- When my son was 11 months old, my rescue dog attacked him and left wounds on his face.
- We made the hard decision of euthanizing him; we had had him since he was a puppy.
- The experience traumatized me. I still love dogs but from a distance.
When my now 7-year-old son John was 11 months old, our beloved rescue dog, Monkeypants, attacked him and ripped open his forehead and eyelid. Blood was pouring out of his forehead. There was just a blob where my baby’s left eyeball should have been. I thought his eye was gone.
I shoved the dog into our bedroom, slammed the door, and screamed, “Call 911!” while I scoured the floor for signs of my baby’s eyeball, finding nothing while I pressed a towel to my infant’s head to try to slow the bleeding. Had my husband not wrestled our baby away from our dog in time, I do believe he would have killed him.
My baby needed plastic surgery
“What kind of dog was it?” a nurse asked under the glaring lights of the ER exam room. I shook my head. I didn’t want to answer. “He’s a mutt,” I said. “A mix. He’s a rescue.”
She asked for a picture, and I handed my phone over to her while a doctor gave John a shot of fentanyl for his pain and examined his wounds.
“It’s a Pit Bull/Lab mix” the nurse called out to the rest of the team. I wished that the floor would swallow me up. I was the mom who let a Pit Bull play with her infant. I was arrogant, careless, and deserved whatever I got. But not my baby, I thought. “My baby doesn’t deserve this.”
A doctor told me Johnny’s eyeball was still intact, just buried under inflamed muscles of the eyelid that had been ripped open. It was possible his tear duct had been pierced. He would also need plastic surgery. We were sent into a private waiting room during the surgery, where we tread water in an ocean of shock, fear, and grief. And for me, at least, profound shame.
Our dog was dying, and we were supposed to be enjoying the little time we had left
Three weeks after John was born, I took Monkeypants to the vet for a lump on his back that looked like an infected bug bite. It turned out to be a rare form of cancer. The veterinarian said it was the most severe case she had seen in 20 years of being a vet. She removed the lump leaving Monk with a massive scar but estimated he only had two to three months to live. All we could do was make him comfortable and try to enjoy the time we had left with him. All we could do was make him comfortable and try to enjoy the time we had left with him.
When he was still alive six months later, we felt lucky. But he was also beginning to show signs of aggression towards our baby. He began growling when John crawled too close to his dog bed, something that had never happened before. When I left him with a babysitter for a couple of hours for an appointment, I came back to find he’d taken a swipe at John and badly scratched his nose.
“We have to keep them separated before something horrible happens,” I texted my husband. He agreed.
But neither of us had a solution. We had adopted Monkeypants as a 2-month-old who was found in a gutter with a belly full of worms and had nursed him to health like he was our own child. I had been an animal rescue volunteer for nearly a decade when my son was born. I knew better than most people that an elderly Pit Bull mix with cancer and aggression issues had no chance of being adopted. I didn’t want to give him up and was unsure if a vet would even agree to euthanasia since he didn’t appear to be in pain.
We euthanized him
Just 36 hours after the attack, my husband and I were at the vet’s office with Monkeypants slipping him treats and hugging him, and weeping. I put my face up to his while he received his lethal shots, quietly telling him, “We love you so much. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend. I’m sorry we couldn’t take better care of you. We will see you again, but now just rest.”
And he was gone. We sat with his body for several minutes and hugged him, and sobbed before walking out of the office, our heads in our hands.
I posted a neutral message on social media saying that Monkeypants had died, sharing none of the details. Only our families, immediate coworkers, and a couple of close friends knew.
My son’s scars are not visible, but mine are huge
Johnny had to wear special wound tape on his head and face for months but made a full recovery. His scars are barely visible. My scars are massive and ugly but hidden beneath the skin’s surface.
I told friends who asked for help getting dogs adopted that I was out of the business. I quietly removed myself from social media pages supporting pet adoptions. I still gasp in horror when I see people posting photos of their dogs inches away from their infants’ faces with cheerful descriptions of how dog and baby are “best friends.” In my mind, I see half a second where something goes wrong, and all their lives are changed forever.
“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” is something I often hear at the park as an unleashed dog comes barreling toward me and my son at the park. I scoop my now 7-year-old old up and start walking away as fast as I can.
My iPhone will serve me memories with photos of my dog without warning, and it makes my chest hurt. Sometimes I see photos of Monkeypants and John together when John was even smaller and more helpless. I can’t bring myself to delete the photos. I want to be able to remember him the way he was before he attacked John — shy and nervous but full of love. I wish I could reclaim the memories my husband and I had with him as happy ones, but after seven years, it still feels impossible.
I still love dogs, but only from a distance.