There’s something I need to tell you.

I’ve been procrastinating, but I must gather courage and do it.

I haven’t wanted to blog about it because it makes me feel defeated, bad, and like a lousy person. I am afraid that my readers will hate me.

I thought about making up some kind of fairytale story to cover it up, and I almost got to believing it myself. I have a lot of grief about it, and I have a lot of grief about a lot of other things, and there’s only so much grief a person can have before you start wanting to make some things disappear from the grief radar.

But it’s no good. I have to face the fact: Noga is dead.

She died just before Memorial Day.

She didn’t get sick, or get run over by a car.

I had her euthanized, and here is why:

I adopted Noga at age 8 months. She was the “ugly duckling” from a show litter, and had been cast aside and ignored, kept crated most of the time. She was not potty trained or socialized at all. She was a happy little girl, but also had a deep anger and resentment toward anything she didn’t like, and she expressed it in a particularly unpleasant way.

If, for instance, I left her in the car on a perfectly cool day in order to run into the grocery or the drug store, when I came back there would be a pile of poop and a puddle of pee on my seat.

I thought this was fear, so even though I gave her a stern lecture about it, I forgave it and went about desensitizing her by going places in the car that ended up in walks in the park, or other pleasant things. Little did I know that I was conditioning her to expect something special for her every time we got in the car!

Eventually she got so that she didn’t make a bathroom out of my car every time I left her, but as soon as I got back to the car I had to kiss and cuddle her and make a big deal of how good she was, which I was happy to do, but if for some reason I was in a hurry and had to make it a quick one, she would sulk in the back seat and ignore me for the rest of the day.

I posted about this on the Lhasa Apso group board, and the answer I got from one of the world-class show breeders was:

“Apsos are a self-serving lot.”

I nodded, shrugged, and went on.

Over five years she became my little buddy, and accompanied me through my dad’s dying, and during his last weeks she was the only one who could make him laugh. When he died, I had to physically remove her from his body. When she loved, she loved fiercely, and that was the root of the problem.

The tears are pouring down my face now, and it’s hard to type.

As most of you know, after my father’s death I bought a small RV, just a conversion van, really, and Noga and I hit the road.

She didn’t like it. She really, really didn’t like it.

Before The Road, when we were living in my father’s studio, she had me all to herself. In fact, she was my only diversion from the constant blackness of my father’s terminal illness and my mother’s terminal abuse of my poor helpless Dad, which I was powerless to stop because not one single person in Adult Services would believe that my “angel” mother, who was a Geriatric Social Worker and had actually trained most of them, could be capable of such a thing, and they all knew about my mental illness, so poor Dad suffered until he went into the nursing home and was finally protected.

And Noga came everywhere with me, and was a big hit with everyone in the nursing home. She especially loved the people with Alzheimer’s, and became the unofficial Therapy Dog of the dementia unit.

But on the other hand, she bit people.

Specifically, she bit anyone who tried to approach me, or my dad—the Hospice nurses, for instance. We thought she was being protective, and since she was only 12 pounds everyone thought it was cute. I made sure to grab her up when anyone came, and most of the time was successful. Occasionally she did get somebody, but we were in Appalachia and people there are used to dogs that bite. Dogs bite, right?

For some reason, she liked to attack children. I had a heck of a time walking her in places where children might run by, or run up and try to pet her; so I made a point of taking her places where it was only she and I. That was how she liked it. But if a child happened to come by, she would lunge at them and I had to be vigilant with the leash, to jerk her back before those sharp little teeth made contact.

Back to The Road.

At first it was OK because she got to sit next to me while I drove, and of course she was my Service Dog so we went everywhere together.

But then something terrible happened. I used my newly found mobility to go and visit dear friends whom I had not seen in many years.

Of course, Noga came too—why wouldn’t she?

But I’ve left out one piece. Rewind five years.

After I brought her home for the first time, she jumped up on my bed and peed and pooped right on it.

Of course I was horrified, especially since it was a furnished house that I was renting from one of my parents’ friends. The quilt was a fine antique. I was in a total state of panic. I assumed that the reason she had done it was simply that she was not potty trained, and disoriented to boot; so I quickly cleaned up the mess, had the quilt professionally cleaned, and put my own linens on the bed.

