I have this dog. Samson. He’s a tiny toy poodle, about 7 pounds, with reddish-blonde hair. I got him when I was 21, after scouring the newspaper for weeks for teacup poodles and finally finding him. I wasn’t the first person to call about him, though, and the other person paid for him and took him home, but brought him back to the breeder when he cried all night. This one-day-owner told the breeder that Charlie, as he was then named, was so small they were worried that if they got mad at him they would hurt him. The breeder gladly took him back and called me to see if I wanted to come look at Charlie. I fell in love right away and took him home right then, renaming him Samson — as big of a name as I could think of for this little teeny dog.
I don’t even know when Samson started being aggressive. He wasn’t too fond of my first boyfriend, Riley, and in fact I considered giving him to a Poodle rescue group at that time. But I loved Samson too much, so kept him despite the few issues that it caused in our relationship.
At some point, I realized we had a problem when Samson would attack other dogs without provocation. I spent $1500 for a trainer to work on behavior modification. When I went to pick Samson up, he said, “He’s a little shit, isn’t he?” The point is not that the guy didn’t know what he was doing; he did. The point was that Samson has issues that can be curtailed with training, but probably won’t go away.
When Dave and I got married, Samson was still sleeping with me, and he liked to burrow under the covers. He bit both of our toes a couple of times, mistaking the movement for what, I don’t know, but drawing blood on each of us. I finally taught Samson to sleep in his crate, where he now prefers to spend the night.
Throughout this whole time, I’m spending thousands of dollars on Samson as we try to find out why this poodle is starting to look like a hairless Chihuahua. This dog…I’m telling you, he’s on his way to winning the ugliest dog contest. He hair is thin, at best. His skin is covered in liver spots, and his breath smells like shit because he eats, well, shit. Sometimes while it’s still steaming.
A little less than a year ago, a friend came over with her baby and 2-year-old daughter. I knew to keep Samson away, so I put him in our room while we hung out in the living room. We all left to let the 2-year-old play at the park, and when we came back, my friend was rounding up her stuff so she could leave. I didn’t bother putting Samson back in our room because my friend was leaving, but sure enough, he bit the 2-year-old. He bit her on the hand because she was reaching for something he wanted. He barely broke the skin, but I took Samson to the vet two days later to have him euthanized. I can’t have a dog around that bites children! The vet talked me out of it, saying that Samson “wasn’t committed to the bite.” She tried to provoke a bite while we were at her office, but of course he played the nice submissive dog.
Samson has snapped at Ethan three times now, leaving a scratch on Ethan’s hand twice. I know, it’s not a real bite, but does it matter? Does it matter that Samson isn’t “committed to the bite”? Do I keep Samson until he does some real damage?
When I found out I was pregnant, I called a poodle rescue organization, but given Samson’s age, health problems, and behavior issues, the woman didn’t think he could be re-homed.
I’ve become really good at keeping Samson away from Ethan. I know what Samson’s triggers are, so oftentimes I’ll put Samson in our bedroom if Ethan is playing on the floor or cruising around. Samson loves hanging out in our bedroom — everything smells like me and Dave and he can sleep on the bed without being bothered by anyone.
Someone recently posted this on Facebook:
I get it! I’ve got this dog for the long haul. I think that I’ve done everything I can for this dog, with this dog, and to this dog, but I’m at the end of my rope. I’m not going to risk a child’s well being with a dog that’s unpredictable.
The third snap at Ethan happened today. I called up Samson’s new vet to discuss our options. It’s so frustrating because the vet doesn’t want to put down a healthy dog, but neither do I! I’ve done the behavior modification. I’ve tried to keep any of Samson’s triggers out of the way, but I can’t police Samson 100% of the time. Today was a perfect example of how I can turn my back for just a second and somehow there’s a trigger and Samson’s snapping at Ethan.
The vet agreed to try to rehome Samson. Not only do I have guilt for needing to find Samson a new home, but now I have guilt that I’m feeling relieved. Relieved that I can let down my guard. Relieved that the problem might be solved. Relieved that the problem won’t be mine anymore.
I get it. I’ve failed my forever dog. But I promise that some day I’ll pay it forward and rescue a dog from a shelter, and that dog can be my forever dog.