a battle or she'd fight with Cole over their food. She was nearly impossible to train and establish boundaries with. Her "brother", Cole, picked up these new rules with relative ease. One morning, as Ron was leaving for work, she bolted out of the garage and went after a little dog that a woman was walking down the street, scaring Ron half to death (luckily, no one was harmed). She also had begun growling at my stepdaughter. We always had people over, and we were never sure what Bunny was thinking or when she might go off her rocker and either harm someone else, another dog, or herself. Back at the old house, she went over my fence countless times after small animals - I consider it a miracle that she didn't break a leg or tear her other ACL. She was just of a singular mindset and that was FOOD.
We had a great deal of tension and many battles over Bunny's behavior, and so in late September I contacted CILRA to see if she could be rehomed with a person or family who was better able to deal with her issues, or perhaps was interested in a hard-luck rehabilitation case. CILRA, always incredibly supportive, sent a behavioral specialist to evaluate Belle and see if she was a candidate for rehoming.
Unfortunately, the evaluator (a very well-known trainer in Chicago who's worked with over 20,000 dogs)felt that Bunny's issues were purely biochemical. She is a recessive chocolate-to-chocolate Lab breeding (something that no reputable breeder will ever do). She felt that Bunny was one of those dogs who is just not wired up properly - and that this is why, over 3 years, this dog could never understand that no matter what, food came at the same time twice a day. That her people would not harm her. That a seven-year old child is not a threat. She lived her life in fear and always looking for reassurance that things were "okay" around her. Cole was acting as her "parent" and doing a tremendous amount of work to help Belle function in every day life. The evaluator was certain that she would not be able to function apart from Cole, and that it was an inevitability that she would bite again.& nbsp; And given her situation and history, rehabilitation would not be effective.
So with a very heavy heart, I made the appointment, and we waited.
While I may never have been the "right" parent for Bunny, I tried my very best with what I had. I believe that I gave her 3 years when otherwise she would have died back in January, 2004. I loved her and will miss her knuckleheadedness. I will miss her penchant for sock-picking and slipper-killing (even though all she would do was just shake them). I will miss her cute little snorts and how she would jump on the bed to cuddle me awake in the morning (even though all that was on her agenda was "feed me", it was still very sweet). I will miss her "singing" along with Cole when they played bitey-face. I will miss the way that she jumped into pools and ponds - springing almost straight up and tucking all four feet under her. I will miss her cute little ears. I will miss the way she would walk up to me all cute-like while I was stretching after a workout, and lay down for a belly rub. I wi ll miss the belly rubs, as it was one of the only times I could show affection without her becoming frightened. I just will miss HER.
So with that said, I have created a tribute for my sweet girl, which I would like to share with you, as I know that you cared about and loved her, also.
If you happen to have access to the song, "Angel", by Sarah McLachan, do play the slideshow while listening to that in the background.
What a beautiful tribute for a beautiful girl. I cried while I watched the slideshow. She is peacefull and happy now...
Run free sweet Bell, run free... :'(
~Veronica and Nikki~
Sweet Emma, 16th of February 1996~26th of November 2010
Always in my heart and soul. Together forever, my love....
Nikki 6 months
what a beautiful tribute. Sounds like you did everything you could. You tried and thats important. Bunny was very lucky to have you! Thanks for sharing
see pics of all my babies<br />http://www.seehankplay.myphotoalbum.com/
:'( I guess considering you chose to kill her, a moving tribute is the least you could do. How could you have looked that baby in the eyes knowing you were taking her life. There are alot of people in this world someone would have loved her and dealt with her issues. I have no pity for you, we watch our dogs everyday getting older and fear that one day we might have to make that decision, because of their health , not because "our lifestyles" have changed. What you did to her was far worse then what she went through before you got her, at least then she didn't know what it was like to have a home and be cared for and I do believe you had her best intentions at heart until your life took a turn for the better for you. That day you took her to the vet she trusted you and she loved you and you ended a beautiful , healthy dogs life.That day should haunt you forever. I hope you never have the honor of loving another rescued dog.
I surely hope when you get to heaven "Bunny" is not your judge.
Well said, Laura.
Run free, sweet girl.
Brenda from Connecticut
I don't care what you thought of the person who posted this message. This reply was cruel and malicious and COMPLETELY unnecessary. She tried to help her and when she couldn't she tried to find a home for her that is better able to handle this situation. She obviously had to deal with a dog that was unstable and if any dog growled and showed aggression toward my small CHILD than that dog, if not responding to retraining, discipline and boundaries, would either be rehomed to an educated person/family or put down.Originally Posted by private
Colesmom: I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that all your good memories of Bunny will help you through this difficult time.
Shelly<br /><br />
How can you all feel sorry for her when she made this decision ? She had to choose life or death for this beautiful healthy lab. DEATH should NEVER have been an option. I would do anything to see to it my labs live, wouldn't you ?
This "beautiful healthy lab" as you so neatly put it was obviously not so healthy. It was a danger to her family and most importantly her CHILD. She had 2 choses. Find a new home for the dog, which she tried! OR keep it in her house and wait for the worst to happen. And my question to you is HOW CAN YOU BE SO UNFEELING AND CRUEL? This board is not a bash session, it is a place where people can come to get constructive advise as well as discuss different points of view. Now I know why you choose to have your username PRIVATE. Every response you give to a post is hurtful and cruel.Originally Posted by private
Shelly<br /><br />
Gina...I am so sorry to hear about Belle. I know your decision must have been a very hard and agonizing one to make. You made a beautiful tribute to her. Run free sweet Belle.
Very nice tribute. I loved looking at all the pictures.