Then I thought, well, I’ve trained a few dogs, so what should I do? Naturally, the way we potty train puppies is with a crate. We put them in the crate, take them outside every few hours, and praise them to the skies when they do their business where we want them to. Then it’s playtime, and tired puppies go back in the crate for a nap.

But since Noga was used to using her crate for a bathroom, she obliged me by going pee in the yard, but she saved her poop for her crate.

So every day I had not only old towels to clean up and wash, but also a filthy dog.

Then I had a brainstorm: put “potty pads” in the crate and leave the door open. Sure enough, she used her crate for a bathroom. Then I moved the potty pads to a spot near the front door, and took the crate away. Yup, she continued to use the potty pads. Life was good.

Then my son came to visit. I made up his bed, he threw his duffle in the corner, and we sat up talking till late at night as usual. Of course he made much of Noga, and she adored him immediately. He is a dog magnet.

Finally we dragged ourselves off to our respective beds, but—

“Um, Mom?”

I opened my door to find him standing in the doorway of his room. On his pillow was a neat little present: A pile of dog shit. And to make it extra nice, she’d peed on his quilt, too!

I was furious. I grabbed her by the scruff and held her over what she’d done, screaming “No! No! No!” My son fled the room, convulsed with laughter. It was too bizarre.

OK, in this case, jealousy. But using excrement as a tool for expressing displeasure? No, impossible. She’s a dog, for heaven’s sake. A cat might do that, but a dog? It did not make any sense.

If I described every similar instance, every defilement of the bed of a friend who came to visit, or in whose home I was a guest, it would fill so many feet of blog space that you’d get bored and click away, if you haven’t already.

I spent $400 on a phone consultation with an animal behaviorist at University of Tennessee. She chalked it up to a behavioral issue due to a traumatic puppyhood, and gave me some suggestions that didn’t work. The only thing that did work was my undivided attention, which she got most of the time anyway because of my reclusive nature and the state of total isolation that I lived in.

I knew it wasn’t doggy IBS or anything like that, because she flew to Israel and back with me three times, 14 hours each way, sitting on my lap, and never had an accident. And of course there were the innumerable vet visits, racking up thousands on lab tests that showed nothing.

And so it was, that one morning, after I had made the drive to Rochester, NY, to visit a couple who have literally been parents to me when my mother sent me out of her life, I woke up in my van and smelled something. My covers were wet. There was a pile of shit at the foot of my bed, and my dear little dog had rolled in it.

She watched as I opened my eyes. She wagged her tail. I screamed “Nooooooo!!!!!” and she wagged it some more.

I jumped out of bed, dressed, wadded up my bedding and stuffed it into a garbage bag, with the dog shut up in the tiny bathroom so she couldn’t smear her shit-covered fur all over the place.

Before I washed her off under the hose, I took a sample to take to the vet. Maybe she had eaten something bad, maybe her monthly worm medicine didn’t work, maybe I had forgotten to give it to her.

Nope, perfectly normal poop. The vet looked grim and silent.

“What do you think it is?” I didn’t tell him about her long history of pooping on people’s beds.

“Dunno, maybe she’s stressed or something. Come back if it happens again.”

It happened again, that very night. I am sorry to say I lost my temper and hit her, then felt horrible. She didn’t seem to mind. She looked at me and wagged her tail. I guess any attention is good attention to some people.

That night I tied her up in the aisle of the van. In the morning I had to bag up the carpet runner and throw it in the trash, because she had shat all up and down it and rolled in it too. All I could do was cry and wash the dog again.

The next night I put her in the bathroom, which has a molded plastic floor, and lined it with potty pads (did I mention I had lined the entire van with potty pads, but she scratched them aside so she could get to the floor?) thinking perhaps that would at least make cleanup easier, but this time, instead of shitting, she went to work attempting to chew her way out, so that now I have something to remember her by—a totally trashed, formerly brand-new bathroom door. Got me again.

