Ray and I were shopping for cat food at the local big-box pet store. One of the clerks, a girl who always makes a point of coming to pet Ray because she has a Bluetick Coonhound, was stocking the shelves. She stopped what she was doing when she saw Ray. Her eyes got a little misty.
"Hi, Ray," she said to my hound.
"What's wrong?" I asked, concerned.
"Our dog was becoming destructive. He was peeing and pooping all over," she said getting a bit choked-up.
"Oh, no," I said with dread in my voice, not wanting to hear the rest. "Was he sick? Did you have to..." my voice trailed off.
"So we had to give him to a shelter," she said.
I looked at her, stunned.
"How old was he?" I asked
"Ten." she replied. "He'd never done anything like that before. But he was peeing and pooping everywhere so my husband and I gave him to a shelter hoping that they could find him a home where he could stay outside all the time."
"That's horrible." I said, trying very hard not to sound judgmental. "It sounds like there was something wrong with him. Did you take him to the vet to find out?" I was edging away from her, not wanting to be contaminated by her nearness.
"Well, we had taken him to the vet before it started to happen and he was fine," she replied following me. Again she said, "He was getting destructive. He was peeing and pooping all over."
I was still moving away from her. I knew she was looking for me to say "You did the right thing," but all I could say was "That's horrible. You should have had him checked out. I don't know how you could give away a dog that you'd had for 10 years." I was still trying to keep the judgement out of my voice but wasn't sure I was succeeding.
"It was hard," she said, "But he was getting destructive. He was peeing and pooping all over."
She was stuck in a loop trying to defend the indefensible and justify the unjustifiable.
"That's horrible," I said again. I moved farther away from her. I felt like crying. She had finally stopped trying to follow me and was watching me mutely as I distanced myself from her.
Just then Ray let loose with an enormous deep-from-the-belly yell. In my preoccupation, I had let him get too near the cage with two cats up for adoption. He had 'treed' them. People came running from all over the store, drawn by the horrific noise, thinking that a dog was in distress. In a way they were right. It wasn't my dog, though, but an incontinent, 10-year old Bluetick Coonhound that had been abandoned by his family.