Update to my below post. We called today and they put Leia down immediately after we left on Monday. I am devastated. I really thought we were doing the best thing to give her a shot and it turns out all I did was sign her death papers. Hopefully she can understand this is not what I wanted, and that we loved her deeply.
Sorry for the long post in advance. Had to write it all because it is tearing me up.
My fiancé and I recently moved to a new house together with our two dogs, a 4-year old golden retriever, Milo, and a 1.5 year old bernese mountain dog, Montana. We have had both since they were puppies. They get along great, but the golden is extremely lazy and does not like to play and exercise like Montana does and we found that the she had a ton of pent up energy. Previously, before moving in together, the dogs were at my parents’ house which included 3 other dogs, therefore the Montana could play and pent up energy was never an issue.
Fast forward to two months after moving into our new house, and we decided that it might be a good idea to adopt a shelter dog to add to our pack. After talking about it for a week or two, and doing a lot of research, we felt that heading to our local APL and taking a look at the dogs there would be a good idea.
Upon arriving at the shelter we fell in love with a 2 year old Mastiff. After having a successful meet and great, we talked to the shelter workers to get her past information. She had been to 3 homes and returned to the shelter 3 times. The first, was then she was a puppy, she was attacked brutally by another dog and has visible scars on her ears. The second, the family could not handle how big she was (110 pounds). Finally the third, she had been with a guy for close to a year but he returned her due to moving away and he could not take her. She had no history of aggression and positive reviews from all of the staff members. We decided to run home and grab our dogs for a meet and great before making any further decisions. The meet and great went well, the shelter dog brought the Mastiff into the room and stayed with us for a few minutes. When it seemed like there would be no problems the worker left us for close to an hour while the dogs interacted. There were no signs of aggression and each dog seemed to be generally happy. We decided to adopt and were so happy to welcome Leia into our home.
The first week at home was rough, but we totally expected that. She was adapting to her new surroundings and was naturally on edge. Most nights she would hit a breaking point and would let the other dogs know that she wanted to be left alone by giving a growl. Every once in a while Milo would not get the hint and would stay close by, which resulted in the Leia jumping on his back. Every time this happened we corrected the action and made sure that the dogs gave each other space.
Over the course of the next three weeks, Montana and Leia became good friends. They would run around our fenced in back yard together, playing with sticks, toys, etc. The mastiff was clearly the alpha of the two of them and that seemed to work out great. The golden on the other hand, was having increasingly more problems with Leia. They were having a power struggle as to who the alpha of the pack was going to be. This would often result in the mastiff jumping on the goldens back or walking up to him and putting her head on his back – he would then usually bark at her, give a growl, etc. but it never came to fighting.The closest it got to a fight is one night as we were going to bed, the lights went off and the dogs got into a scuffle, we were able to separate them before any damage was done and had the dogs separated that night. Again, we knew that dogs occasionally will have scuffles and needed to figure out their boundaries and pecking order with the mastiff being new to the house. We still were encouraged that they would figure it out and that there weren't any real issues. This changed the following night which was about a week ago. As usual, we were hanging out in our kitchen and the dogs had their respective toys (there has never been any toy or food aggression among the dogs). The mastiff, seemed to have an explosion of energy and decided she wanted to rough house. Before I knew it she was jumping on Milo, and the fuse was lit. The dogs were no longer playing but biting at each other to cause harm. I instantly grabbed the mastiff while my fiancé tried to grab the golden, while accidentally getting her hand caught in the middle – resulting in a bite to her arm and some serious blood and ensuing infection. The dogs were promptly separated and did not interact for close to 12 hours. We then slowly reintroduced them and it was if nothing happened, the dogs were completely fine around each other – but our stress levels were through the roof. Clearly we had an issue on our hands, so we called the vet and scheduled and appointment and discussed the aggression over the phone. Over the ensuing days, we did what they vet recommended – keeping them separated for the most part with short supervised social interactions. This worked for the next few days (about 5), until Friday evening hit. I let the dogs out after work and supervised them. Everything seemed to be status quo, so I ran inside to check the mail only to hear yelps as soon as I got inside. I found the mastiff on top of the golden biting locked on to its scruff area, with the bernese doing everything she could to get the mastiff off of him. I was able to break it up and get the golden inside to check on him. He did not appear to have any blood, and was happy to sit with me with his toys. After about 10 minutes, I decided to go check on Leia. As I opened the door to the deck, Milo in his infinite wisdom pushed out behind me. The mastiff saw him, sniffed him, and before I could intervene attacked. Locking her jaw onto the base of his ear/neck area. I could was doing everything I could to break them up, but could not get her off of him – getting bit in the leg in the process. Montana again knocking into the mastiff to try and remove her from the golden. Finally I was able to separate the two combatants and throw the golden inside, while the mastiff tackled the bernese. To my knowledge she never bit into the bernese though.
Both the golden and the mastiff had puncture wounds – the mastiff to the face and chest – the golden to the base of this ear and back of his neck. The mastiff also impaled her gum/lip through one of her canine teeth. This resulted in a rush to the emergency vet once my fiancé was home. The vet cleaned the wounds and mentioned that the mastiff did growl at her and was promptly muzzled. Fast forward to Monday and we take her to her original vet appointment to discuss cherry eye, and a possible ear infection. While in the waiting room, she practically tore my arm off pulling and trying to see another dog that entered the waiting room. Finally, we got into a room and while examining her the vet tech wrapped his arms around her she did not like this and she lunged and nipped him in the face causing blood. The vet then told us he could no longer see her and she was not welcome back to his office. He recommended that we euthanize her due to her aggression. We love her deeply and could not bear to euthanize her – but we lost all trust in her and it was tearing us apart at home as we constantly had to keep the dogs separated. We decided to make the hardest decision of our lives and take her back to the APL. We felt that it was the best decision for our dogs safety as well as her safety and still gave her a shot at going to a home where she could thrive.
Now 12 hours later – my fiancé and I are torn up with guilt and sadness and are wondering if we made a mistake. Part of us feels like we did but there is also a big part of us that knows it’s something we felt we had to do. I can't help but think of her being confused and wondering why we are not coming back to get her and it is killing me.
Should we go back and get her, did we make the right decision, are we terrible people – some of the thoughts running through my head today.