Our sweet, sweet dog, Hunter, died today and it was by our decision. We are crushed. We adopted Hunter at age 4 months. He had been found abandoned at 8 weeks old & had spent the next 6 weeks in an animal shelter. He temperament tested very well & we were thrilled with him. He was the softest tempered German Shepherd I had ever worked with. Sweet, sensitive, & kind, with a lot of "goofy" mixed in. I did a lot of training and socialized him well. He passed both his "CGC" (Canine Good Citizen) and his "TDI" (Therapy Dog International) tests just after he turned one. The testers at the dog training club kept asking us where we got this fantastic dog.
At about age two he began showing atypical and un-Hunter-like behavior. He would "see" something dangerous on a spot on the floor where there was absolutely nothing. Then he started to show anxiety in enclosed areas, like in a hallway or a small kitchen. We talked with our vet & got the diagnosis we suspected, but found so bizarre: canine mental illness. People can have mental illness, but animals? Yes! The vet said it wasn't really common but he had seen it before. The theory is that maybe it is caused by irresponsible in-breeding. That could easily be the reason in Hunter's case since we rescued him & don't know about his origins.
So, today, we had to make a horrible decision. We had tried medication. We had done our work already with his training & socialization.We had prayed. (Some might think it's weird to pray for a dog, but I pray about everything.) Two aggressive incidents happened this past month- so unlike our sweet boy!!!! John & I just decided that we were not willing to risk the safety of our children. We knew it was the right thing but oh the pain... if you're not an animal person you have no idea of the pain.
Today at the vet clinic our sweet, kind, dog growled at the vet. That was NOT our Hunter. That was him very sick. I so HATE mental illness! I HATE it! It is such a robber of joy & life in so many people & even, I have learned, in animals.
I am coming away from this, with even more hatred for this cruel form of illness & with even more compassion for people who suffer from it. I think there is still a lot of ignorance regarding mental illness & that is so sad.
Let's go do it!