Not my dog!!!

This is my girl Meika.

This is something I have been struggling with for quite some time.  If it were not for some recent clients and their struggles I may have chosen not to share our experience.  I cannot remember a time in my life where dogs have not been a huge part of my life.  I have been blessed with so many great dogs that I have shared my life with and worked with.  I have only been bitten once in my life by a stray dog because I believe I learned at a very young age to respect all animals and not push them to the point where they will bite.  I also have worked with enough dogs hopefully be able to read them pretty well. A couple of years ago we adopted a very large boy named Jax.  Jax had not been socialized to many people in his life so at first glance he was pretty afraid of new people.  His previous homes were not the best fit for Jax although he was loved sometimes that is just not enough.  We decided to adopt him to our family.  We had his brother Cole who had been with us for 4 years and we had the room and the time to help Jax.  Things were going pretty well, we had introduced Jax to several new people as well as other dogs and he did pretty good.  Initially he was very afraid of car rides and after about 6 months of working with him he was much more comfortable and seemed to enjoy the trips.  Jax was also involved in helping us work with other dogs as in many way’s he was a lot like his brother Cole who is very adept at reading other dogs and their needs.  We thought a Job for jax would be great.  During the time we had him he worked with about 4 dogs and was a great help.

Looking back at some things we just did not think were very important have hit me like a freight train since we lost him. Now for the rest of the story.  It was march of 2017.  I was getting  ready to go work with a client and had just got our of the shower and dressed.  I came into the kitchen and saw my wife Pam running towards our driveway.  Then I heard a scream both human and dog.  I ran out of the door to see Jax attacking our older Aussie Flash.  He had a very tight hold of Flashes back end and Pam was on top of Flash to make sure Jax could not get to his neck.  I yelled at Jax to no avail that is when it suddenly turned into a life threatening attack to Pam.  Jax had let go of Flash and had Pam by the leg and was picking her up off the ground like she weighed nothing. He was violently shaking Pam by the leg and was not going to let her go.  I grabbed Jax by the collar and tried to get him off of Pam.  After what seemed like an eternity he finally let go then started circling both Pam and Flash barking very loudly.  I was able to get a hold of him and take him the the house so I could see how bad Pam was hurt. When I got to Pam she was in shock and bleeding very badly from her leg wound.  I got the bleeding stopped and we were off to the hospital.  Pam had to drive herself which was no easy task.  I could not leave Jax alone with the rest of the dogs who were trying to figure out what had happened.  I loaded jax into my car and we were off to the hospital.

Pam was seen right away which was a huge relief.  The attending doctor said that in 30 years of practicing emergency medicine he had never seen a bite so bad. He told Pam that she would never have full feeling of her leg becasue of the trauma done to her.  I knew she was in good hands so I want to check on Jax n the car.  He was pacing and drooling and very stressed.  I knew what had to be done still it was not an easy choice.  I made an appointment to have Jax humanely put to sleep.  Because of the nature of the attack and the bite itself which was a level 6 on the Dunbar scale I knew that Jax would not be able to be around Pam or the other dogs again and re-homing him was not an option.  I did not tell Pam what I had done until it was done as she was very upset and did not Blame jax.  Pam and I are very experienced dog people and have never experienced an attack from our own dogs before.  Needless to say this surprised us so much I immediately thought what did we do wrong?  Jax was loved, he was healthy, he got plenty of exercise and enrichment so why did this happen?

I also knew if I had not been at home Jax would have killed Pam and probably some of our other dogs.  I have heard all of my life as well as in my professional career that ” it just happened out of the blue and there was no warnings signs” I always tell my clients that behavior just does not happen for no reason.  There is something in the background that is causing it.  After the attack I started trying to figure out what might have caused it to escalate so fast to the point where our own dog attacked so viciously.  Pam later told me that she had been walking the dogs like usual for their daily 2 miles and everything was going good like usual.  She said that Flash went over by a tree on our property and all of a sudden yelped.  She said at that point Jax came from about 300 feet and attacked Flash.  Was this an unprovoked attack or something that had been building for months.  Out of all the dogs we had Jax and Flash had the most I would say uneasy relationship.  On many occasions Flash would be quietly chewing on a bone or chew toy and Jax would go over to him and bark in his face.  Flash did his best to ignore Jax and I would step in and provide the exact same toy for Jax but that was not enough as he wanted the toy that Flash had and he was not going to stop until he got that one toy.  Flash was not about to give it up and I think this frustrated Jax a lot.  This happened several times and I thought a long as it is not escalating it was not that big of a deal. Looking back on this now it was that big of a deal to Jax.  His frustration with Flash finally hit a boiling point and he took his opportunity to attack him.

We had left both of these dog’s alone several times with no incidence, they had never physically fought.  I do believe that out of Jax’s frustration that is why the attack occurred and Pam was just in his way of getting to Flash and taking him out.  This was a redirected bite to Pam and I believe it was not personal.   The point of sharing this story is that I made some very bad errors in noticing Jax and Flash and their interactions and maybe this could have been prevented or not we will never know.  I know that dogs will be dogs but when they attack their humans that is when it gets very scary.  After all we love them, we feed them, we care for them, and provide shelter and safety but I feel that is not enough. I guess the point of this story is that it can happen to anyone at anytime so do not take your dogs behavior for granted as at any given time a tragedy can happen.  This was very painful for both Pam and I and have told very few people about what happened as not only was it a very personal thing but for awhile made me feel like a really bad trainer and care giver to my own dogs becasue I did not take the steps to make sure it did not happen.  I do believe that even if I would have taken a different path with Jax and Flash it still could have becasue after all they are dogs and if you have been around them long enough nothing really surprises you.  This really surprised us becasue it was so vicious and what we though unprovoked on someone that loved Jax and was always kind to him.  If this story causes you to look at your dogs in a different way and their interactions then i have done my job.  if I could talk to jax now I would say ” you were loved, cared for and are still missed a lot by us and your dog family.  RIP big man.

This is Jax

This is Jax.

 

Dennis Fehling