In the meantime, my friend’s husband caught her twice sneaking up the stairs, trying to get to their bed. Oh. My. God. My friend has a poop phobia, and vomits if she even smells it! And Noga snarled at him when he intercepted her. Who would have imagined???

Then I got a call that my aunt, who is 93, had been moved to New Jersey from Florida to live by her daughter (my cousin, I guess you could say), and her daughter needed to go to Florida to close up her mother’s house. That meant Auntie would be alone. I volunteered to Auntie-sit, so off I went to New Jersey, with one or two stops at Laundromats along the way.

Hell had descended upon me. My beloved little angel had turned on me, and it seemed there was nothing I could do about it.

My cousin made arrangements for me to stay at a campground very near the nursing home, so I could visit my aunt two or three times a day. It was a normal campground, full of kids running around and riding bikes. Noga bit two of them, not badly, but she bit them. Fortunately nothing came of it, except that I had to walk her in the nasty woods behind the campground.  I got two ticks.

I continued making daily trips to the campground Laundromat. This was getting very expensive, as well as being just, I can’t say it any other way, hell on earth.

I took another poop sample to a local vet. No parasites, pathogens, nothing. He was very sympathetic, and sent me to another vet who specialized in behavioral problems. He listened to me carefully and here is what he said:

“You know, there are two main classifications of behavioral problems in dogs. There are neuroses, like separation anxiety, that we can treat with medications and behavior modification. Then there are personality disorders, which in the case of dogs, are inborn disorders of the brain. We can try medications (listed them off) if you want…”

I mentioned that I had been giving her Ativan, in case of anxiety, but even though it did make her groggy it did not stop the shitting behavior.

“I thought not. What she is doing is expressing her displeasure. She is punishing you.” I nodded. I knew that. I just had not allowed myself to believe it, because she was my little angel and that just could not be true!

“You have choices. You can try medicating her. Or you can live with it.”

At this point I’m shaking, tears and snot are streaming down my face. Noga is strangely quiet. It’s as if she can understand what we’re talking about.

“I can’t live like this anymore!” I blubbered. “What about finding her a new home?”

He shook his head. No, she would just do the same thing, and then maybe she would end up in some shelter, and she’s adorable so someone would immediately adopt her, and eventually she would end up being abused, maybe sooner than later…I was shaking by this time. I knew where he was going.

“So the only good choice for her is to put her to sleep?”

“Well, it depends how long you can tolerate this. As I said, we can try medication, but frankly I do not believe that it will work.”

I searched inside my heart. I could not live this way. I had already been literally swimming in dog excrement for a month, with no end in sight. I handed her over to the vet tech and stumbled to the front desk, paid the bill, and blinded with tears climbed into my van and fell onto the bare bed, stripped for the thirtieth time, and laid there crying until it was time to go visit my aunt.

“Where’s Noga?! I thought you were going to bring her today!”

My aunt and I have always been close. She’s been much more of a mother to me than my own mother ever was. I blubbered out the whole story.

“Oh Baby, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. Well, you did the right thing. She would have had a miserable life, and she certainly made your life miserable. You’ll both be better off this way.”

I got the same feedback from other friends who knew what was going on. My son was really devastated, though he tried to hide it, but he knew how long I’d been trying to help Noga get over whatever this was, because I loved her so dearly.

And now she’s gone, and I have another dog, because I must have a dog to let me know what’s real and what’s not.

But there will never be another little sweet thing like Noga, even though things got so bad that it had to end.

Leave a comment

49 Comments

  1. Terri

     /  July 8, 2015

    Oh..you and I both know there is only death of the body, not consciousness…she still loves you and is with you. We all love you both…

    Reply
  2. The Grundlands

     /  July 8, 2015

    Oh Liebe I’m so sorry. What a story. Can’t begin to imagine the roller coaster of emotions. Pardon the expression, but I WOULD HAVE LOST MY SHIT after the second *maybe* third time.

