A dog named Bud

Or, why loving my baby meant losing my dog

Dog dangers: Each year in the United States 800,000 people are injured seriously enough by dogs to require medical attention, 6,000 enough to require hospitalization. About 15 people, mostly children, are killed.

I loved my dog Bud, even after he bit my husband in the face.

OK, so Chris needed seven stitches in his lip to close the bite. Bud, a 4-year-old yellow lab-chow mix, had been my constant companion in my funky little bachelorette pad. He never chewed a sofa, never dug a hole, never pooped in the house. He was so good in the house, in fact, that I left him inside when I went to work. Each day, when I came home, he trotted to the door and met me.

He was loyal, protective, and completely reliable.

And then I found a husband who was also all of those things, and Bud didn’t seem to like being “the other man” in my life.

The biting incident happened at the worst possible time—when I was eight months pregnant and already exhaustedly emotional. I was at work at the time, and Chris called to say I needed to come right home, that Bud had just bitten him and he needed to go to the hospital.

I was shocked—Bud had always been such a good dog! Granted, he lacked formal training and was spoiled beyond belief (OK, I admit feeding him with a fork on occasion), and was allowed up on all of my furniture—but biting!?

We started talking about what to do with Bud on our way home from the emergency room. I was immediately hysterical when Chris suggested that we find him another home and refused to even consider it. He reasoned that if Bud had bitten the baby we were expecting any day … well, the dog could easily kill the baby. I couldn’t believe it, but everyone around me agreed with him.

I still refused to believe Bud would do such a thing and devoted myself to training any aggression out of my beloved dog. We read book after book about dog training and behavior and realized early on that Bud’s lack of early obedience training and breed (chows, all the books we consulted said, are known for aggressive behavior and dominance issues) were probably at the root of our problem.

So we trekked down to UC Davis’ veterinary college, where we forked over $225 for a two-hour consultation with an animal behaviorist. Chris and I had been arguing about what to do with Bud for almost two weeks, and with the baby on its way, we wanted either to find Bud a new home and mourn his loss or happily decide to keep him.

We agreed to take the animal behaviorist’s advice, no matter what she said.

But we were both thrilled with the behaviorists’ advice: This, she said, is a good dog with “dominance aggression” that needs training, and a lot of it. But, she cautioned, he could easily show aggression again. If he tries to dominate or displays aggression to our baby, she said, find him another home.

So we took Bud home, gave him a treat, and promised to become stricter doggy parents.

As it turned out, we didn’t have long to turn over our new leaf. Two days after our appointment with Dr. Bruggeman, I had pregnancy complications and was admitted to the hospital. A week later, we brought our new son home, and Bud’s once-prime position in the household hierarchy was bumped down another peg.

Still, we loved him and paid as much attention to him as we could. He seemed to adjust to the new baby after a few weeks, and we settled down about the biting incident, thinking Bud’s bad behavior was over.

But it flared again, one day right after Harrison started crawling. Bud was sleeping on the carpet and Harrison crawled over to him and patted his back.

Bud reared around and growled in Harrison’s face.

It was close enough to a bite to seriously worry Chris and me. The image of Bud biting Harrison’s small face the way he’d bitten Chris’s was horrifying. Even though it was very difficult deciding what to do with Bud, the thought of losing him didn’t make me as hysterical as it did before the baby was born.

All of my maternal instincts told me that Bud wasn’t safe to have around Harrison.

We looked for several weeks for a good home for Bud, but since we felt obligated to tell everyone who expressed interest in him about his aggressive tendencies, no one was willing to take him.

To make a long story short, we were unable to find Bud another home even after almost two months of looking, and keeping dog and ever-exploring baby apart was increasingly difficult.

With both of us crying, we made the decision to put Bud to sleep. It was horrible, walking our beloved dog into the vet’s office that day. It was late afternoon, and only one other client sat in the waiting room. As we sat there, crying and hugging Bud and saying goodbye, this woman—Jenny DuBose—asked why we were putting this obviously healthy dog to sleep.

We told her, and miracle of miracles, she said she’d been looking for a good dog and agreed to take him home. She had a perfect situation for him—she was single, an animal lover, and could offer him the attention we had to devote to our baby.

So we left the vet’s office with Bud—who never knew how close to death he came—and drove him to a new home and a new life.