The Life and Death of our Attack Dog

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Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2002
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Upon moving to the mountain, it was quickly suggested that we purchase a gun for protection. Protection from what or whom, I did not ask, but I knew we would not be in the market for a gun. Next best thing seemed to be getting a really big, intimidating dog to alert us to whatever may be out there. Off to the Adopt-a-Pet Rescue we went in search of adopting a large mature adult dog who needed a good home and a job. They didn’t have a dog that would fit the bill but they did have puppies! We selected what we were told was a three month old Lab/German Shepherd mix and put him through the puppy testing; you know, where you turn them on their backs and do a few more things to test for temperament. Our puppy tested perfect.

The first thing Devin did upon his arrival home was to bite me as I picked him up. Not a nip, this was a full blown bite with fangs out and a growl. Two days later he bit me again as I put the leash on him to take him for his walk. The following day, he bit my youngest son at that point, I called the Adopt-a-pet back and told them something was really wrong with this puppy. They encouraged me to bring him right back and said he may have to be euthanized but Hus notified me that puppy was not going anywhere. They bonded and from that point on; he was deemed my husband’s dog and his problem and responsibility: I went out and bought a German Shepherd Dog for myself; a female puppy the same age as Devin I named Tracey.

All of us had to work together and put some serious training on both dogs every day. We had to establish ourselves as Alpha if we were to co-exist especially with Devin who was still trying to bite us whenever the mood hit him. With my kids and so many kids hanging out at our house, I could not have any dogs that my boys could not control and handle so dog training lessons were consistent. Sometimes Devin listened and behaved and sometimes not. He did things on his own terms.

Both dogs redecorated my house on several occasions by chewing up the couch and eating the recliner down to the springs. Leaving them out of their crates when no one was home proved a fatal mistake during puppyhood. Just about every piece of furniture we had was chewed on and missing chunks of wood and providing chew toys was a joke. I’m sure Devin would have swallowed my piano whole if he had the notion but he stopped after eating one of the legs and it nearly collapsed. As Richard Dreyfuss said on Jaws: “He turned my inboard into an outboard.” I sewed, I glued, I duck taped, I cried. I took up swearing as a second language. On our first Christmas together, Devin marked his territory on our 6 foot live Christmas tree even before it was completely set up in the stand, causing us to haul it back outside for a hosing down. After it was fully decorated we placed our masterpiece in front of the front window which proved to be yet another mistake. Devin knocked it down when he charged the window because he thought he heard someone on the porch that needed a killing. He broke most of the ornaments which went flying across the living room and then he got tangled up in some five or six strands of lights that were attached to the tree, pulling the tree around the room. I was loosing my mind.

As Devin grew, there was no resemblance to a Lab/German Shepherd except in color so I really don’t know what kind of mutt he descended from. He stopped biting us, but would viciously attack any dog that would stray onto our property, and then he started to go after other people who showed up. He was in full blown bite mode. He bit people and the cops showed up to check his rabies tags and paperwork each time. He put one guy in the hospital and we were in a situation of being sued more than once. One time when the tractor man came for manure, Devin launched himself from the ground up onto the tractor to take a chunk out of his leg. He was ruthless. When Devin was on the rampage, we all were like crazy people chasing him down. If someone was coming it was a mad rush: “Where’s Devin?” “ Hurry up grab Devin!” “Who’s got Devin?” “Are you sure? “Get the chain!” This dog would not socialize at all no matter how many attempts were made. We had a bad biter on our hands and it scared me. Believe me, we made plenty of corrections but this dog was determined to bite no matter what. He was even a “double muzzle” dog for his vet visits. We had him neutered but that made no difference in his attitude. He also never played with toys. Never fetched a stick or played ball. It was like he never had a childhood and went right from birth to maturity. This pup had a screw loose.

Meanwhile, the boys took full advantage of the situation using the “My dog ate my homework” excuse on the teachers, which of course I had to confirm as true many times. On other occasions Devin cracked the glass in some of our windows and took out the outer back door many times trying to get outside to attack whatever it was. He thrived on fighting with stray dogs that would dare to come in our yard but the day he took on a Rottweiler I knew that Devin had a death wish---but he sent that dog yelping down the road too. I was becoming numb.

The good part was that Devin never, and I mean never set one paw off of our property when he was loose. For some reason, he always stopped on the edge of our grass and any hot pursuit would stop right there. Very odd for a dog that driven to be able to jam on his brakes like that. He also chased cars but ran along side on our grass being careful not to step onto the road. My husband was always making excuses for this dog but he agreed, he was becoming a huge liability and we had to make serious provisions and go over the top with precautions since it was apparent he was staying here as a family member for the duration of his life. Lucky us. Since Devin proved so aggressive he had to be treated accordingly and strict rules were put in place. We were diligent and on our toes as there was no room for error He would never be loose in the yard unattended, not for a second anymore; he had to be chained. Thanks to Devin I had great yard art: We had placed “Bad Dog” warning signs all over the front and back driveways, on trees, on the fences, on the porch, and on our doors which had to stay locked so none of the neighborhood kids would open the door and let themselves in. I had chains for him all over the place. He would always be leashed or crated or banished to a bedroom when visitors came in. No one could come around until Devin was secured and we would ask friends to call in advance of coming over. How crazy that we adopted a dog for protection and now all I did was complain about it. We had a real attack dog, or a dog on crack.