    I’m sure it was a heartbreaking decision to have to make. I hope you are kind to yourself for making the only real choice you had. I hope your new doggy is nice. You deserve for everyone and everything to be nice to you and for you. I love you. xo

    Reply
  3. ah, i am so sorry for your loss, laura. i hope you know this was not your fault. and that she would’ve been just as unhappy as you were, and now neither of you need to be unhappy. i know you are still grieving her, but i hope your new dog creates a new space full of love and companionship at the same time.

    Reply
    • Amen. I must say I’m scared to death now, because my new dog and I bonded instantly….I’ve had him for three weeks now and he’s starting to challenge my authority a bit, not unexpected, but at least he doesn’t shit on me, just normal dog limit-testing.

      Reply
  4. You lost your roadie,it doesn’t matter what else
    You have my prayers,lite, and love
    As always Sheldon

    Reply
  5. Laura, so very sorry you had to make that decision about Noga. It’s never easy under any circumstance. But especially you tried so hard to resolve the behavior that was unresolvable. Remember Noga with love, and enjoy your new, normal dog! Christine

    Reply
  6. Hard choices are… well… hard. Only you can decide what was best for both of you, and I support you in doing that. *hugs*

    Reply
  7. Laura,
    Noga was an adorable dog and I know you must miss her terribly. I still have problems with Rikki after 1 year and 9 months. He pees on the disposable pee pads now but pooping is still a problem. He’ll poop on the pads 8 or 9 times out of 10. Then last night he pooped on a blanket – it’s his blanket and it’s on the floor for his use – and then sat in it and smashed it in. What is up? I’m really sorry. I know you loved him. Wait a while. Take a deep breath and try again. Anne

    Reply
    • Anne, I’m so sorry you’re still having these challenges with sweet Rikki. We know he was damaged, and I’ve always wondered whether he had some problem from birth even before his trauma? Prayers for both of you…Sending love xxx

      Reply
  8. My thoughts are with you. That would be an extremely hard situation to deal with. The biting problem would be the deal breaker for me. Don’t get me wrong. . Poop on my bed a few times would be. .. Not sure I can find the words! 😨
    I know this was difficult, however that was no way to live, for either of you. Although it was a difficult decision, I would have made the same. Time will heal the harshness of the pain, and soon you’ll only be laughing at the fun memories of her.

    Reply
    • Thank you, dear Ilex. I really appreciate your support. I know you love all living things (well, there may be some you don’t love, like things that eat plants). So do I, except for wasps and other stinging and biting things. I have even discovered some very interesting spiders in the West: a white one with pale green legs, and a community of crab spiders that cooperate in building whole fences out of orbs woven together with strands on the top and bottom. I discovered this on an early dewy morning, and realized that they must be there all the time, hence the spider webs that seem to get into my hair all the time–but the dew made them visible, what a wonder!

      Reply
  9. Nancy Pace

     /  July 9, 2015

    I’m so sorry for your loss of darling Noga, Laura. She had a wonderful heart, and had a good life with you for many year–and loved you dearly. I know you will also love your new dog, always in a different way of course, for he/she will bring you a new and different set of gifts and joys and sorrows (because life goes on) and your life will never be a dull one. Thanks for sharing your Noga-journey with us. Dog-lovers are brave to take on such intense and predictably short relationships! I must add that I’m looking forward to reading about your many new adventures with your new and very human furry friend.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Nancy, you’ve comforted me. I still can’t stop crying. Until I write about this I was just stuffing it. Too much grief. But life marches on, and I know that eventually I’ll keep the good memories and let the bad ones fade….post about my new and very different canine companion is incubating, soon….

      Reply
  10. songtothesirens

     /  July 9, 2015

    I am so sorry you had to put her down. Pets/Service/Therapy animals are so vital to well-being for some of us; they become our furry children. Remember her when she was funny and made you and others laugh. That was a very difficult decision to make.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much…She was my anchor in the storm for five years. And suddenly, betrayal, confusion, horror, death! It will take time for the bad things to fade…The good things are always there, but the horror is such a reversal. So confusing, such conflict! I’m sure there are reasons. One day I might be privileged to know them.

