Charlie was a thoroughbred Shitzu. Shitzu’s are small, longhaired dogs, renowned for being yappy, but Charlie wasn’t at all yappy. He was inquisitive, attentive, and he liked to follow me around. I would sit on the floor and groom him and he enjoyed being brushed and stroked and spoken to.

Until he fell in the pool.

We’d recently had a pool built and it wasn’t fenced. I had been a harridan about letting him outside unattended, but someone left the sliding glass door open and Charlie wandered out onto the deck without my knowing that he was outside.

I noticed that he was not behind me while I was cooking. I called him and he did not come. So I started looking for him. When I couldn’t find him, I went outside and began to call his name. Still he did not come. I walked around the side of the house, toward the swimming pool. And then I saw him.

He was submerged, except for the very tip of his nose and he was not moving.

I jumped into the pool, took hold of him, swam to the side, and pushed him up onto the deck, clambering out after him. I picked him up. I didn’t know what to do, so I held him upside down and pressed on his sides. Water fell from his mouth. I lifted him to my ear and heard the sound of breath. I’ve never been so relieved to hear the sound of breathing.

I took him into the house, ran for a space heater, plugged it in, and laid him in front of it while I rubbed his long fur with a towel. He was very cold. A little while later he stood up on shaky legs and looked at me with a glazed expression. I knew that all was not well.

I was right.

He seemed to recover over the next few days in some ways, but I noticed that his eyes, normally brown, would turn an odd shade of green at certain times. This became more and more pronounced as time passed. Charlie no longer followed me about. He didn’t seem to know me.

One evening, he was sitting next to me and when I reached down to scratch my ankle, he bit me. That was the beginning of a kind of nightmare.

I had small children at the time and they were trained to treat Charlie with respect, but he bit them unprovoked. He bit anyone without the least provocation. His behaviour became more and more unpredictable.

So I looked through the Yellow Pages and found an animal trainer listed. I called and arranged a home visit in the hope that an “expert” could turn Charlie into a nice guy.

The “expert” was a canine trainer with the Miami Police Department. He came to my home, observed Charlie, and observed me. He said that Charlie needed to learn some discipline and that I wouldn’t like his methods, but that if I followed his instructions, Charlie would become a good housemate.

Well, I watched him attach a 200 foot leash to Charlie’s collar, let him run, and then snap his neck back. I watched him hit the dog. I watched him do all of this for weeks with no change. And I watched as he watched me

Then I fired him.

I called the Vet and explained that I had done all that I could to modify Charlie’s behaviour and that it was unacceptable and to ask her if there was anything further I could do.

She suggested hormone shots. So I said okay.

So we gave Charlie a course of hormone shots, but weeks later, he was still the green-eyed mad dog who bit everyone in sight. I became more and more certain that oxygen deprivation during his near-drowning had caused brain damage.

I was at my wit’s end. I had small children with bite marks on them. I was covered in bite marks. And it was time to make a decision.

I knew that if I gave Charlie to another owner, he would end up being punished for his behaviour. I couldn’t do that to him. So after having a long talk with the veterinarian, who could come up with no further suggestions, I decided to have him put to death.

That was so hard. 20 years later, I still don’t know what I could have done, but it was too easy. I’ll never be comfortable about it. And maybe that’s just as it should be.

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