Our rescue dog attacked a pitbull. What happened next was unexpected.


A version of this story previously appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

By Paul Karrer

Nearly two years ago, our gentle 5-year-old French bulldog had to be put down due to an allergy, a steroid reaction, or a spider bite. Horrible.

Soon thereafter we rescued a 57-pound, 8-year-old female bull terrier from the SPCA. Total muscle. She was pure white with black patches over both eyes. People have even asked if we put mascara on her.

Some might remember bull terriers as the Target dog, the Budweiser dog or, long enough back, Gen. George C. Patton’s dog. You don’t see bull terriers too often.

Our bull terrier came with the name Snooky, had been used for breeding and probably dumped when she was no longer able to produce puppies. She came with issues, the first being her name. I thought it sounded like a moniker for a hooker. We switched it to the milder Snoopy.

Initially she did not adapt well to the house. First day, she jumped in the clothes dryer and then hyperventilated from anxiety on our couch. She’d go in the shower and linger there in the dark if we let her. She drank prodigious amounts of water, seemingly never enough. Same with food. Nothing mattered to her more than food, any kind. It remained a battle to pull her away from tasty deer droppings.

In the car she always buried her head in the seat as deeply as she could, rarely interested in what passed by outside. I took her on daily walks in the woods, which in general she did not like. She’d do her business and immediately turn around to head back to the car.

I mentioned all this to our vet on her first visit and said, “I’d love to know her history.”

The vet replied, “I don’t think you would. I can only guess. but it sounds like she was not fed or given water regularly, and probably lived in a tiny kennel. That’s most likely why she made a beeline to your dryer. It’s a small, safe place. You know, they are a very difficult breed to manage.”

Yes, I knew. I’d done my reading on bull terriers before we got her. They were rated excellent in all categories except getting along with other dogs. In that they got a 1 on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being excellent.

A sidebar declared: They are stubborn. Not recommended for first-time dog owners. Can be anxious and obsessive-compulsive. Should be on a leash at all times when outside. Not recommended to be placed with other dogs.

After eight months, Snoopy calmed down. We had a large kennel in our bedroom for her to sleep in and another one in the living room for naps. I’d even walk her in town, and once I brought her to an outdoor restaurant. She stayed right under my seat, no problem. A small dog lay a few feet away under another customer’s seat. Absolutely no issues.

Then one day on a walk in the woods, we rounded a corner and came upon a woman sitting with her large dog. Snoopy went nuts, tried to attack it. I pulled her away. From that day on if she spotted a big dog not to her liking, she’d get vicious.

I talked to our vet again. The vet said, “Sometimes after they settle in, their true nature comes out. Or something triggers them.”

“Great,” I thought.

A few months later I left her in the fenced backyard. Normally I would leave her for five minutes at the most. She barks, I let her in.

I had left the gate open a hair. She went out the gate and saw a young woman walking her pitbull on a leash. Snoopy attacked. I heard a high-pitched female scream. Saw two dogs going at it. One of them my Snoopy.

Even though I’m an old geezer, I ran out, put my arms around my dog’s chest and my legs around her back legs. The woman, like me, was also on the ground. She tugged for all she was worth. So did I. Never fought so hard in my life. But the dogs would not let go. I ended up getting bitten by Snoopy. My clothes were shredded and splattered with blood, dogs’ and mine. Police came. An ambulance came. Thank goodness the woman was not bit.

I paid the vet bills for both dogs, $1,500 for my dog, $400 for the other. I gave the woman $100 for her pain. We did not get sued. The woman was super. She even called to ask how Snoopy and I were doing.

I learned that there are five dogs that homeowners’ insurance companies do not cover: pitbulls, chows, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and of course, bull terriers.

My wife and I loved Snoopy but we knew some visitors to our home were intimidated by her and after the attack we were worried. What if something else set her off and she hurt one of us, or worse, someone else? We already knew neither of us was strong enough to control her if she lost it again.

We debated and debated but came to the decision that we had to put Snoopy down.

Our vet was closed. I called another. They said, “Yes, we can euthanize her.” We put Snoopy in the car. We cried and brought her to end her days.

At the vet’s, we were informed they would not euthanize for aggression. I told my wife, “It’s like a Western movie. A rope is placed around a rustler’s neck, rope thrown over a branch. Rope is pulled. Rustler goes up, branch breaks. He lives.”

Of course I didn’t want to euthanize her. But she seemed like a loaded gun left on a kitchen table.

That was four months ago. She has attended anti-aggression classes. She wears a muzzle at all times when in public, and is always on a leash.

She’s fine with people. Better in the car, looks out the window, even puts her head outside to get wind-blasted. Rarely goes into the shower anymore. I have a metal cable I attach to her harness when she’s in the backyard. She’d still eat deer droppings if she could — but she can’t, the muzzle works for that too.

As I’m writing this we are on the couch. She likes to put her massive, affectionate head on my shoulder. I like it too.

I guess cats aren’t the only critters with more than one life.

Paul Karrer’s podcast, “Teacher Tails,”  can be found at https://www.buzzsprout.com/2062370/episodes/13272401.

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About Paul Karrer

A retired elementary school teacher, Paul Karrer’s writing has appeared in San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Monterey Herald. His podcast, “Teacher Tails,”  can be found at www.buzzsprout.com/2062370/episodes/13272401.