My first Great Pyr was Satch, and he was an amazing dog. What I didn’t know was that he was anything but a typical Pyr. So I was woefully unprepared for Aslan. He was different, and he was difficult. But I loved him. God, I loved him.
Aslan was dog aggressive, and he was a severe resource guarder. Fighting is hard-wired in his breed, but in-pack fighting like that likely is not normal behavior. Normal or not, it was part of him, and when you put those tendencies in a guardian breed, it’s a dangerous combination. I knew it, but I thought if we could just keep him from practicing the behaviors and manage the heck out of his triggers, we’d be okay.
And mostly we were. As he aged, he gained more self-control. You could see him struggle to control himself, see him calm himself, see him choose to leave rather than escalate. We were so proud, and we reinforced the hell out of those behaviors. But still, management can never be perfect. There were incidents. We’d gotten to the point where the incidents were about a year apart, but they were escalating. The last time he’d fought with Pax, they both ended up in emergency care. The last time I pushed him over something he was guarding, he lunged at me and went up my body to force me away.
99.9% of the time, he was fantastic. But that other tiny percentage, he was dangerous. I knew it. But I loved him.
Friday afternoon, management failed. It was my fault. I broke my own protocol, and I fed them in close, uncontrolled quarters. Aslan felt crowded, and he jumped Pax.
I was home alone.
Neither wore a collar.
All I could do was scream while they tried to kill each other.
It finally occurred to me to open the door into Jay’s office, hoping that Pax would try to escape, and I could separate them. Ironically, it was Aslan who ultimately tried to flee. (Twice he has taken on Ghandi, and yes, twice Ghandi kicked his ass.) As soon as I had the gate closed, I knew. I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. His chances had run out.
Pax will be all right. He’s beaten up. He has a bunch of punctures, and he’s all gimped up. He’s terribly sore — has to be helped up and down from the bed, and he can barely get down the stairs. But he’s alive.
Aslan isn’t. I hate playing God. I hated taking a healthy animal into the vet and holding him while they pumped blue juice into his veins. Some friends have said that he got more chances with me than he would have with someone else, and that’s probably true. And they’ve said that he probably wasn’t very happy in his own skull, feeling like he always had to guard and control. I don’t know about that; he was a hard dog to read, but he didn’t seem unhappy.
I know that I hate myself because I’m as relieved as I am sad. I know that I miss him. I hope Aslan can forgive me for what I did, though I can’t forgive myself. I hope he’ll be waiting at the Bridge for me, but somehow I doubt it.
I love you, Azzie. I’ll always love you. And I’m very, very sorry.
Aslan, 9/30/2004 – 12/11/2009