Although I cannot definitively prove it, I believe I may have been an unwitting participant in an assisted suicide. Of our dog Milo.
The facts are these:
Milo was a runner. As in runner away. She was also very aggressive toward other dogs unless the dog also happened to live with us.
So one night Milo escaped, only this time it was to her certain, though not immediate, demise. She went to a neighbor’s farm with lots of dogs, where the feeling of dislike was mutual. Our friend and tenant Juli caught up with her within a couple of minutes, but by that time it was already too late. Milo was in a brawl of epic proportions.
I first became aware that something very bad had happened while cooking dinner. A vehicle on our private road was honking hysterically, as if someone had been hit and seriously injured or killed. Then I realized the sound was moving into and continuing on, in our lower driveway.
Wiping my hands, I ran down in the dark, no flashlight necessary as my feet knew every inch of ground. There, I was greeted by an awful scene. My husband was already there, as I came ‘round to the driver’s side, to cursing, arguing, and wailing. Peering into the vehicle, I saw small dog covered in blood, on a towel on a neighbor’s lap on the passenger side.
I tried to say something we could all agree on, “That,” –meaning the little dog– “looks horrible! We can figure this out later, but right now you need to get your dog to a vet.”
This was not the first time Milo had run away, but it would be the last. With no love lost with our neighbors, I knew this was the end. I saw the handwriting on the wall. What Juli said later was, that the neighbors had come running just as she was breaking up the fight, screaming and cursing for her to get off the property while filming and photographing what was going on.
As fast as she could, Juli had gotten Milo on a leash and headed back to our farm. Meanwhile the neighbors had jumped into their vehicle, pulling along side her, continuing to yell, trying to run her off the road. When they reached the boundary of our property, Juli fled with Milo into the land, whereupon the neighbors began honking nonstop, and came into our driveway.
Rascal & Milo
To be fair, we do not like these neighbors for a long standing list of reasons. And to be fair, they do not like us. From what we gathered though, no one actually saw who started the fight; their two dogs or Milo. She was running up the mountain, but they had no gates, and all of the dogs had a long-standing feud, so whether the row began on the road or on their property I cannot say.
I also know that like getting a divorce or being fired from a job, when it comes to ending the life of a pet who has been with a family for years, no matter the reason, no matter the fault, it ends badly.
Back inside Little House that last night, Milo wagged her tail and gave me her paw, as if to say, I’m sorry. But I would not accept her overture. James and I sat at the table, crestfallen and tearful. Though we were inside, safe and sound, it was already too late to change course. Instead I must brace myself to accept Milo’s fate, in which I must be a participant. She, on the other hand, seemed at peace.
We had two more walks. Milo was uncooperative, as usual. It seemed for our final circuit we must tarry and I must urge and then finally drag her along our route. This had been the case ever since she had lost her freedom for good and forever; the freedom she had during the first year-and-a-half she lived with us, to roam at will up and down our mountain, across the coffee-land, with her –and my– beloved companion, the inimitable dog king of the neighborhood, Rascal.
They had had the run of the place until Rascal died from a pig fight, and we had gotten a new dog, Shep. The trouble was, Milo was a wonderful sidekick, but not a leader. With Rascal gone, we started to get signs and complaints. Shep came home nearly scalped one night, with a machete wound to the head. Then one neighbor and another, and yet another said they would shoot our dogs, if they came on their property again.
Despite being under the tutelage of Rascal, Milo had neither the personality nor the desire, to be anything other than a loyal despot to her pack. So it was, that she began her confinement, which lasted for the remainder of her years with us. Milo could be in the house, on fenced decking, on a cable or chain, or in her kennel. She never could run freely again. We tried, but inevitably she would make her escape, more often that I was comfortable admitting, and get into trouble.
The early days were the worst. Milo cried and howled morning, noon and night. I wished we had never gotten her both because of what she was now doing to my sanity, and what I had now been forced to do to her. Eventually she seemed to accept her fate, only to rebel again, and then again. If we tried to play with her outside, or she managed to slip out of her collar, or out the front door if it was left open even for a moment, she would disappear, refusing to come when we called. Walks were interminable, yet we must do them four times a day because we had no secure fencing, which would present a whole host of other problems, not to mention great expense.
The next day, after dragging Milo out for a final walk, Juli and I took her to the Humane Society. I never saw her again. The intake worker told us if she was put up for adoption, her photo would appear within a few days on their website. It never did. And the following day, someone came up per a neighbor complaint. They said they could not write a citation because we had already done an “owner surrender.”
The likelihood is that Milo was euthanized. We suspect the neighbors, who had complained before –about dogs
Shep, Milo, & Alex
including other of our dogs and even another neighbor’s dog who they said was ours– had complained again. They probably showed footage and photos. Or threatened to. We never did hear about their dog, whether it lived or died, if there was a vet bill, or if the wounds which were dramatic looking might have been just superficial, although we asked, twice, in person for them to let us know.
The other day, as I was working below the road that divides the neighbors’ farm from ours, one of them drove by. She saw me and smiled. Not a friendly smile, but more of a smirk. More of a sly, triumphant grin, as I labored with our woofers,* with our other dog, Duke, securely tied to a tree, catching the rays, as the shadows of the branches fluttered in the grass.
I am gradually making peace with what happened. Milo was miserable. For years. And she was aggressive with dogs who were not part of her pack.
When we left her at the Humane Society, she was calm, staring straight ahead as if she was already embracing the future. She did not look at us as we walked away. We were “pau” –severed, the rope cut, as they say in Hawaii. And I had helped her get to where she was going, without even realizing that it had all been arranged a long time ago, by an accident of birth, temperment, timing, ignorance and luck, that had finally played itself out, and settled in her favor, allowing her to be free of the confinement of an unfortunate combination of her personality traits and what can be the harsh reality of farm life in Hawaii. Either Milo was going to another home here, or to the great beyond, where all dogs eventually go, to heaven.
*Workers on organic farms.