Tears fill my eyes, and I can feel a lump in my throat, as I gently stroke our dog, Soggy’s, beautiful red and white face—this is the last time I’m going to see her and it’s time to say goodbye. “I love you, Soggy. I’m so sorry it didn’t work out. I wish we could have done more for you. We really loved having you as part of our family. I hope you’re happy in Paradise.” My husband, Josh, moves quickly, putting her leash on and leading her out the door. He loves this dog as much as any person could love a dog; he doesn’t want to do this. I quickly tell our other dog, Bigfoot, to say goodbye, because he won’t see her again. As if Bigfoot understands, he cries, darts toward the door, and tries to squeeze through the door behind her. This is going to be really hard for both of the dogs—they’ve been together since they were just a few weeks old. Bigfoot lies down at the door, with his head between his paws, softly whimpering, as I wipe the tears from my cheeks and put a hand on his furry back.
Back when Josh and I were dating, we dreamed of getting a Borzoi. We named her “Soggy”, long before she was born, based on an inside joke about a hairball in the shower drain—an inside joke that we felt mirrored the playfulness and love in our relationship.
We brought her home as a little 15-pound bundle of fur and energy, and we spent endless days loving watching her play with Bigfoot. We knew socialization was important, and made a point of introducing both puppies to other dogs.
When they were older we took them hiking in Carmel Valley—Soggy loped along the trail and the dogs chased each other playfully through the huge open space. And other than giving a little growl and nip towards a dog at the end of the trail, Soggy was great.
Then walks got harder. On almost every walk, she would spot at least one dog she didn’t like then she’d lunge, snarling, toward it. At 65 pounds, she could take me down—I didn’t feel I could safely walk her around other dogs.
But, most of the time, she was just affectionate, gorgeous and mellow. Most of the time, she quickly came to us when we called her or she was sweetly curled up at our feet. We talked to a trainer for tips on what to do, and we started her in doggy daycare to better socialize her.
She was protective over her food, so we fed her in her crate. But sometimes, she would lash out at Bigfoot, unexpectedly, over a food-like toy, or a place where she’d recently eaten. At least five times this ending with Soggy biting Bigfoot. Once she broke the skin on my arm, when I tried to take away a food-like toy. But just a little, and maybe that was my fault.
Then, we had baby, Savannah.
I felt that one day, Savannah would try to take Soggy’s food or toy. I knew that Savannah would try to climb up against Soggy and she’d pull her fur (like 100 times a day). I feared Savannah would be nearby when Soggy started a barking, snarling frenzy, and that Soggy’s pattern was a danger to our baby. I didn’t want to wait until she hurt Savannah.
But, Soggy was basically Josh’s soul dog. He loved her and felt she was like a dog version of him. He didn’t feel the aggression issues were as serious and thought we could manage them. I knew it would truly break his heart not to keep her, and I voiced my concerns, but didn’t have the guts or audacity to insist that we get her out. So Josh said it.
He didn’t say it because he felt she would hurt our baby—he said it because he felt it may hurt our relationship if we kept her. Yes, he’d heard all kinds of horror stories from his friends, but he made the call for me. I felt so grateful and relieved, but also guilty beyond words for making him give up his dog.
But, however we got here, we’re stopping this story of aggression here. Before our baby or our dog or a visitor gets injured. Before we have to have a conversation about euthanasia, because someone felt threatened. Before our baby grows up scared of dogs. Or worse.
Did we fail Soggy? I’ve always believed a dog is a commitment for life. Would another trainer or technique have resolved this? Does my family hate me now for pushing this—Josh said giving up Soggy is the hardest thing he’s done since we met, other than the watching his dad fading away with Alzheimer’s.
I left out one piece of Soggy’s story though. Soggy came from a responsible breeder—who told us she’d take Soggy back, if ever needed, for any reason.
So, Soggy is in the car with Josh. They’re taking one last drive together, to the sprawling and appropriately-named city of Paradise, CA, where Soggy’s breeder and dog family are. They will love her and care for her. She’ll have acres of land where she can run and other Borzois to play with. She’ll be happy, safe, and loved.
I think about the amazing thing Josh is doing, and hope that he means it when he says he knows this is the right thing to do.
Run free, Soggy. Enjoy Paradise. Find another loving family without small kids, or enjoy being with your dog family. We’ll always cherish our memories of you leaping through the yard and running in Carmel Valley. We’ll treasure the pictures of our two gorgeous, adorable dogs playing together. I’m so sorry we couldn’t do more for you. We’ll miss you terribly and we’ll love you always.
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