Why Did This Puppy Have to Die?

Even with the best intentions, sometimes you just can’t tell what people will do. In this case it cost my dog his life.

When I sold a sweet 8-week old Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy called Fudge to a person who — unbelieavably — works as a dog trainer advertising the fact she can help other owners with their dogs’ challenging behaviour. I really thought I had hit the jackpot for the little darling. In a world where so many staffies end up in shelters or worse because people don’t understand the breed or buy it for the wrong reasons, here was someone who, as she put it, “really knew her stuff.”

Less than four months later, she chose to put Fudge down, without ever giving him the chance to be rehomed.

The blog post which told me what had happened has since been taken down from her website. In spite of the fact that her friends and family defend her actions and have been atacking me on social media to say that killing a five-month-old pupy was the only possible course of action left to her, she obviously does not feel confident enough in her actions to stand by them publicly, and has since tried to remove these posts from Medium as well.

However, if you can bear it (I know it took me quite a few tries before I made it all the way through and could actually see through my tears) you can read the original post here, captured before she took it down.

Newborn Fudge

The reason why I started writing this was because my puppy’s all-too-short story is so tragic (and the justification for its untimely end so flawed) that I needed to convince myself it wasn’t all some bizarre nightmare. I wish.

But in the end I felt duty-bound to publish it because I feel I owe Fudge that much.

Peaceful sleeps

I felt this little creature kicking in his mother’s belly; On Easter Sunday I helped to bring the pink-nosed squealing darling into the world — he fit into the palm of my hand… I was the first person he saw as his bright beautiful eyes started to open, and many a happy evening was spent watching him sleep, ever so peacefully, on my lap. But ultimately I was also the one who handed him over to the woman who killed him.

Fudge, shortly after opening his eyes for the first time

I only wish I knew then what I know now, because, boy, did I do my homework… I looked her up on Facebook and she accepted my friend invitation, and I also checked out her company Facebook page and website, but couldn’t find anything amiss with her, on paper it looked to be an ideal fit, as the puppy would live in a household with other dogs and be her son’s faithful companion. Honestly, I kept humming “you’ve got a friend in me” from Toy Story every time I thought about it, and envisaged a long and happy life for the little creature I had already become so attached to.

Fudge always liked a cuddle with us

What hurts me the most in that vile post is that she claims that “Fudge wasn’t an affectionate dog” this is the lie that stood out the most, because it was so easily disproved, not least by all the photos and videos she posted of him being cuddled, but also by the fact that my Holmes is a veritable limpet and his sisters, mother and father are also all extremely affectionate, as was Fudge right up to the point where he left us. Part of the work you do with early socialization is to handle and play with pups (both individually and in a group) every single day, and I did this diligently (it’s a tough job but somebody has got to hug and play with the puppies…). So I know for a fact that whatever happened to make that puppy not want to be touched all of a sudden happened under her care.

So I am going to put my side of the story out there so that anybody doing the same in future have all the information available to make an informed decision on whether they choose to entrust their dog to this person. It’s about ensuring that this story never repeats itself, if I can help it at all. My last gift to you, my sweet beautiful pup.

“We popped Fudge off to sleep … our puppy is now at piece”

reads her blog post which, irony of ironies, sells her expertise as someone who can help address a dog’s behavioural problems. I can only assume she means “peace” but that would be equally wrong.

Euthanasia shouldn’t be a service like micro chipping or worming you “pop in for.” By definition it is the killing of someone who is in pain or ill, yet the puppy she chose to kill rather than re-home was not sick, and he certainly wasn’t, as she put it, “wired wrong” this puppy suffered from bad training and a lack of discipline, and under her care, over the space of a few short weeks, he went from being affectionate to stand-offish, from thriving and boisterous to snappy and bullish. What this five month old puppy needed was a firm and loving hand, not a lethal injection.

Apparently Fudge’s vet had no issue with doing this, which to me was an added shock. Over the years we’ve been dog owners we lived in 3 different cities and each time registered our dogs at a good local practice where we built good relationships with them. I cannot imagine any of them would take kindly to a suggestion that a healthy 5-month old puppy should be put down in this way before any rehoming options had even been explored.

Our “Belly Up Pup”

That said, it is legally the owners’ prerogative to put their animal to sleep, so she has no case to answer there. What I can certainly dispute, however, is the moral justification that she puts forward for it, trying to make it out that the decision had been in the dog’s best interest as opposed to a way of quickly extracting her from a situation that she was finding personally unbearable.

Here is a bit of background on myself and what I know about these dogs.