It took us a while to get a good handle on Devin. We never let our guard down and neither did he. We had our own version of Cujo living in our house and it had to be taken seriously. Devin was courageous beyond words and feared nothing. Every Forth of July we hosted an elaborate fire works show and barbeque that would last for hours. Devin loved it! He loved it so much that he broke down the latch on the back door, running past the audience full blast to bite the fireworks. That holiday always required a trip to Lowes for more repair parts for the door or yet another entire new door. You can only imagine what we went through every year on Halloween with tons of monsters knocking on our door over and over for hours. I was ready to hang myself. With us, he was like any other great, loyal and loving family dog giving kisses and wanting to be scratched and loved. He would prowl up and down the hallway during the night always checking on all of us before he thought it was ok for him to get some sleep. It was like he was always taking inventory to be sure we were all where we should be. Devin made us all feel safe. No one in their right mind would break into this house and make it out in one piece. He never made any attempt to harm the horses, and as a matter of fact, he deemed them his property giving him one more job as their protector who liked to guard their gate. His attitude was that if you lived here, you were his to love and guard with his life and that he did beautifully.

When I lost my son, Devin camped at his bedroom door for weeks. That’s when he began to howl for the first time and every day since for months. I think he was calling for him to come home or maybe he was crying. He took a pair of Michael’s dirty jeans from his room into his bed and laid on them until Hus finally took them away. Then I lost my beloved Tracey to complications of hip dysplasia and Devin mourned for her terribly as did we all. This all had an impact on Devin that was awful. His inventory was incomplete. I was very fearful of bringing another dog home but eventually I did get another German Shepherd puppy, Amy, who Devin decided to kill on first sight as I expected. I had to guard her at all times. It took 3 or 4 months before Devin accepted her as his new best friend and the two of them became inseperatable. She was always on his heels and he assumed the role as Amy’s protector also. She would do stupid puppy things always getting herself into trouble, so Devin would come barking and grabbing at our arms or legs until we went to see what the problem was.

As the years passed and Devin grew old, there was never any change in his demeanor but he was slowing down a lot physically. When Dan moved out last year it broke his heart and once again his inventory was diminishing and he took up residence in his room for the longest time. He paced back and forth by the window waiting for him to come back for days. When Dan visited us, he would suddenly spring back into life the best he could only to grieve when Dan would pat him goodbye until next time. Halloween of 2011 was the very first time that Devin never got off of his pillow once to charge the door, hobble towards it, or attempt to break a window; but at least he barked for the Trick or Treater’s duration.

Last year Devin developed two tumors and surgery was not an option at his age. Around Thanksgiving, which was his 16th birthday, it seemed like everything began to happen to him all at once, and fast. He was loosing his eye sight, got hip dysplasia, and the tumors grew large. He began to self mutilate by chewing on his leg from the anxiety. I was always doctoring him for something. He looked terrible and was loosing weight. He made no attempt to destroy our holiday dinner for the first time and slept through Christmas Day. He slept almost all the time and became very insecure. He stuck to me like glue, always at my side for his security and started barking a lot during the middle of the night. He would have trouble trying to see what was out there, but loyal to a fault, he knew his job was always to alert us to predators so barking was the only way he had left to protect us. He became scared of being left alone when I would go outside without him. He would cry and bark until he would hear my voice telling him “I’m here, I’m coming.” I could no longer take Amy anywhere so that Devin would not have to be left alone. It was gut-wrenching watching Devin being reduced from this proud, loyal, brave dog to the needy old dog he was now. I knew it was time to call the vet but I wanted him to have just one more Christmas with us. I was not ready to put his stocking away for good just yet.

Amy sensed things weren’t right with him and she took the roll as his mother these past months. The two dogs did a complete roll reversal. She often lay by his side and snuggled up with him for hours. She would put her paw on his head or around him and lick his head. It was like she knew he needs extra hugs. It was Amy’s turn to come and get us when Devin was in trouble and needed our help and that she did. Amazing how things can go full circle. After the holidays I made the vet appointment which my husband canceled because Devin was having a few good days here and there. Then spring was here and he seemed to be doing remarkably well during April which floored us. He was up and bouncing around a little bit and trotted next to the road in awkward attempts to chase after the mail man a few times like the good old days. Last Friday I spent the day spring cleaning the barn and Devin actually volunteered to come outside and spend the day out there with me in the warm sunshine. He hardly ever came outside anymore but I was so glad to see him so happy in the barn and under his favorite tree. He finally rallied! He rolled in the grass like a puppy, barked at the horses and cars, stole my rags off the table, and he felt good. Hus and I couldn’t believe it. We cooked out on the grill and shared our hot dogs and hamburgers with the dogs that evening. What a great day this was for us all. I was so happy to see he still had time left. But then that next morning things went terribly wrong. My husband agreed we had to make the vet call first thing Monday morning. Amy never left his side. None of us did.

