If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I haven’t had a #fridayswithfulton post in a couple of weeks. That’s because our sweet boy is gone. I’ve needed a little while to process the loss with Kevin, and although we shared the news with our family and some close friends, I wanted to wait a bit before sharing it here.
Recently, Kevin and I made the incredibly hard decision to put down our beloved pup, Fulton. We’d had him for more than six years, and he was truly a member of our family. He was only ever sweet and patient with us and, importantly, with Maggie.
Unfortunately, though, over the past couple of months he’d started to get aggressive.
We didn’t know too much about Fulton’s life before we adopted him, but we do know he was used as a guard dog and was tied up outside a woman’s house virtually all the time, regardless of the season or weather. I’m confident this tough start impacted his overall demeanor, and we ran into a few instances in the years we had him where he’d get nippy with people. He never bit, but would kind of nibble on clothes, etc., sometimes. It seemed to be done out of fear, and he always seemed to know it was incorrect behavior, but it was like he couldn’t help himself. We even sent him away for a three-week intensive training several years ago, but it didn’t end this behavior. Conversely, Fulton was always wonderful with other dogs, even if they were being a little weird or aggressive toward him. He was patient and definitely wasn’t one to instigate aggressive behavior.
This behavior began to shift, however. We had an exterminator doing work at our home a few weeks ago, and Fulton — out of nowhere — bit him on the back of the leg while he was spraying for bugs in our backyard. The bite drew blood, and Fulton didn’t retreat after the initial bite. The exterminator had to kick a piece of our patio furniture over to keep him from biting again. Although the exterminator was extremely gracious about the situation (and ended up being fine), obviously we were really shaken up by this new behavior from Fulton.
Then, about three weeks after that incident, I was on a walk one Sunday afternoon with Maggie (in the stroller) and Fulton. We’d done our usual loop around the neighborhood and were just about home when we passed another family — a young couple and a toddler, along with their small, adorable dog. The small dog and Fulton didn’t even seem to look at one another as we passed each other on the sidewalk, headed in opposite directions, but just after we’d passed the other dog, Fulton turned around and lunged at him, grabbing him by the tail so forcefully that when I pulled back on the leash the other dog came with him. I had to let go of the stroller in order to try to control Fulton with both hands, and Maggie nearly rolled into the street. She was sobbing, the other family was obviously shaken up, and I was so unsettled by the whole situation. Thankfully, the other dog ended up with just a gash on his tail that was treated with antibiotics. It could have been SO much worse.
After these two separate incidents, Kevin and I talked at length about what to do. We knew we couldn’t keep Fulton anymore. After all, we now have Maggie to think about, and we just could not run the risk of Fulton hurting her (or anyone — dog or person — for that matter).
We talked about rehoming him, but didn’t feel great about putting other people or dogs at risk with this new, aggressive behavior. We called the vet to talk things over. While we initially considered working with dog behavior specialists, we learned that with Fulton being at least eight years old (and perhaps considerably older — we never knew his age for sure) he was a senior dog whose health was likely fading. Even if we found something to “fix,” his dangerous behavior, it could return if he got sick again. In the meantime, if he ever attacked another person or animal, we would feel morally responsible.
Ultimately, we knew the right choice — as supremely difficult as it was — was to put Fulton down.
The vet worked us in last-minute on a Friday for the procedure, and at first I was totally thrown at the idea of not having much time to prepare for the appointment. In retrospect, though, I think it was better than knowing we had an appointment looming and just dreading it for days.
I met Kevin at our vet’s office on that Friday morning (Maggie was at her sitter’s), and we spent a long time sitting with Fulton in the car. He always LOVED being in the car (it meant he was included in whatever adventure we were on), and so he enjoyed being there with us. We just sat with him and talked to him and cried. We told him stories about his time with us, and it was such a profound reminder of all that Fulton had been with us for. The big things, the little things, the everyday routines — he was there. Our sweet, stripey pup had been a presence in our family since virtually the beginning of our marriage, and he’d traveled with us to the beach, to the mountains, to Atlanta, and more.
Eventually, it was time to go in for our appointment. We were led to a back room in the vet’s office that was very obviously reserved for only this situation. It was a cozy, living room-like space, with a couch, a chair, and a mat on the floor, along with peaceful artwork on the walls. We were with Fulton throughout the entire thing, petting him and laying beside him and assuring him that he was loved and that we were right there with him. We thanked him for being our dog and for loving us so unconditionally. It was such a sad day, and still doesn’t completely feel real.
Despite feeling sure this was the right thing to do, we miss our Fulton-pup so very much. Our house feels markedly empty without him. I keep expecting to hear the jingle of his collar tags as he comes into the kitchen when I get home. To nearly step on him when I get up in the morning (he slept by my side of the bed). To hear him bark like crazy anytime anyone walks by our house. To feel him rest his head on my knee to ask for pets while I’m sitting on the couch.
We’ll always remember our tiger pup, and Fulton will remain part of our family even though he’s not here with us anymore.
We love you, buddy. Thanks for being our dog. We were honored to be your people.