OK

Sasuke was my younger, Navy son's German Shepherd dog, acquired by him from a breeder in Bahrain, when he was deployed there. I think what my son was hoping for was partly a companion and partly a guard. I don't think he clearly understood what he was in for, or what it would take to make that intelligent, dominant male dog able to live successfully with humans. Which is too bad, because that basically sweet, lovable, funny critter deserved a better life and death than he ended up having.

I did not actually come into this story until Sasuke was around 2 years old and Brendan ran into his first situation where he was unable to have the dog with him. Brendan really wanted his father to take care of the dog, since Tim had a bigger, fenced yard and was in a less urban environment, but he refused, for good reasons of his own, to take that burden on. So, soft-hearted mom that I was and am; not wanting my son to have to give up his pet, I took Sasuke on for a 6 1/2 month period.
Sasuke, older, again taken by either Junko Suzuki or Brendan McLaughlin, in Bahrain.
The first time I tried to take him for a walk, he literally pulled me off my feet and dragged me down my driveway. You can see by this that he wasn't a very well-trained dog! Consultation with the vet resulted in purchase of a "gentle leader," which made a big difference in being able to not be hauled down the street willy-nilly when I took him for a walk, but he was still a handful--un-neutered, and equivalent to a teen-ager, with all the hormonal behavior that accompanies that stage of life. After a frightening episode at a friend's place, when he got away from me and ran down an older woman and her female dog who were walking by, trying to do you-can-guess-what with the poor little dog, I put my foot down with my son and insisted he allow me to get Sasuke neutered, or I was going to take him to the Humane Society! I also pleaded with him to pay for some training. Brendan agreed to having him neutered and paid for one lesson with a professional trainer, which helped, but really wasn't enough. After one more scary episode when Sasuke nipped a woman bystander while on a walk, fortunately not seriously, (she was behind a hedge and I didn't see her until it was too late; I think she startled both me and the dog) I was very glad to deliver him back to my son, who had completed the training period during which he could not have the animal, and had been deployed to a duty station in Naples, Italy.
Sasuke and Brendan, taken by Junko Suzuki in Bahrain.
Fast-forward three years--I was now married to Andy, and, having lost his house to foreclosure, was back living with my husband in my little house, which I had been renting out, but had to evict my tenants for non-payment of rent. Brendan, still in the Navy, but having completed his tour in Italy, was placed on a special status which required him to be able to be deployed anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. Again, he was not going to be able to have the dog with him during this time, which would last one year, and again, his father refused to take the dog.

Sasuke had not done well in a previous kennel boarding short-term situation; he had lost weight and been unhappy, so Brendan was reluctant to go that route, and much against my better judgement and inclination, I was prevailed upon to take Sasuke again. The situation was complicated by the fact that we also had Andy's last remaining cat, Fluffy, living with us, and Sasuke had only seen cats as something to chase. Because of my cat allergy, however, Fluffy was already living a fairly constrained existence in our house, and my husband being a big animal lover, though he'd never owned a dog himself, (he had dog allergies, among many others) was nevertheless willing to give it a go.

Andy, who was also soft-hearted, fell in love with Sasuke. That dog was a real challenge to control, but he also was extremely smart, had his own puckish sense of humor, and would defend “his” people to the death. My son had told me about how Sasuke had chewed up everything in the Bahrain rental house that he and his Japanese girlfriend, Junko, had been living in, when he was a puppy, and I was prepared to have to hassle with that behavior, but I caught the dog with a shoe, and I took that one away and found another old, cast-off one that I told him he could chew, and he never chewed any other shoe but the one I told him he could, ever again, at least, with me. With time and patience, Andy did manage to achieve a limited friendship between the dog and the cat, though we never left them alone together unsupervised, of course. They would actually hang out in close proximity and the cat would even bat playfully at Sasuke when he would poke his nose near her.