We let Devin go play with Michael and Tracey in heaven on Monday and allowed him to go with what dignity he had left. Amy laid down beside him all morning while we awaited his appointment time. She licked him on his face and head right before I took him to the vet which was a scene etched in my memory forever. Hus made him a soft bed on the floor of my truck in the back seat where he laid all the way to the vet’s office. I kept telling him he was a good boy and Michael and Tracey were waiting for him the whole way there. They took him in on a stretcher as I kissed him farewell. When I arrived home, Amy didn’t even look for him. Somehow I think she knew all along what was happening. We buried him in the yard and she never went by the grave. Neither did I..

My kids learned a great lesson in respect of an animal and responsibility from a very young age by owning Devin and for that we were grateful. As for me, I don’t ever think I’ll feel safe and secure again as I did with Devin around. We’re getting dead bolts on the doors and a security system for protection now because Amy does not have it in her to take up where Devin left off, not even close. This cycle of dogs in our lives ends now because there won’t be another dog coming here to keep Amy company. What all began with a house full of kids, dogs, and crazy madness is now reduced to two people and a dog. Devin was clearly a huge presence in our lives. What incredible memories were made because of him and oh how sad and lonely we are.

Living with a biting dog was such a great liability but it was a fact of life that we learned from, but I would never recommend it to anyone. Devin loved us all too much, but on the flip of a coin, we loved him too much also I suppose.

Devin, you were one of a kind and you loved us and served us we and we thank you. We all loved you and miss you so much already. Devin was 16 1/2 years old. Rest now in peace my boy.

Devin and Tracey as puppies


Devin and Amy

What a moving tribute to a great dog, I'm so sorry for your loss Marty. How lucky Devin was to find a family that loved him despite his issues.
So sorry for your loss. You have a way with words Marty, if you ever decide to write a book, I will buy it. I lived with a 5 lb version of your Devin for 18 years. Everyone feared her, and also loved her too. When we finally had to put her down and say good bye, the sky opened up and we had a really strong thunderstorm. I looked at my vet and said... I think Carly is kicking some butt at the rainbow bridge tonight. Bigger than life dogs, you never forget them. Even blind she had amazing accuracy to her attacks. She loved my husband and saved all her kisses for him. Thanks for sharing Marty, as always, you make us remember to focus on the important things in life. Take care. Adair
I am so sorry Marty, but I am so happy he had one last hurrah for you to remember him by. When they pass it is so much more than a dog passing, it is part of the family, it is the memories, it is thoughts of playing in the snow or chasing shadows in the summertime with our kids, Lord, I am crying just thinking about it. Thank you for sharing, it makes one appreciate what we have while we have it. HUGS
I am sorry..what a wonderful story of his life...touching,and im balling my eyes out..he sounded like he was one of a kind...
Thanks for sharing the true life, complete with up and downs, of Devin.

He was one lucky pup that your family was the one to adopt him and it's

obvious he appreciated the full life he had with you and the family.

RIP Devin
So sorry for your loss. Its always hard to lose a pet, actually family member. The memories you have will last forever. They will bring a smile to your face and sometimes tears to the eye. Enjoy them all.


Victory Pass Stable

Oh Marty you've made me cry. What a lucky dog Devin was to find you and your wonderful family.

Thanks for sharing his story.
So sorry for your loss... I can tell he was a great part of the family and will be greatly missed.
As always when you write, Marty...a compelling story, beautifully told. Devin was so lucky to be blessed with such a dedicated human family....

Marty, Im so sorry....he was so lucky to have been in such a wonderful home. Your story made me laugh and cry just as Devin made you guys do too.

hugs to Amy and the loss of her friend

Godspeed Devin
There is nothing I can say to offer any real comfort but your Eulogy was beautiful and touching. He sounds like he found the perfect family to join and share his life with. My deepest sympathy to all of your family that had to say goodbye to such a special and important part of your lives.
Oh Marty, he was so lucky to have you. Your story is told beautifully. I have avoided reading it because I knew I would cry. I am bawling my eyes out because it reminds me so much of my Albert who was my beautiful yellow lab of ten year. He was also a handful. The vets said he was the most dominant lab they had ever seen. He was my world during some difficult years...the only possession I walked out of a marriage with and the only thing I wanted...the attorneys insisted on listing him since he always was always in my truck when I came to their office.

God bless you. Thanks for telling us about him.

I am so sorry to hear of Devin's passing. It has just been over a year now since I had Molly put down and it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I still have not gotten another dog, not sure if I can........ Hugs to you all, it's so sad to see them go, but you know Michael and Tracy were there waiting to greet him.

It is so hard to say goodbye to our fur kids, but gosh the unconditional love they give us while they are in our lives, that is what makes it all the worthwhile and reminds us what really, truly matters.

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