Charlie

I will preface this by saying I consider myself an animal lover. I would never intentionally hurt or abuse any animal for the pleasure of seeing something in pain. I think of myself as a good pet owner, or at least I try to be. Sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact right now I’m at an impasse as to what is a good pet owner.

We got Charlie when he was ten weeks old. He is the only dog we picked out as a puppy and purposely brought home to raise. His parents were proven bird hunting dogs, so Mitch figured that Charlie would inherit those traits and he did. Charlie has always had a great nose, searching out pheasants. His points are picture perfect and he’s never been leery of the retrieve. He’s a good hunter despite having us as pet owners. Now after eleven years he still has that hunting heart and soul.

What he doesn’t have any more is all of his facilities. He is suffering from Canine Dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction. There isn’t a lot of good information out there on Canine Dementia, but he’s not exhibiting most of the symptoms, loss of sight, hearing or incontinence. No, Charlie has become very aggressive. He has always been a bit unstable, stemming from being attacked by the dogs of a former neighbor twice when he was a puppy. Those two incidents pretty much set the tone for his animal aggression for the rest of his life. Now an explosive episode comes without warning or provocation.

In the last two months Charlie has attacked Orso three times just for being within five feet of him. On one occasion, Charlie went after Orso and I was between the two so Charlie bit me, not breaking the skin, but he left a large bruise and a knot on my thigh. Another incident happened with Orso walking in the door and Charlie went after him drawing blood and when Mitch tried to separate Charlie from Orso, Charlie went after Mitch. Mitch said that when he looked in Charlie’s eyes, he wasn’t there. His eyes were dilated and blank, no recognition, just rage. Two of the last three episodes have drawn blood.

We’ve tried Diazepam (doggie valium) but it doesn’t help much. I think we were hoping he would sleep through his days and be blissfully dopey. Instead we still have a dog that gives way to explosive violence and aggressive attacks aimed at Orso. It is so heartbreaking to watch our dog (crazy as he is) slip away and become replaced by an animal that is more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll. It is even more heartbreaking knowing that we can’t protect Orso, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, doesn’t deserve any of this and loves Charlie so much.

Since we don’t have a vet here yet, we don’t have anyone we trust to talk to about this and ask for guidance, we called our vet in Kansas City to discuss our options. Sadly there are few out there, and only for the short term. More Diazepam maybe but this is only going to get worse. We need to plan for an end of life solution. We know this and accept it, but following through and finding a vet here feels almost like an act of cowardice. We took him to raise and euthanasia feels like we are failing Charlie; that we should figure out a way to fix him. That is our hearts talking, our heads know better, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. It’s hard to even talk about it because to voice it and say the words, makes it real, and that means you have to make a decision.

I only hope that Charlie will sleep well and rest easy and know how much we have loved him his whole life. He was a good hunter, and loyal to a fault. A piece of my heart will go with him.