12 July 2010

RIP: Frisco (2004 - 2010)


About five years ago, I can't tell you the precise date, (but my wife could as she writes these sort of events down on a calender and files it away for future reference) we adopted Frisco.  And, since I'm being careless with the the exact date, I may as well admit that adopt is probably not the exact word for what happened between us and Frisco.

Maybe rescue, or liberation, or even intervention in a death sentence would be the more exact term for what happened between us and Frisco.  He was in the pound, condemned to die and up against his penultimate day on earth when we went to check him out.

I can't tell you why we went there after I saw his picture in the newspaper..  Fate?  Whim?  No, not that--we're not the sort that takes on a pound dog based on a whim.  We even took our dog Daisy with us to see how they would get along, observed him with the kittens and asked twenty-gazillion questions.  No, it was not a whim.  Maybe fate, as there were weekly pictures of beguiling dogs in the newspaper each week and we never before, or since, felt compelled to act on those.

Frisco, was, at best reckoning, a "street-dog", cast away and probably on his own for six months or so.  He was a survivor and maybe, at some level, I identified with him--a tough former street kid used to getting by on wit and moxie until the Marine Corps straightened me out.  Maybe I thought I could be his Marine Corps.

I'm fairly good at handling dogs and quickly had Frisco responding to all the basic obedience commands and some very rigorous deprogramming of targeting and attacking our cats.  But, there was a glitch in his wiring somewhere that made him exceptional, and not in a good way.  It wasn't just that on occasion he would "drop a command response" and not in a way that it was a training issue; he would make an obvious choice of disobeying.  Now, part of this could be attributed to the breed.  You see, he was a Pyrenees-Golden Retriever mix and Pyrenees are noted for this trait...some less informed see it as obstinacy.  It really does not anthropomorphize in that way.

Pyrenees are one of the earliest breeds, if not the first, and have been breed through the millenia to be autonomous and to decide who or what lives or dies.  Their wiring is that basic and simple.  Thus, Frisco never really adapted himself to the rules of the "pack" as most other dogs do. He was 120 pounds of autonomous animal with jaw strength of at least 3,000 pounds.  I worked with him a lot and truly believed that I had him under control, but was always very cautious with him: head-halter, muzzle, short lead and always, always, always under observation.  Cautious the way one is with a loaded gun.

Frisco trained to a crate, we called it his "hooch", and each night at 8:00 he would be handed a treat which he would carry to his "hooch" gurgling in delight before settling in for the night.  He wanted nothing more, except he really would have liked to climb up in my lap like a puppy...someone, in his puppy days, had encouraged that behavior, I think.  He was a "talkative" dog and never hesitated in offering up an "opinion" about whatever was going on.  In his best moments he was a delight...but, the gun was always loaded and cocked!

He never gave up his habit of targeting cats and once bit my wife and last week turned on me with a snarl and bite attack.  I was nimble enough to avoid it, but later that day he attacked our other dog, Daisy, and gave her a nasty gash over her eye. A half-inch another way and she would have lost that eye!

The cocked gun was becoming a short-fused time-bomb.

The next day, while he was left alone in a room with the door closed he attacked and mauled one of our cats who unbeknown to me had been under some furniture in the room.  I managed to get him under control and the cat ran out (we have not been able to find him since) and I got Frisco crated.  It had become obvious that Frisco was a danger--what if he got out and attacked neighborhood children or pets, or a child come to the door in that split second when he was off leash en route to his crate, would he burst through the door and attack?

Without a doubt, he would and no amount of "training" would reverse that.  It is just how Frisco was wired.

The situation was deteriorating and after talking with a couple of trainers well-experienced with the breed we decided there was no recourse but to have him euthanized.

Our vet gave us some tranquilizers for him and I rode in the back seat with him in my lap for the ten mile journey to clinic.  He was so sedated that I wasn't certain that he knew that at last he was getting his way, and lying in my lap.  I held him as he died and I cried as I am crying now.  He was my dog, and as difficult as he was, I loved him.  He was my dog...and I loved him.

I dug him a grave, as big and deep as a human grave.  He was, after all, 120 pounds. And I buried him with his food bowl and a treat for the journey to Rainbow Bridge where there are several very worth animals waiting to welcome him and to ask about how I'm doing.

Today, I took apart his crate, burned his blankets and vacuumed the few stray hairs and found one of his old treats he had stashed under his blankets.  He shared my extra-bedroom turned office with me and now he is gone and someday soon the tears will stop.  But, for now..they flow.

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