How hard it is for a rescuer to look at the dog she has struggled with for so long, so loving and so sweet, but so dangerous and damaged, and to realize that there is only one choice left for that dog, and that is to let him go. That was the choice faced by Isaiah’s foster mom, a veterinarian and a behaviorist. His inability to interact appropriately with the other dogs in the foster home made him an unhappy outcast even there, and his unexpected and savage attack on another canine member of the household finally forced his foster mom to realize the truth of what she had been avoiding for so long – there would be no home waiting for Isaiah where he could live happily ever after.

He really had come a long way, but would I describe him as safe? No. Could I continue to control his environment enough to keep him in control of himself? Maybe. Could someone else exert this control AND continue it for the rest of Isaiah’s life AND never let their guard down? Not likely. If Isaiah could have been my only dog, and IF I were able to control his environment stringently for the rest of his life, he may have remained in control and not hurt anyone else. BUT he is not my only dog and I am not sure there would not come a time, even for me, that I would forget to exert control and something might happen.

Would he be happy with someone else and could someone else accomplish this task? Without human friends (besides his one person) AND without dog friends, would he really be happy at all? Finally, I realized there were too many “perfects” that would have to come together and not enough “perfects” in the world for me to rationally think that would happen.

It came time to admit that Isaiah was beyond my help because I was not what he needed and I was unable to assure him a happy outcome either. And it was time to admit that to myself and him. Oddly, and I know this might sound strange, when it came time, the actual time, he understood and was understanding of the situation. He was not afraid or stressed. I held him and one of my favorite nurses helped me and I told him how sorry I was. He sighed as he went to sleep as I find many of my patients do as well – as if a heavy load is lifted. He relaxed in my arms and I realized it was the first time I had felt him completely relax. And then he was gone. And I miss him – I hope he knows that and that I loved him.

Lisa Ethridge, DVM
October, 2009