Our dearly departed…

I know that I never properly introduced our newest addition to the family – Eli. I apologize.

Trying to look casually away from the camera – he wasn’t much of a ham

He was a sweet dog. Very pretty. He had a kind face. And somewhat smallish ears and a shorter tail than I’m used to. He had one party colored eye, but you could only see the blue when he looked at you a certain way since it was just on the top of his eyeball – like a cerulean splash from a paintbrush. He also loved to take walks and run around the back yard.

What a happy boy…when he was in the yard alone

And he found great pleasure in mimicking what we did – especially in the garden. It was very cute really. If we were harvesting peppers, he’d watch us closely for a few minutes, and the next thing we knew, he was on the other side of of the row and you could see him selectively picking peppers off the plants. Only, he tried to eat them and we were putting them in a big plastic bag. Guess he couldn’t figure that part out!

Running out of the garden

He was a quiet husky, only talking to us at feeding time. He liked cheese and most of the time that was the only way he’d let Sam even pet him is if he baited him with a bit of string cheese first.

He liked to run up the stairs onto our deck and hop up on the table out there. He looked like Simba, surveying his kingdom from the highest spot in the yard. After we blocked off the stairs he started jumping up on our rock retaining wall. He would sit there for hours sometimes and just watch the world go by.

His nickname around here was Eli the Destroyer. He could chew, dig, bite through, scratch, maul, and tear up just about anything. We lost two pairs of work gloves, a garden bed, a grill cover, a gate, several towels, a couple of dog leashes, a few plants, and of course lots of vegetables from the garden. He even stole our last cantaloupe and scarfed it down before we even knew what had happened. Darn dog – we were really looking forward to eating that too. Ah well.

Trying to figure out a way to get out of the gate on his own

Unfortunately, Eli only lasted 7.5 weeks in our household. He just could not adjust to life in our pack. Or rather, our pack couldn’t adjust to his presence here. Ever since we brought him home our dogs have picked on him. Doing their best to make sure he knew and felt like the outsider. We are obviously terrible at dog socialization, but to be fair to us we have had all these dogs for years and they pretty much have grown up together from puppies, so they’re really tight.

Sadly because of this constant hazing (by the dogs – not us) Eli and Guinness (our other male) started fighting. At first it was just little scraps that seemed to be precipitated by rough play. Both Iris and Guinness are used to rough-housing. And I’m not just talking about the usual dog rolling and romping on the floor kind of playing. I’m talking about ambushing each other at full speed. Sniping each other and coming away with a mouthful of fur. Snapping at each other in a very intimidating way like crocodiles (have you seen the size of Guinness’ mouth?). They’re herding dogs, what can I say – it’s how they play, and they like it – who am I to try and tell them no?!

Anyway, in the past ten days, Eli and Guinness have had two major fights. And I do mean major. Puncture wounds, scratches, mouths around each other’s necks trying to rip their throats out, scratching, biting, rolling around, biting me, serious fights. The first time Eli got the worst of it. Guinness is taller and faster than he is and he managed to get the upper hand rather quickly. When I finally managed to pull them apart Eli had the most blood on him. But puncture wounds and scratches heal up with time and Neosporin. Bruised egos however take much longer to recover from. Unfortunately, on Tuesday Eli saw his opportunity to get the upper hand with Guinness…and he did.

He ambushed Guinness and he hit him as hard as he could. He hopped on his back and grabbed the back of his neck trying to break his backbone (like cats in heat). Guinness is fast though and within a few swift jerks and twists he was able to get Eli down on the ground and had him around the neck. Sadly, we’d put a choke chain on Eli the week before as his regular collar was staining his white coat red when it got wet, and we just hadn’t gotten around to getting him a new collar yet. Somehow, Guinness must have gotten his canines wedged in the chinks in the choke chain and when Eli writhed away from him it pulled out both of Guinness’ canine teeth. After that, it was pretty much over for Guinness. At least his chance to really inflict some major pain. The fight continued for another minute or two (literally a full couple of minutes which felt like forever to me), and Guinness fought bravely. But when I eventually got them pulled apart Guinness was in bad shape. His leg had been chewed up, he was limping, he was bleeding from his mouth and nose where his teeth had been pulled out by the roots, and he was in bad shape emotionally. Eli felt he’d earned his place as king of the castle…and he had. But he’d effectively handicapped Guinness for the rest of his life now.

Yesterday morning I dropped Eli back off at his breeder’s house (she’s a local). I felt terrible about doing it, especially since he’s been with us for nearly two months. But I know that this fight wouldn’t be the last one, and the next one might not turn out so well for Guinness. I can’t bear to lose another dog to a vicious fight (the last time it happened to us we were living in Iowa).

The house feels quieter – less manic. It has only been a little over 24 hours now since I returned him, but truthfully, while I miss Eli, I’m relieved he’s gone. I’m sad that he had to go back under such ugly circumstances, but I can tell my three are happy he’s gone and I suspect he’s happy to be back home among dogs that like him. These past few hours have been quiet – peaceful. There hasn’t been any growling or snarling. No scraps in the yard. No vying for affection and getting upset when someone has been left out. No worrying about escaping over or under the fence. No digging up of my vegetable beds or eating of my garden hoses.

I do hope Eli finds his forever home somewhere nice. Somewhere wide open. Some place that has a high spot for him to sit upon and look out on his world. Somewhere where he can be the King of his domain, and father lots of beautiful little puppies and win tons of ribbons for being the best show dog ever.

As for us, I think three dogs is quite enough.

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