      Reply
      • songtothesirens

         /  July 9, 2015

        I have my own furry little anchor in the maelstrom that seems to have become my life. Her name is Venus, and she has been the most affectionate little cat. She knows when I am not feeling well and will want to be on me at all times. I had to give her brother away because he had a habit of peeing on people’s clothes. I still remember the day I gave him up, but it gets easier with time.

        Venus is 14 now, and losing her balance and is unable to retract her claws. I know she is getting old, but I really do not want to deal with it at all.

        I hope your new Service/Pet/Therapy dog brings you joy and happiness in his or her own way.

        Reply
  11. I am so sorry, Laura. Our standard poodle Coco once defecated in our bed when we went on vacation and had a neighbor dog sit our dogs. My son translated Coco’s message succinctly, “Unacceptable!” Coco was so pissed off that he opened the door to our bedroom and soiled our master bed. We haven’t left the dogs in the house for extended periods of time since then. They get boarded now.

    Reply
    • Interesting. I wonder how many dogs actually will do that if they get pissed off enough: “I shall defile thy nest!” Weird thing about Noga was, she didn’t mind defiling her OWN nest, and herself as well, to make her point. My friend in Israel got shat on three times. I can’t believe he didn’t kill her. I kept begging him to keep his door closed, but he is also stubborn, so their battle of wills went on.

      Reply
      • My sister had a cat that never cleaned itself or used the cat litter box. They allowed the cat to live alone in their in-law apartment because she would dirty everything in their home. Finally, they had to rent out their apartment for financial reasons and had to have the cat put down. It devastated my sister, but the cat led a pretty miserable life living all alone except when visited. So, I get it.

        Reply
        • Miserable indeed! I can’t even imagine it. I have had a cat pull my favorite dress down from its hanger in the closet and use my dress for a toilet in revenge for leaving it alone, with plenty of food, water, and clean kitty litter, for a weekend. How did he know it was my favorite, among all the other dresses in my closet? Cats are scary in their intelligence…But it sounds like your sister’s had something wrong with it…

          Reply
          • Yes. I believe it was removed from its mother too young and didn’t learn basic grooming. I had a cat who got very upset that I was spending weekends visiting my then-boyfriend, now husband. My cat, Hank (RIP), would come into the bathroom and sit in front of me with his back to me, literally giving me the cold shoulder. He also went on a hunger strike, refusing to eat anything. I ended up moving closer to my then boyfriend, so that we could visit Hank and not leave him alone on the weekends. He was much happier with that arraignment.

            Reply
  12. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can relate to this a LOT. Our beloved dog had severe neuroses like this, where he would poop or vomit to express displeasure. Eventually he started nipping people, then biting. Then he bit my mother in law to the point of stitches. We went through the same consulting process only to realize he was living in constant anxiety and panic and couldn’t be left alone anymore. No bueno for a young working couple in a tiny NYC apartment. So after a rather short debate, we agreed it was best to euthanize the little guy. A painful decision, but the right one. Thinking of you and wishing a peaceful rest for your Noga ❤️

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for sharing your own sad story, Andi. If we could only read their minds…if they could only talk to us in a language we both understood…often we think we understand, but then, BAM! We get blindsided, and end up having to do something so very painful. Maybe our pups are playing tag right thus very minute, beyond the Rainbow Bridge…

      Reply
      • If only, indeed. I hope so. And I hope they’re safe and have found solace.

        Reply
  13. “Sometimes I think the whole point of this is that I need to STOP TAKING SHIT even from those I love…” This is what I got from it too.

    Reply
    • Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! That is exactly what I got from it. I’m really sorry, little dog, but my bullshit meter is pinned in the red right now, and I am finished with being shit on. I don’t think there was any transference about it. I tried every single thing I and others could think of, and she just became more and more sullen, and shat and pissed in my sacred nest, and….No, we are not doing this anymore. So, thank you for your right-on reading of this weird tragic story. –Laura

      Reply
  14. I don’t know what to say about it. So I use my favourite line which sometimes means the world to me, “This was your karmic role that you played. Good, bad , right and wrong are just the adjectives. ”

