Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A final Ode to Honda

I don't know where to start...or even how to put this post together.  Our family is still struggling with the 'whys' of it all. 

Why did he have to start biting?
Why does Michigan have to have such strict laws on it?
Why does specialized training cost so much?
Why couldn't a Boxer rescue group take him? (After all, isn't that what rescue groups are for?)
Why is it so difficult to make that decision and follow through when you know its the only one left and you've exhausted all other options?
Why do people give you such a hard time about putting a dog down when you HAVE no other option?
Why does it feel like such a personal attack?
Why has this caused so much anger?

and finally...

Why does it hurt so much...he's just a dog right?
No.  He was more than a dog.  He was more than a step-dog.  He was our son.  Even though I've been tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic about Honda on the blog, I really did love him.  He was a member of the family.  He was a cuddle-bug, a friend, and a brother. 

The back story: Josh got Honda as a puppy and poured himself into training him.  Honda was a great dog.  He was an alpha male, so when around other dogs, he liked to prove he was the best, but around family, he was sweet, gentle, and lazy.  He was our 65 pound lap dog. 

Honda and Josh went through so much together before meeting me and the kids.  Once we were married, Honda moved in and quickly became a member of our family.  Around October, Honda started getting annoyed with the kids.  We set some ground rule for them, basic dog care: don't ride the dog, don't pull his ears, don't squeeze his face between your hands and talk baby talk to him.  The essential directions to keep dogs happy.

The kids followed those rules, although at times, after getting excited about playing with him, forgot that they can't play keep away with his bone.  Eventually, through multiple annoyances, he started lashing out at the kids. 

One time he was laying on the bed between Josh and Johnny who were playing video games and Emma was jumping on the bed.  I believe he was annoyed with Emma, but he lunged at Johnny instead, and headbutted him in the face, leaving a bruise and making him cry.

Another time they were playing with one of his tennis balls and he lunged at Johnny's face again.  That was when I said, this has got to stop.  So we put some more rules in place.  No playing keep away with the dog.  If he brings his toy to you, then you can play with him, do not approach the dog, let him approach you.

Three weeks ago, Honda was laying in Johnny's room, chewing on a bone.  Emma bent down to ask him 'Does your bone taste good?'  He lunged at her and got her in the face with his teeth, putting a bloody gouge  less than a half inch from her left eye and left a nasty bruise above her right eye and on her cheek.  I was scared. 

I was scared, for the kids and for Honda.  I treated it the best I could and kept her home from school that day.  Luckily she didn't need stitches and luckily it wasn't infected.  I asked Josh to send Honda to his parent's house while we thought of a solution. 

We were scheduled to pick him up on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, without arriving at a solution, his parents called and asked us to pick him up early.  They already had a Boxer and a Sheltie at their home and adding Honda in the mix was just too much rowdiness, understandably.  So against my wishes, we had to bring Honda home again. 

At this point, Mama bear (me) was in full protection mode of her cubs.  Yet again, new rules were in place.  no playing with the dog, no looking at the dog...Basically, pretend the dog doesn't exist.  Josh and I were on pins and needles, calling rescues, researching dog bite law, calling expensive behaviorists. 

The law in Michigan is extremely strict when it comes to biting dogs.  Exaggerating a little here, but basically, anyone who knows the dog can be held liable if he goes to another home and bites someone else, when he was known to be a biter. 

Our hands were tied.  We couldn't risk keeping him.  We couldn't give him to someone with a kid.  We couldn't give him to someone with another dog.  His parents couldn't take him.  The rescues legally couldn't take him.  And we couldn't get a guarantee from the behaviorists that wanted $650 for training that he wouldn't bite again.  Our only option was to put him down and honestly, that option sucked.  Especially since he was an AMAZING dog, when the kids weren't around.  We actually had someone jokingly ask us, why don't you get rid of the kids?

Stupid thing is, some of the people we heard from, seemed to think that was a fine solution!  Why else would they tell us we were doing the wrong thing, that it was mean to put him down, that there had to be other solutions,etc.  They made our life miserable that last week.  I would post on facebook about our lack of options and they would tell us we weren't trying hard enough.  We were already hurting so much, and they seemed to want to make sure we felt the pain in every area.  Interestingly enough, all the people saying we were doing the wrong thing never had a realistic option.

We cried all weekend.  The day came on Tuesday to put Honda down.  We cried all morning.  We watched movies with Honda cuddled up between us in the morning.  Then we decided to give Honda a great last day.

