I had a horrible dream last night.  I dreamed that I had had Mira put down because she was too much trouble.  In my dream it had already happened, and I suddenly realized what a mistake it was.  I was completely distraught by my action, and grieved horribly as a result.  I woke up sobbing, only partially relieved to find Mira snoring away in her bed.  I couldn’t hug her tightly enough.

I don’t know why I have such horrible dreams about my pets.  Clearly my subconcience is tormenting me about something.  Some regret.

For the 14 years that I had my wonderful Jake, I was plagued with dreams in which he died.  Horrible dreams, every one of them.  When he finally really died, I spent the next couple of years repeatedly dreaming that he was alive again, but old and sick, and I would lose him and go out of my mind trying to find him.  I’d wake up to remember he was dead, and have to go through this death all over again.  I experienced that dog’s death at least 1000 times.  If suffering through that isn’t hell, I don’t know what is.

And then there’s Mojita, the Belgian Malinois I had for two years.  Now here is a dog who has left me with deep regret that will plague me with ‘what ifs’ for the rest of my life.  Malinois are very intense dogs – they make border collies look like laid back couch potatoes.  I took in this dog as a puppy from a friend who had bred her and hadn’t found a home for her.  Regret #1: never do business with friends unless you have good, clear contracts.  My taking that puppy ended up ruining a good friendship, but that’s another story.

This puppy was a neurotic freak.  I had never experienced such an insane ball of energy.  For the first 18 months, she never slept.  She would just spin in her crate all night long, even though I’d have run and trained her for 3+ hours during the day.  She had horrible digestive disorders, linked I eventually discovered to pancreatic insufficiency.  She was also so incredibly handler soft that I couldn’t touch her at all in training.  Corrections, even very mild ones, were way, way, way too much for her to handle and she’d fall apart completely.  She had trouble learning words, and learning in general.

I was beside myself with frustration and would have sent her back had I been able to.  Being the dead of winter and a good long plane flight away, there was no option but to keep her and struggle along.  I lost my temper so many times with that dog that I hate myself for it to this day.

Some good came out of this however: I discovered positive training methods.  Until then I had always used compulsion methods, but this simply did not work with this dog.  She forced me to find a better way to train, and for that I will forever be grateful.  As all of my animal companions have been, she was a wonderful teacher.  Too bad some of the lessons she was trying to teach me I was not yet ready to learn.

I worked and worked with her, and because of how much energy I had to put into trying to focus her, she ended up being a tremendously well trained dog.  I did agility and search and rescue with her, and she excelled in both like no other dog I’ve ever trained.  She was a working phenomenon.

Living with her was another story.  By 18 months she started to calm down a little, but then I moved to a townhouse complex and discovered a horrible secret she had been keeping from me.  She had horrific separation anxiety and screamed the whole time I was out.  By then I had adopted Ross, whom she loved, but he was not company enough for her when I was gone.  My neighbours could tell me exactly the moment I went out, and when I came home, based on when the screaming started and stopped.  I tried everything I knew how to do at the time, but nothing helped.  After several months of living my life around my neighbours’ schedule (going out only when I knew they would not be home to endure the screaming) I decided I needed to find her another home.

I very quickly found her a home with a former agility instructor who had always loved her.  She worked from home and I thought the fit was perfect.  Unfortunately, about two months later, she went away for a couple of weeks, leaving the dog with a friend.  That friend – also a very competent dog trainer – played fetch with a stick with her.  Mojita was like a freight train while fetching, and had not long before belly-ruptured her quadriceps (nearly requiring amputation) chasing a ball.  To put this in perspective, this is an injury typically only seen in race horses and greyhounds. She was that fast, powerful, and intense.

Sticks are very, very dangerous toys for dogs, and that day I learned just how dangerous they are.  The woman caring for her threw a stick and Mojita exploded after it.  One end of the stick stuck into the ground right when the dog reached it, driving it through the back of her throat.  I can only imagine the pain.  By the time I heard about this, the decision had been made to euthanize and she was already gone.  I would have taken her back and nursed her back to health – the possibility was there and she was only two.  But there’s nothing I can do about it now.

If I only knew then what I know now, that dog would still be alive today.  What I know now is that all the vaccines and conventional drugs I gave her (to try and treat, or rather suppress, the chronic digestive disorders) are what likely pushed an already wired and stressed dog to be so over the top.  It was also likely the cause of her separation anxiety as well.  Had I known about natural rearing at the time, I probably could have helped her with all that, and ended up with a tremendous companion and sports partner.  She had the most amazing temperament, and was sweet as could be.  Had I been able to help calm her – like I have been able to do with Mira through homeopathy and chriopractics – I would never have felt the need to give her away.

I have dreams about her as well.  Not very often, but from time to time.  In them, I dream that she is still alive and comes back to me.  I am so happy to find her and promise I’ll never let her go again.  Then I wake up…