Fast-forward to about a month ago, when just before I was scheduled to travel abroad for work, Fudge’s owner messages me saying that she had “reached boiling point” and that Fudge “may need to go”. I immediately offered to call her back and my husband and I spoke to her over the phone. We said that we were unable to take Fudge back ourselves (as I mentioned this was just before a work trip where we already had to make arrangements for our own dogs to be cared for. Our house is very small and we don’t drive, so the logistics of him “coming back” would be pretty impossible, plus would mean unsettling him further, as it would of course be better if he were to go from his current home directly to a new one rather than revisiting the one he lived in as a puppy to add to the confusion.

Our proud Missy with her newborn pups

We asked her to talk to her son and give us a final answer the next day on whether re-homing Fudge was definitely what she wanted. At that point we would put her in touch with specific people who we knew who would be happy to take Fudge, and also were knowledgeable previous staffy owners who would be able to train him adequately and get him on the right path to correcting any issues he had developed in her care.

We were also very concerned about Fudge falling into the “wrong hands” so when we didn’t hear back from her we called again two days later, only to be told that she was about to take him to her local animal shelter (for a month afterwards I checked the Wood Green shelter’s website several times a day to see if Fudge came up on the adoption list, so I could alert some of those people who were interested in re-homing him.

I was checking that website weeks after Fudge was already dead, as it turned out.

We objected to the shelter purely on the grounds that it would cause further disruption to his life, and also of taking up the shelter’s resources with a puppy who already had people lined up to take him if only we moved swiftly on those arrangements. She was adamant that the puppy must go “soon” however, and we argued on Facebook messenger until she blocked me.

In desperation, I contacted her via email to ask her once again to put Fudge’s best interest first and to speak to the people I was trying to have call her (this was just as I had landed in the US, it was about 3 in the morning local time and I was jet-lagged and catching up with work, but I dropped everything for a while to try and sort something out).

Play-fighting with brothers and sisters

If we knew what she was going to do, however, we would have done anything to stop it.

My husband and I would have cancelled the work trip, jumped on a taxi and gone to pick him up. But never in our wildest imaginings did it seriously occur to us that she might have him killed like that. Specially since, even as we argued via Facebook messenger and she eventually blocked me, one of the last things she said to me was that he would definitely not be put down.

One of the people who called her offering to help was from the Northern Ireland Staffordshire Bull Terrier rescue, whom I had been in touch with previously as he daughter wanted a male puppy. We turned her down because Fudge had already been reserved (if regret could kill….) but she was keen to help him find a new home and offered to try and coordinate with one of the local branches of the charity that were closer to Fudge.

She spoke to Fudge’s owner, but was only told that she would be having an “expert assessment” of Fudge — which I can only assume is the vet that was OK with the idea of putting him down instead of giving him the chance of a loving home with an experienced staffy owner. Clearly those would be the “wrong hands”.

Puppy Play

I also had a very promising lead through Missy’s breeder, who knew of someone who had previously contacted her about the possibility of having a puppy, and had just lost his own Staffy the previous year.

Fudge’s brother Holmes at six months of age

All the other issues this “trainer” mentioned were also things I specifically went through with her during the interview phase, raising concern about the fact that her existing dogs might take issue with a boisterous pup trying so swing his weight around. Behaviour such as guarding the dog bowl for food is natural — dogs will guard their food — but if you let them know that’s not acceptable they will stop. Our dogs tend to share the same food bowl (it’s pointless to give them more than one as they’ll just swap around merrily anyway) and politely take turns. It’s not that we don’t recognise or have any of those bad behaviours that she describes — quite the contrary, in fact — but these are all trainable issues, and of all the people we placed our pups with, she was the last one I expected not to get that.

But she did not get any of it. I thought the vetting process was over the top, but worth it because it was a safe way to ensure that people understood that puppies are HARD WORK. They are worth it, in my estimation, but at some point things will go wrong and it’s on you to make it work. Having a puppy should be a lifetime commitment. I suppose I should have specified that by “lifetime” I meant a dog’s natural lifespan.

Fudge’s parents enjoying a day out with other dogs, children and lots of socializing

My friends, including the owners of all the other pups, all kindly tell me I couldn’t have done more, but as much as killing him was this woman’s decision, giving her the power to do so was mine, and I’ll have to live with that. And I’ll have to live with the fact that every time — hopefully for the next 15+ years when I look into the beautiful loving eyes of my Holmes, I will feel a regret that his brother is not still out there living out his own happy life. The only thing I can do is try to ensure that Holmes has a life that’s happy enough for both of them.

If you have been moved in any way by this story, I urge you to choose one of the many worthwhile charities out there — such as Northern Ireland Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue or Wood Green Animal Shelter, which both play a part in this story — that help the animals unlucky enough to fall into the hands of unsuitable owners, but lucky enough, unlike Fudge, to be granted a second chance.

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

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