Here’s another of the previous notes I have on Facebook that I’m moving over slowly to my blog. I decided to move this one tonight based on the references to dog’s and fear aggression in my last post. This was originally written when I left a previous job, one that had an ENORMOUS impact on me.
What I finally learned from Jack
Seventeen years ago I was on the receiving end of a vicious and unprovoked attack by a German Shepherd that left me scarred for life. After I was taken to the hospital, the police came for the dog. Later when I heard, knowing what would happen, I cried; not from the injuries, but because I had failed him. I felt like that today.
We brought Jack into our home to protect us, and through his oddities and quirks, which looking back even that night were much more than that, we worked with him to overcome the horrible and difficult times he had gone through to help him better understand and accept normal life and to become more comfortable with those around him. He was a wonderfully sweet, affectionate dog. Before turning in to his usual spot that night, he had been stretched out on the couch with his head in my lap, slowly relaxing and easing the stresses of the day to prepare for a sound sleep. He got up and went to his usual spot in front of my roommate’s door and settled in for the night. He quickly fell asleep, as usual. The phone ringing didn’t wake him from his sound sleep, nor did my walking a few inches from him to pick it up. Something else did, what we’ll never know. What we did know is that it likely never woke him fully.
The doctors and nurses were soothing and supportive, keeping quiet calm voices clearly through effort because of what I looked like; half of one arm was essentially inside out, while the other looked like I had been through a shredder. No one questioned my sobbing as clearly I was in pain. They didn’t know it was for Jack. Despite all the hard work, despite all the gains we had made together, despite the bond we had, there was nothing I could do to help him now. I had done everything I could, and it wasn’t enough. He was too broken to start with, and I wasn’t good enough to fix him.
Seventeen years later, the scars aren’t overtly noticeable, but they’re still there. I carried not only the pain of losing him, but of failing him. But today, and only today, I can see I didn’t. I didn’t fail Jack. I saw what I gave to Jack, a way to end peacefully, oddly enough. The last few months of his life were spent around people who treated him the way he should have been treated all along, with caring, kindess, dedication and skill. He was a happy dog, when he never would have been.
He never fully woke up from his slumber, and so I choose to believe he never knew what brought on the end. I gave him what I had to give, and he accepted it willingly, and it made both of us better. I just didn’t realize it until today, when I too finally fully woke up, and saw it again. I didn’t fail. I gave it all I had, and for a while, made it better, as long as I could.
–Laurissa Doonan, January 27, 2010