Dogs seem to come and go more frequently in my life than most. I’ve had 12 dogs as an adult. Three were rehomed, four passed away, and one went to live with my ex-husband. Currently, I have four dogs.
Dezi was my husband’s dog before I met him, and I adopted Pepper when I separated from my ex. Then we got Nugget as a puppy in December of 2022. Three dogs felt manageable, probably because two of them are small and Dezi is older and less needy than a younger dog. But I felt like there was something missing. It seems as if my heart is continuously expanding to want “one more” thing to love and care for. And so, I got the itch for another dog.
I found myself thinking of my first dog that was my own (rather than a family dog growing up). His name was Marley, and he was very special. He was an American Pitbull Terrier mix, absolutely gorgeous, incredibly gentle and tolerant, and just overall a very good dog. His only vice was separation anxiety, which was something we struggled with for most of his life. But it was worth it to me because Marley was amazing.
He passed away at the age of 13, and since then I’ve had five pitties—that is, pitbull-type breed dogs. First there was Macy, who I actually got as a puppy before Marley passed away. She was what I referred to as my “soul dog.” While I don’t think there’s only one dog in a lifetime who can speak to a person’s soul, I do feel that some dogs are more special than others. At least, that has been my experience. For me, Marley and Macy were my first two soul-dogs. They held special places in my heart.
Sadly, as Macy grew up she began to have unpredictable bouts of aggression towards other dogs. These were dogs who she grew up around, as well as others. And when it happened, she went for blood. One minute she could be innocently playing or cuddling with one of her doggie siblings, and the next minute something shifted and she was trying to kill them. We never understood why it happened, but we did everything we could to fix the problem. We did extensive training, and she responded very well. But, because her aggression wasn’t a habitual behavior but random episodes, training didn’t stop these attacks from happening.
While I never worried that Macy would hurt one of her human family members intentionally, she did bite my ex when he tried to separate her from one of our other dogs during an attack. His injury was fairly serious, and we began to consider our options. We tried to rehome her, but a pitbull with aggression issues is nearly impossible to adopt out. After our second professional training program with her, which was followed shortly after by another attack in which my ex was once again bitten—we knew it was time to put her to sleep.
Having to put a perfectly healthy, young, sweet dog to sleep was horrid. But we knew that it wasn’t safe to continue to have her around. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to her.
The two other pitties I had with my ex were Moosey and Buddy. We got Moosey as a puppy, and he was very sweet and overall a good dog. For our family at the time, though, he turned out to be too much of a handful for us. So when my parents offered to take him as a trade for their older dog, Buddy, we jumped at the opportunity. Buddy is tolerant, gentle, playful, and loyal—a great dog to have in a family with young children. He wasn’t as great of a dog for a couple who liked to travel a lot, which is why my parents wanted to trade. We were all satisfied with this decision, and it worked out great.
In my current marriage, I’ve had two pitties. One of them is brand new as of this post; we just got a puppy, who we’ve named Forrest. But before Forrest, there was Auggie.
As I mentioned earlier, I began to feel a pull to get another dog this past summer. I was thinking a lot of Marley and how I wished I could find another doggo like him. Well, I looked, and I found August.
August—Auggie for short—was also incredibly gorgeous and sweet. He was super tolerant of the kids, the cats, and other dogs. Nothing seemed to bother him. His demeanor was exactly what I knew pitbulls could be, at their very best. I loved him from the day I met him.
We adopted him from a couple who was looking to rehome him. He was about ten months old when we adopted him, and they said they were rehoming him for financial and family health reasons. When they said goodbye and we took him with us, they were visibly upset; it was clear that they loved him very much. But what happened in the month following our adoption of him made me suspicious that they gave him up for a very different reason.
At his initial vet checkup, he had some unusual blood test results for his liver. We ended up doing many follow-up tests, the most serious of which was a very expensive imaging procedure. Finally, we had our answers. Auggie was diagnosed with multiple liver shunts. What this means is that his liver started growing new pathways for blood to be diverted from passing through. This meant that his liver was not serving him well—and the naturally occurring waste and toxins that it should have been filtering out were staying in his body and slowly poisoning him. We also learned early on that his liver was undersized, and when we learned about the shunts, I suspected that his unusually small liver was the reason they developed.
Unfortunately, while congenital liver shunts (ones that a dog is born with, which are usually just a single shunt) are surgically repairable, multiple acquired shunts (ones that a dog develops, which can be many) are not treatable. The only options for treatment were basically palliative; he was put on a special diet and given a few different medications to help slow the process of him dying. After a couple of months of me making homemade dog food for him, I couldn’t do it any longer. The expense and the time was too much for us. We took him off the special diet and medications and decided to enjoy him for as long as we would have with him.
I suspect that his previous owners knew about his condition. The prognosis for this is bleak; dogs with this condition can live up to two years, at the very most. The majority don’t get even that long. And I understand why his previous owners might not have wanted to be the ones to lose him that way—or the ones to make the decision to end his suffering.
Ultimately, we had five months with August. During those months, we took him on camping adventures and gave him all the love we could. We watched and waited for the signs that he was beginning to feel the effects of his disease more acutely.
The week that we knew it was time was rough on him. He had vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood in it, appetite loss, and general malaise. We could tell that he was just not feeling good. I came home one day and he ambled over to me in his usual “Eeyore” way and he put his head on my lap and looked at me in a way that told me it was time. It felt like he was telling me that he was ready, that he was tired and done. We took him to the vet to put him to sleep that night.
Saying goodbye to Auggie was painful—as it always is. It is an unpleasantly surreal experience to watch a dog go from alive to gone, just like that. They have no idea what is coming. They are so innocent and trusting, and as human caretakers for them we have to be the ones to decide when to end their lives to prevent needless suffering. It feels like murder every time, to me. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m doing the right thing, the loving thing.
In the weeks after losing August, I have continued to grieve. I’m still not done, and I don’t know how long it will take until I can think of him and smile instead of breaking down into tears. But one thing that I believe with dogs is that when you lose one, it gives you space to take in another. I debated whether getting a fourth dog (again) was a good idea. I knew that our lives would be simpler if we just stuck with the three that we already have. But, I also knew that I needed a pittie in my life.
Three weeks after losing Auggie, we found Forrest posted online for adoption. We went to get him that same day. We’ve only had him for a few days now, but already we know that we found a really special one. He is definitely a puppy—mischievous and untrained—but for a puppy, he is incredibly easy so far. He is so affectionate and smart and just plain cute. He’s already captured our hearts.
I know that Forrest will never replace Auggie. Auggie will always be special to me, and I will always miss him and think about the years we should have had with him. But it does bring me a bit of comfort to know that without August leaving us so soon, we would not have found Forrest. The circle of life continues. With any luck, we will have many wonderful years with Forrest. And for that, I have August to thank.
Of course, this post is dedicated to my Auggie boy. I miss you, puppers. I love you and can’t wait to see you again at the rainbow bridge. Until then, have fun running around with Marley and Macy!