Somehow, I manage to simultaneously love and fear dogs. I currently have one, a sweet, little Morkie named Beaker, who is, by all accounts, my tiny son. I think that dogs have the purest souls imaginable, capable of so much love and loyalty that it astonishes me at times. Although I’m not a pessimist when it comes to human nature, I still don’t think that humans are capable of the amount of loyalty a dog is. A dog could literally be the victim of intentional harm, and yet still remain true to their park. I know that I wouldn’t.
And at the same time, I don’t want any dogs larger than a Morkie. I don’t feel comfortable around dogs that are any combination of large, muscular, or strangers, and a lot of that comes from my prior history with dogs.
I received my first dog when I was about ten years old. We had just moved into a new house at the time, and the idea seems to have been to build the closest thing that we could to the nuclear family. Father, mother, two children, and the faithful pooch. This one was a husky named Kurgan, and by all accounts, he was a good dog. A little bit hyper, sure, and when he got big, he was a little bit overwhelming for a ten year old to handle, but it was nothing that couldn’t be expected from any other large dog.
Kurgan had his first seizure two years later, and was diagnosed with epilepsy.
I can’t say that I remember the whole event in vivid detail. Roughly ten years have passed since, and I was still relatively young at the time. The time that I remember most seems to be fairly late into his illness, when my mom and I took Kurgan into the backyard to run around, shortly after he had had one seizure. And while he was back there, he had another. And another. When he fell, he landed hard against the fence between my house and my neighbour’s, breaking it with his body, and as I stood over him, watching him convulse again and again, I wondered how a scrawny twelve-year-old and my five-foot-five mother were going to pack this giant dog back inside.
Kurgan died not long afterwards.
And, almost immediately, my family got a new dog. A smaller one – one that wouldn’t be sick and that would be easier to handle. This one was a bull terrier with the largest nose you could imagine, earning him the somewhat nerdy title of Dr. Bartholomew J. Hall the third Esquire (Bart for short).
I didn’t like Bart from the beginning. I feel sort of bad for that now, looking back on everything that happened, but for me, it was too soon. Kurgan had only just died, and despite all his problems, I liked Kurgan. I looked upon him as my childhood dog, even if too much of my time with him had been spent avoiding his mouth when he came out of seizures, for fear that he might panic and snap at me. But Kurgan had a good nature and a friendly soul, and perhaps it was just because I didn’t take the time to get to know him, but I didn’t sense any of that about Bart.
And, oddly enough, Bart proved me right. The first clue that we had that something was wrong with him was that he seemed to have no pain tolerance. He refused to walk whenever we took him outside, so we’d drag him by the leash, having been assured by the vet that he’d walk eventually. But he never did. We dragged him until streaks of blood on the sidewalk informed us that he had cut open his feet, and then we’d feel so bad that we’d carry him, but he never responded to any of it. He simply remained cool and stubborn, despite our vet’s assurances that he’d grow out of it.
Then, on one night, my mom told Bart to go to bed, and he headed toward his crate, all happy, tail wagging, and then he just stopped. My mom tried to grab him by the collar and guide him in, and he turned around and bit her on the thumb so hard that she couldn’t bend it for a good while afterwards. And just like that, it seemed a switch had been turned in Bart’s head. Overnight, he came from a fairly typical, though admittedly stubborn puppy, to suddenly being vicious, attacking us whenever we commanded anything of him, or whenever he could tell that we were upset. I was the only one in my family who was never bit, because as I’ve said before, I never liked Bart. I was never outright cruel to him, but I didn’t like to be around him either, and this sudden switch only gave me more reason.
My family tried everything to help him, calling experts in dog behaviour to come down to see him, even asking his breeder if she could offer tips or maybe take him back. Yet, most everywhere we looked, people said the same thing: from the moment a dog draws blood, they’re beyond help. And Bart had drawn blood the very first time he bit my mom.
So my parents told my sister and I that we were going to give Bart to the vet, and he would find a new home for him. A few years later, I found out that he had actually been put down. We tried everything we could to save Bart, but the problem was that we just weren’t authoritative enough of owners for a dog of that breed, and we unfortunately didn’t realize that until it was too late.
For years, I described myself as someone who was afraid of dogs, having experienced the total loss of control that I had with Kurgan, as well as the viciousness of Bart. It wasn’t until I was about eighteen that I agreed to get another, and this time, we picked out a Morkie specifically because we knew he would be small and easy to control. And I love Beaker. He’s just this sweet little flutter of a thing, running up to me whenever he sees me to attack me with kisses rather than bites. I love how loyal he is to me, how he intuitively knows when I’m upset and actively tries to make me feel better. But I have to admit, when I first got him, I was plagued with nightmares for months, terrified of what would happen if I somehow hurt him, the way that I felt I had hurt the first two.