    Love and peace to you

    Reply
    • Thank you, Ashu. I was worried that this was going to be a shock to you. In fact, that’s THE reason I put off posting about it for so long….because you know how much I love/loved her, and I felt so guilty about the whole thing. But your karmic saying is the only thing that makes any sense in the deep layers. Om Shanthi,
      Laura

      Reply
  15. Hugs. I’m so sorry you lost her. I know how important she was to you and how she helped you and its very sad that she’s no longer able to do that now. Sending tons of support. Carol anne xx

    Reply
  16. Laura, my heart goes out to you. But listen, what that last vet said to you is what you saved her a lifetime of – she was loved by you, cared for by you, and no-one else could or would have been able to do that better than you. She had a rotten start in life, but the best possible life she could have had following that, because she had you.

    I’m an animal behaviourist, too, more specifically horses and cats rather than dogs, but the principles tend to be the same. Sometimes, no amount of behavioural re-training or rehab will work, because if those neural pathways have made the wrong connections during the formative years, those really are almost impossible to rectify. I don’t agree that she was punishing you. I just think she didn’t understand it was wrong behaviour. She didn’t seem to understand discipline for wrong behaviour either, OR she was tail wagging in an effort to please you. Non human animals simply don’t have the mental capacity for things like sarcasm, or taking the piss. They are sentient creatures, as we are, but examples of revenge (which could be interpreted as punishment) have, in my experience, been limited to single episodes of, for example, a heavily abused horse deliberately running sideways into a tree to hurt his abusing rider’s leg, and other single examples that cannot be put down to protection or fear.

    I understand how hard this is for you, and my heart is with yours in your grieving. But you know what? Noga had the best life she could have had, with YOU. And she’s now free from all the trauma she had inflicted on her as a baby, so she’s at peace now.

    Much love,

    L. X

    Reply
  17. Hi,
    I think you did the right thing at the right time. I don’t think people fully realize the unspoken contract we make with our animal companions when we join our lives together. When bad things happen, if meaningful recovery is not possible, then we are honor bound to provide a gentle death. If she had a good life with you, that’s about all we can ask. Doc.

    Reply
  18. Hi. I think you made the only decision you could. I have a service dog as well. A shih tzu who came to me 5 years ago from the humane society. he’s been a great guy but as many dogs who come from a shelter, he too has separation anxiety. (So many animals are abused each day and many end up in shelters.) Now, for a service dog, that’s not horrible since he goes most everywhere with me. When I do need to go out without him, (I never take him to the movies, theater, etc. because it’s just too loud for his sensitive hearing), I have to diaper him. Fortunately, he never tries to take it off but he always goes in it. I put a sanitary napkin inside to absorb all the urine so there is never a mess but poop is a different story. If I get to walk him before I leave, he is fine but if not, he will go on the pad I leave out. He was terrible in a cage. horrid. same as you described.

    As for biting, Luca doesn’t seem to know he has the option. However, if he even starts lightly nipping as he ages (he’s around 10 – 12), his life as a service dog would have to be over and he would be home all the time. At that point, dealing with his separation anxiety would become overwhelming for me. In your description above, you didn’t even mention that on top of Noga’s behavior, you are also trying to keep your Bipolar symptoms under control. Your “helping” dog was no longer helping. In fact, was doing the opposite. That is not ok. I would have to make the same decision and anyone who is “mad” at you for having to make that heart-aching decision – well, you did more than they would have most likely. You did more than I could have.

    It’s hard to know when it’s time but sometimes, it just is. When people are abused, we get meds and talk therapy. You just can’t reason or understand or always fix why dogs act out. I am sad for your sadness. be.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind support! I was mad at myself for a long time, for not being able to find a solution…it was a battle of wills, as I would try to find some way of remedy and she would find some way around it, to pollute my very tiny living quartets. It wasn’t a question of anxiety, it was pure anger. She had found a way to really get to me, and it worked every time. Her intelligence backfired on both of us. I kept telling her, “If you could only talk! We’d be able to work this out somehow.” But it didn’t work out, and we both lost. I can’t help feeling like there should have been SOMETHING, but after going through two behaviorists, I had to concede that there was nothing in this life that could’ve solved that problem.

      Reply

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