Three amazing months with the most beautiful Staffy
I’ve often heard while a pet dog will give you your greatest joys, they also will present your greatest sorrows. I became more in touch with this idea the past three months, the time in which Rinny -- a Staffordshire Bull Terrier -- came into our lives and made the Kanoya household a family of four.
Ridiculously, I sometimes feared the day we would feel the deep pain of losing her, often reminded by the regular social media posts or other news of friends who've lost their pets.
I knew that moment was far, far away for us. Never this soon.
But today we lost Rinny.
What hurts the most is that she did not pass away. We had to give her back to the shelter we adopted her from.
And it’s soul crushing.
We had her in our lives for just over three months and are forever changed. And we will indeed remember this short time every time we look at our daughter Marissa, because, her cute face is in part why we had to return Rinny.
In the short time span that we had her, Marissa was bit twice in the face. I could go on and on about the circumstances that led to both incidents. How Marissa was at fault; or how Rinny was at fault. But the bottom line is, it happened. And while we may have got to a point where Marissa was comfortable around her, I don’t think we would have ever become comfortable with her around random kids or Marissa’s friends.
At the time of the first bite, she had been a part of our family for 24 days. In those initial few weeks of dog ownership, we did all the things new dog owners do - at least what I believe they do.
We became regulars at Petco and Petsmart. Buying a bed, treats, chew toys, leashes, car harness, poop bags, Kong balls, bitter spray, Thunder shirt, bones ... So. Much. Stuff.
We took countless photos of all of her "first moments" with us. First time sitting in the driver's seat of my car, first time laying on top of me, a video of her happily jumping and running around chasing her toys.
The “#dogsofinstagram” hashtag appeared to be in our near future.
We were in love, ensconced by this sweet creature and confused by the fact that she had been given up at least two other times before we brought her to our home.
Once she familiarized herself with others, she was sweet to them. And she instantly made friends everywhere we went.
“Your dog is so chill.” “What a sweetie.” “I love her.”
All phrases that became very familiar to us.
We had assumed that whatever issues there were with previous families, we were absent of those problems. Rinny was ours and she loved us too.
Dog ownership was going to be easy, or so we thought.
It was indeed going to be work, especially after that first bite. Educating ourselves on dog behavior, and more importantly Rinny behavior became a top priority. And things became further complicated for Marissa as she became understandably apprehensive around Rinny. This in turn would make Rinny more apprehensive.
About a month after the bite, things were getting better. Marissa was becoming more confident and more stern with Rinny. But Rinny never dramatically changed. She always seemed a bit skeptical of Marissa.
This was sad, because Marissa was the one person that loved her the most and would be the last person to ever hurt her.
Then, just this past weekend - 83 days since the first incident - she nipped at Marissa again. We were all at the park, playing with and walking Rinny. We sat down to take a quick break and Marissa was holding Rinny on leash.
After a few minutes we all got up to move and something about Marissa’s motion, startled Rinny and she quickly snapped her mouth toward Marissa’s face. In a split second she had a cut lip and a second trip to the emergency room.
Two bites to the face. Two trips to the ER. Multiple areas on her face needing to be stitched up.
It was at that point we realized we could no longer keep Rinny.
In the end, Rinny is an animal, not another human, and we needed to treat her as such. When the first incident happened we knew the easy thing to do would be to send her back. But we did not want to give up and knew there was an opportunity to make things better.
She went into intensive therapy with two dog trainers totaling 11 days. She did such a great job and was obeying all her commands. She was loyal, obedient and the perfect companion. But there was always that worry she would get spooked and show that emotion via a powerful bite.
We always see videos and photos of sweet dogs that are loving and caring. Rinny was certainly that, but she is also part of the statistic of dogs that are prone to bite.
This essay is in part therapy for me. But it’s also a shout to the world. If you are interested in dog ownership, educate yourself not only about the breed and food and leashes and treats and all that stuff. But most importantly, educate yourself on dog behavior and the right dog for you and your family.
When I passed along the news that Rinny would be leaving to one of our trainers, Tim McMillan of Sit Means Sit Dog Training, he shared our sadness.
"Rinny is such a sweet girl, but you gave her more chances than anyone ever would. But you have to do what's right for the family."
Two months after the first incident Marissa was on the mend with scar that were healing nicely. Now she has another wound to heal. One that will likely heal itself much faster than the pain in her heart; all of our hearts.
She’s as pretty as ever and her spirit has never dampened. Even at her worst moment, as we were on our way home from the hospital she said to me “can you go inside first and calm Rinny down before I go in?”
Never a thought of fear or hatred. There was not one part of her that was going to give up on Rinny.
When we arrived home from the hospital, she stepped out of the car, hugged me, a vise grip-like squeeze as she said “thank you.” This sweet girl, having been through serious trauma and hours away from facial surgery and she was thanking me.
I was dumbfounded.
When I asked her why she said that, she didn’t answer. But she didn’t need to. I knew what she meant.
I knew that giving Rinny back to the shelter to protect this sweet soul of a girl was indeed the right decision. And yet Marissa still wishes Rinny was in our life.
"I would eat fish every day if I could have her back," Marissa said. As you could guess, she despises seafood.
Always forgiving. What an amazing child she is. I know her resilience had not faded and my ever pretty girl, despite her wounds, scrapes and gauze all over her face, was the most beautiful girl in the world, inside and out.