My Sweet George
I didn't fall in love with him slowly and then all at once, like in the movies, but more like immediately, in a love-at-first-sight kind of way. It was something about his big brown eyes and goofy smile that lured me in. He really did have the biggest head I had ever seen on a dog, and just looking at him made me smile and want to kiss his sweet face. Of course I'm talking about my 58-pound brown and white pit bull mix.
I saw his picture on the shelter website, and went to get him two days later, no questions asked.
During the first week, George was perhaps the worst dog I had ever met. He peed all over the house, never settled down, chewed on everything in sight, and fought with our "first born" (and spoiled baby), Oakie. We were exhausted and searching for solutions as things quickly took a turn for the worse.
George bit my fiancé during week two, quickly, suddenly, and hard. My fiancé became terrified, as did I, and we were in a state of shock and disbelief. We quickly learned that George was aggressive and had somehow slipped through the cracks at the shelter, acing all tests and hiding his aggression.
At six years old, it was hard to know all that George had been through. When the shelter found him months prior, he was flea-infested, underweight, filled with worms, and an unknown bug was eating his left ear. Whoever had George before the shelter found him was not properly taking care of him.
We immediately called a trainer, hoping for a miracle and all of the answers we needed in order to be successful parents to George. Unfortunately the trainer left us in tears after he evaluated George and realized that he had probably been mishandled, abused, beaten, neglected, and yelled at for the entirety of his life. He told us that George would take a lot of work and that he truly was "a whole lot of dog." He started to talk options with us too – go see your vet and put George on medicine, take him back to the shelter – I can see he isn't a good fit for your family, euthanize this dog – he doesn't have a chance at being "normal" or "safe."
We were shocked. I sobbed.
I couldn't believe someone who had worked with dogs for so long was telling me to euthanize my dog, the one I fell madly in love with at first sight.
Days passed and George bit me, almost in passing one night, as I was sitting on the living room floor folding laundry. I screamed and then quietly cried, in shock that George had had my neck in his mouth and could have really hurt me.
I didn't tell my fiancé or anyone else about the bite. I wanted to be George's advocate and I felt determined to stand up for him and protect him.
Days, weeks, months, vet appointments, medications, and training sessions passed.
We found a little routine in dealing with George and his wacky ways. He enjoyed being outside in the sunshine on his doggie-run, and we took him for long walk after long walk, exploring new places along the way. There were nights when George would jump into my bed and cuddle me so tightly, sharing the pillow with my head and snoring so loudly. It made me so proud to have earned his trust and to be his dog mommy. Days would pass where he would be a loving, sweet boy and give kisses and want to play.
I spent a lot of alone time with George, always talking to him, always trying to earn his trust. I told him over and over again how much I loved him and that I only wanted to keep him safe and how sorry I was for his past and for the rotten human that treated him so poorly. I would scratch his belly and give him kisses, while his tail wagged and his big eyes looked at me like he understood every word. With medication, time, and training, George was trying to be a good boy. He wanted to make us happy, he wanted treats, he wanted love, and he wanted safety.
Despite every positive step forward, every vet visit, every medication, and every day that passed, George's aggression was still a factor. There were nights when George would lay on the floor and growl and shake. Days would come where I would be doing a simple task, like washing dishes, and he would unexpectedly grab my shirt, corner me, and growl. We felt exhausted when these moments happened, like all of our hard work and patience were wasted. Sometimes we even felt scared in our own home.
George died unexpectedly on a very rainy Tuesday afternoon. My heart aches when I think about the great and unexpected loss of my sweet boy. He was taken from us too soon, in a completely unexpected way, and saying goodbye to him was one of the worst moments of my life. I wanted so badly to save his life, make him feel safe and whole, and give him the relaxed and spoiled doggie life he deserved. I still feel so much sadness and so much loss from losing my rotten George, whom I only got to love for a few short months.
I can't find the courage to head to the shelter and find another dog in need of a loving, patient and safe home. George would want me to give his doggie bed and toys to another deserving dog, He had a big heart and loved his brother Oakie as well as all of the dogs he met at the dog park each Saturday. I know the day will come when I am ready to adopt a new dog, but the loss of George has truly left a hole in my heart.
I learned so much from George. Patience. Kindness. Unconditional love. A big smile comes to my face when I think about how he would chew on my couch but then come give me big wet kisses to say sorry, and of course all was forgiven. Rubbing his belly and telling him how safe and loved he was were moments I'll never forget.
I beg you to take a chance and adopt a shelter dog. They will change your life. George certainly changed mine.