I'm not sure if Andy actually used this for his class, or just did it for practice. This is a photoshopped image of Sasuke and Fluffy, both photos taken by my husband, Andrew Peterson.
When I took Sasuke on road trips, he was a great traveler. He loved to sit or lie in the small back seat of my diminutive extra-cab pickup, and if he was in the passenger seat next to me, would sometimes put his head on my lap, but never interfered with my driving. Sasuke also went through an episode with what the vet termed a “stroke-like” event, when he lost the use of one hind leg for awhile. However, he eventually recovered with only an occasional buckling of that leg when he was tired. Though the vet said x-rays showed some hip dysplasia, Sasuke continued to jump in play as if he had no problem and would try even with the leg issue. I often wished I’d had the wherewithal to put him through agility training, prior to the leg problem; he’d have loved it and done very well with it. He would do almost anything for a carrot, or a cheese-flavored treat, and loved destroying rawhide “bones.” We got him a really big one once, nearly a yard long, and he didn’t quite know how to attack it–it was pretty funny. When we cut it in half, though, he went right at it. He also liked to take the old softball we threw for him to chase in the back yard, and jump into this funky little concrete pond I have back there, with it. Then, he’d look back at me, or Andy, as if to say, “I know you don’t like me doing this–but I can’t resist!”

Sadly, his lack of adequate training, and his over-zealous drive to “defend” his territory led to a very unhappy situation. I was running late for work, and Andy was going to drop me off, so I wouldn’t have to deal with parking, and he would have the pickup to use if he needed it. (His SAAB turbo was having issues.) Sasuke decided he was NOT going to be left behind, so he escaped out the front door as we were trying to leave. Fortunately, there was no one else on the street, and he went straight to the pickup, so there was no real problem at that point. The trouble came when Andy returned home and was taking Sasuke back into the house. He THOUGHT he had a good grip on Sasuke’s collar, but the dog got away from him, and this time, a group of teenage girls was coming by, on their way to the high school at the end of my street. Sasuke attacked one of them, and gave her a serious bite on the leg, which ultimately required some reconstructive treatment to address scarring. Amazingly, the animal control people did not confiscate the dog; we were allowed to quarantine him at home, but were required to post a “dangerous dog” sign on the property and make sure the dog was contained so he could not gain free access to outside. From that point, until the time came that I was able to return him to my son, I lived in mortal terror of losing Sasuke and of what he might do to somebody if he got loose again.

After much discussion, when the year (and a half) was up, (it took that much more time to get to a point where Brendan was ready to receive the dog, and in my case, finishing school freed my schedule so I could leave) Andy and I decided that his elderly cat would not do well traveling, nor did we want to try to board her with anyone, so he would stay home with her, and I would take Sasuke in the pickup to Brendan in Florida. That poor dog had flown from Bahrain to the U.S., from the U.S. to Italy, and then back again from Italy to the U.S. I was not about to put him on a plane again, if I could help it. I’m convinced that those horrible plane trips, along with some abuse Sasuke had suffered at the hands of a neighbor while Brendan was away at work, during the Italy deployment, (Brendan did not tell me about that until after I had returned Sasuke to him the second time) contributed to Sasuke’s separation anxiety issues and aggression. Andy and I had been together so much, since he had lost his job, and then, his house to foreclosure, that I was actually looking forward to a little time away. I didn’t plan on being away as long as it ended up becoming, due to Brendan’s deployment out of the country for a month, a week after I arrived in Florida, and I certainly had no idea that my husband was going to die, shortly before I was about to head home! But at least, I got the dog settled in with his original owner and the family Brendan had acquired along with his “new” girlfriend.

This photo was taken by me, Kathryn Peterson, with my cell phone camera. It is of Brendan, Sasuke, and Makai, Brendan's girlfriend Noemi Smith's son.
The sad end of Sasuke’s story came when he got away from Brendan’s girlfriend, as she was returning from shopping with her arms full of groceries, and seriously bit a neighbor. There were no more reprieves for Sasuke. He met his end in the custody of Hillsborough County Animal Control. It was not surprising, but I was glad that Andy did not have to see it. At least, he was spared that particular grief, after having suffered so many losses and setbacks in the last years of his life.  
This photo is from an assignment done for a photography class my husband took at Portland Community College. The picture of Andy was taken by a classmate, the photos of part of the campus and of the dog were taken by my husband and he photoshopped them al
As for me, well, I felt kind of “double-whammied” for awhile. Occasionally, I still do. I think, at some point, I might like to have a(nother) dog, but I’d have to consider that long and carefully....

Originally posted to Kit RMP on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 05:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by PWB Peeps, The Grieving Room, and Community Spotlight.

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