We started with Biggby coffee.  Honda loves coffee, so I let him have half of mine.  Then we loaded him in the car.  Even though it was cold, we put the window down, so he could enjoy the wind in his face.

We took him over to say good-bye to his brother.

We took him to Burger King for a burger.  (If we would have planned ahead, we would have taken him for a beer, since he loved it, but its one of those things you think of afterward.)

We ended up getting to the shelter early so we took him for a long walk.  The entire day, he was such a good boy, and it made what we had to do next that much harder.

The time finally came to say good-bye.  It was one of the hardest moments in my life.  We took his collar off and he was led away by the shelter staff.  After crying in the car for a good 10 minutes, we finally were able head home. 

We hadn't told the kids our decision, mainly because we came to it over the weekend while they were with their dad.  Now we had to compose ourselves enough to pick up the kids and tell them what happened.  And to do it in a way so they know they are not to blame in anyway for the biting. 

After about 2 hours sitting at home, I felt composed enough to pick up the kids. We had picked up all Honda's things and put them in the storage room, so that we wouldn't have the reminders that our boy was not with us anymore.

At school, as I was gathering their things., Emma ran up to me with cut outs of two animals she drew.  "Look mom!  This is Honda and this is Evan!"  I lost it and could...not...stop...crying.  So much for being a strong parent for my kids!  They were worried asking me what was wrong.  I couldn't answer them.  I couldn't stop crying long enough to tell them.  Finally, after hugging them both and kneeling down to be close to them, I told them we had some sad news.  That Honda was no longer going to be with us and that he was with Jesus now. 

Johnny took it the hardest.  He ended up putting himself to bed an hour after we got home. The next day, I had to pick him up early from school, because he had worked himself into a fever, being so sad about Honda. 

He's doing a little better but I can tell he still misses his best bud.  We purchased from Build-a-Bear online this little pup and had a message attached to it from Honda.  He now brings 'Honda' with him everywhere.

Josh and I both had our moments yet when we started tearing up again.  I was laying on the couch, really missing Honda yesterday. It was eerily silent.  He used to curl up with me and be a little heater in the cold weather, while I stroked his ear and read a book. I miss the sound of his breathing and light snoring.

On Sunday, we were at the grocery store when a strong storm came through.  Without even stopping to think, Josh said 'Honda must be scared with this storm'.  I looked at him and he realized what he said, and began to tear up.  

It's been over a week now, since we put Honda down, since I started working on this post, and it has gotten a little easier.  It was the hardest decision I have EVER had to make.  It took everything in me, not to run back and and scream STOP!!!! before they put him to sleep. 

But he is gone and we must move on.  Before we's one last video of Honda, the step-dog, for you...Giving his best performance yet on his last day.


  1. Oh Sarah.. I am soo sorry for your loss.. I totally understand how hard of a decision it is.. my little guy was bit in the face by my parents dog who had once been mine.. He had 4 surgeries to repair the damage done and my parents and I decided that the best solution would be to put her down.. it was heart breaking for everyone.. and I cried right along with you after reading this.. I hope that you all heal and will be able to remember all of the wonderful things about Honda. Your in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. I know you guys are missing him but it truly was the right decision. What if he bit harder the next time and one of the kids needed stitches? You just can't take that chance....we miss him terribly too. I cried all the way through reading this :( Love you guys.

  3. I am so sorry. I should have waited until I got home to read this, as I'm now crying at work.

    What a terrible decision to have to make. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    You did what you had to do. I'm sorry.


  4. I am sorry you had to come to such a choice about Honda. That had to be really tough. I cried reading this post. It is horrible that people not near the situation think there "should" have been something else you could have done. You & your husband did what you had to do. My heart goes out to you & your family. Please keep a hold of the "happy Honda memories" & try to put the last day way in the back of your mind.

  5. Sarah, my heart goes out to you and your family. I have been struggling with the possibility of putting down my 13 year old Chihuahua. I've had her since she was 6 weeks old and before that I visited her every week until she could be taken from her mom. Don't forget the wonderful memories of Honda and know that in your hearts you made the right decision. No matter how others may not understand the safety of your children comes first. You are being great parents. Thank you for sharing such a tough time with us, this post really touched my heart and brought me to tears. God bless you and your family!

  6. I'm am so not a pet person, but this one had me choked up. The video at the end was priceless, and it made me do the laughing/crying thing, which is my most favorite emotion. You did the right thing, but the right thing was difficult.

  7. aww i am sooo so sorry!

    This post made me tear up a little bit.

    Sending much love your way!


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