Thursday, October 8, 2015

When to say "When"

I finally did it.  I drove my Cattle Dog to the Humane Society to “surrender” him.  Not one of the perfectly valid, legitimate excuses for why I did it make me feel one iota better.  I gave this dog so many second, third, fourth chances but I finally had to say “when.”  Sometimes even when you do everything right and you desperately want the situation to “work out,” you still have to walk away.  Happens all the time on the goat farm.

First, I refer you back to my post, “Auction Yard Hotdog” from June 15, 2015.  In this piece I recounted how Katherine and I had to take her La Mancha goat (“Katrina”) to the auction yard to sell because the goat was starting to show signs of CL, a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes chronic wasting.  Rather than risk the health of the entire herd, we loaded that big old nanny goat into the back of the ‘Burb and drove her away.

And Katherine had done everything right: she periodically tested the herd for the 3 bad diseases, she stayed up-to-date on all the routine vaccines and wormings, she carefully managed goat diets, she groomed, she trimmed hooves.  She did everything right and this horrible disease still happened.

Now, this Cattle Dog of mine.  He was sort of mine, and sort of not.  I bought him for Bubba when Bubba’s old Cattle Dog died at the ripe old age of 18.  Bubba sourced the breeder and picked out the puppy, while I wrote the check and offered to pay for obedience classes.  In hindsight, my relationship with Bubba was starting its long, slow descent at the time; somehow Bubba did not really bond with this dog he had chosen, so I took responsibility for it.

 "Dog," from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
[On a side note, I think there is a reason that the dog in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), cleverly named “Dog,” was a Cattle Dog.  What other dog would survive the apocalypse?]

When Bubba moved out fifteen months later, he left the dog with me.  I assumed Bubba would take his dog when he figured out where he was going to live, but that simply did not happen. 

I’m not a love-em-and-leave-em kind of gal, so I resigned myself to keeping this dog.  Things went from bad to worse: barking all night, chasing cars, mowing down children in his fervor to chase anything. I tried attachment therapy: maybe if he stayed by my side 24/7 he would calm down? No.  I tried an extra-heavy-duty shock collar – maybe a little (or big) ZAP would convey the message? Nope.  
Cattle Dog and Caboose

Ironically, the only thing on this whole planet that could control that Cattle Dog was my Pyrenees/Akbash Livestock Guardian Dog, Caboose.  Caboose, weighing in at 120-pounds would just look at the Cattle Dog (55 pounds) and the Cattle Dog would fall into line, slinking away to lie down at some pre-determined distance from Caboose’s pack/people.  If the Cattle Dog neurotically ran laps through the house, all I had to do was screech the Cattle Dog’s name, and Caboose was on the job.  He’d trot around the opposite direction and stop the Cattle Dog in his tracks. We now call Caboose “The POPO.”

But, like in real life, sometimes The POPO isn’t right there when you need him.  One day the Cattle Dog was in my driveway when a juvenile doe escaped through the gate as I was trying to get into the field to feed the goats.  True to his nature, the Cattle Dog took off like a bolt of lightening to catch that goat.  But Pygmy goats are a whole lot smaller than cattle, and magnitudes more fragile. 

By some miracle I was able to catch the goat before the dog did and scoop her up in my arms; all the while, the snarling dog snapped at my arms trying to eat the goat.  It was like one of those stories you hear of a mother single-handedly lifting a car off of her toddler … Herculean.  Somehow the goat and I both managed to escape in one piece.

Over the next 6 months, the Cattle Dog became progressively crazier.  The most recent incident didn’t end so well.  It involved a kitten and an unsuccessful trip to the Emergency Vet.  That was the last straw.  After telling my sobbing ‘tween that her kitty had an accident, we had a family meeting.  We all agreed: No more Cattle Dog.

Still, it took me another day to do anything. I contacted a handful of Cattle Dog rescue groups and waited. And waited. That fix would’ve been so easy, but, alas, no response. So I called the Humane Society and loaded the dog in the car.
For the record, I cried all the way home.

Here on The Goat Farm the kids have learned firsthand how sometimes you have to make the hard decision, even if you really, really don’t want to.  But sometimes all the best intentions and efforts in the world still won’t fix something that’s not working – whether it’s a goat, a dog or a relationship.

I sincerely hope they carry the lesson forward with them in all aspects of their lives.  Sometimes you can want something with all your heart, do everything right, keep trying, and it still won’t work. 

AND THAT'S OK.  Reaching your limit, after you have tried your hardest, is not the same as quitting.  For all it’s worth, you have my permission to walk away.

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