Death of a Family Member


I had worked the previous evening and got home late. As I laid down in bed, I looked forward to sleeping in the following morning.

At 7:38 AM my daughter screamed “HELP! DADDY! HELP!”
Our two dogs were barking, and by the tone of the barking, it was easy to tell that they were attacking something.
I think that the noises were initially incorporated into my dream. Then my daughter let out a blood curdling scream and my wife yelled “WhiteCOOOOAT!”
I flipped back the covers and jumped from the bed. My foot got tangled in the covers as I ran to the bedroom door and I fell to the floor.
The intensity of the dogs’ barking and yelping became louder and more intense.
While jumping down the stairs I tried to get a grip on what was happening. My wife was home waiting for the bus to pick my middle daughter up for school. After the bus leaves, one of us takes our youngest daughter to pre-school. Our two dogs are great. Both are shelter rescues. One is a Vizsla mix and has been with us for a couple of years. The other is a boxer mix that has been with us for about 3 months. The Vizsla never used to be very aggressive until we rescued the boxer. The boxer loves humans. When she sees someone in our family walk in the door, she wags her tail so hard it sounds like a drum banging against the door. If you lay down on the floor, you have to cover your face because she’ll literally lick you to death. However, she doesn’t especially like other animals. By the number of scars on her face and legs, the shelter assumed that she had been discarded from a fighting ring. They found her roaming the streets – terribly underweight, but still alive. They spent a couple of months rehabbing her. The two dogs get along great together, but they play rough. As a result, the Vizsla is now a little more of a “guard dog” than he used to be. I hoped that if someone had broken into the house that both dogs were chewing that person’s ass to shreds. Then I thought – what if something happened and they were attacking my daughter?

I swung around the bottom of the staircase and ran down the hallway. My daughter’s screams grew more earnest. I turned the corner into the living room and saw blood spots all over the carpet. My wife was holding the two girls against the wall, guarding them from the dogs. My middle daughter’s head was peeking out from under my wife’s arm. My youngest daughter just held her hands over her face. In the middle of the living room, the boxer had a firm grip on the hind quarters of the Vizsla. Both were growling loudly.

The boxer had a hip that bothered her sometimes. I ran up to her and kicked her firmly in the hip, hoping that the pain would cause her to let go. No luck.
Then I grabbed the boxer by the collar and tried to pull her off of the Vizsla. I picked the boxer off the ground and her grip was so strong on the Vizsla that she lifted his hind end off the floor. I threw them both against the wall. Still no luck.
Then my martial arts brain kicked in. What vital points are open to attack? I ran over to the dogs and jumped on the boxer’s back. My daughter yelled “Be careful, daddy!”
I grabbed the boxer’s collar and twisted, trying to choke her. She still wouldn’t let go. The Vizsla was biting at the bridge of her nose and yelping at the same time. I looked up at him. His eyelid was shredded and he had blood dripping from a wound to the side of his chest. My heart dropped.
The nose is a vital area in humans. I grabbed under the boxer’s upper lip and pulled the lip and nose up away from the Vizsla as hard as I could. Nothing.
Then I went after her eyes. I buried my thumbs to the bases in both of her eye sockets and twisted back and forth. The only response that got was a few shakes of her neck back and forth. All she cared about was ripping at his leg.
Cold water splashed all over us. While I was trying to separate the dogs, Mrs. WhiteCoat had gone to the kitchen sink and filled a pot full of cold water. We were all cold and wet, but still no response.
“I don’t know what to do! What should I do?!?” She pleaded.
“Get something to pry her jaws apart!”
By this time both girls were screaming and both dogs were growling loudly.
I always carry a knife with me, but only had a pair of scrub pants and a T-shirt on when I was in bed, so the knife was still upstairs. Should we get a knife from the kitchen? Would I really want my girls to see me slit our own dog’s throat?
I kept a firm hold on the twisted collar to keep the boxer from turning on me. I yanked on the collar again, pulling the dogs away from the wall. Then I changed positions, trying to put my knee on the boxer’s windpipe.
Suddenly, a coat rack came crashing down on the boxer’s head. I positioned the rack over the dog’s neck, then knelt on one end and leaned my body over the other end. That got her to release. The Vizsla ran into the kitchen yelping loudly. I jumped up and grabbed the coat rack, ready to do battle with the boxer. She rolled over, sat up on the carpet and hung her head, looking up at me with the same sorrowful eyes that first drew us to her in the shelter. It seemed like she telepathically transmitted the words “forgive me” to the center of my brain.

We got the kids out of the room and called Animal Control. The control officer arrived at our house fairly quickly and caged the boxer.
“We aren’t going to be able to allow her to stay here,” he said.
“I know,” I said slowly, “we wouldn’t feel safe with her here, anyway.”
With my hands still shaking and my thumbs still hurting from the incident, I signed the piece of paper stating “Owner Surrender.”
“There’s a $125 fee for the euthanization. I can get that from you later.”
“No, I’d rather write you a check now.”
He handed me another form to sign, and with a few more strokes of my pen, I gave a complete stranger permission to kill one of our family members.

As I drove my car to work later that day, tears welled up in my eyes when I saw remnants of her doggie boogers on the passenger window and thought about her tail wagging as she poked her head out the window while we were driving down the street just the day before.

Much like an alcoholic who goes back to the bottle, our little Pearlie had demons in her past that she just couldn’t shake. Her life started out hard and ended tragically, but for the last few months of her short life, we were at least able to show her what it was like to live in a house filled with love where she didn’t need to worry about being attacked and she didn’t need to worry about where her next meal would come from.

The memories of this day will never fade from my mind. While I’m happy at the joy that Pearlie brought to our lives, I’m still bitter about what happened. I’m bitter at the people who put this poor dog in the position that she was in. I’m bitter about dog fighting. I’m bitter about people who train dogs for fighting. I’m bitter about people who have anything to do with dog fighting. I’m bitter about watching each of my kids break down sobbing when they walked in the house after school and I had to tell them that our dog was put to sleep.
I just wish that these Michael Vick-types could be forced to watch the aftermath of what happens in the lives of the dogs that they create, abuse, and then discard like some crumpled up McDonalds bag.

Rest in peace, Pearlie. We all still miss your slobbery kisses.




Thanks for the good wishes.
Several people have asked and e-mailed about how our other dog fared.
He required a couple of hours of surgery, but is hopefully going to be OK. His eye will be permanently scarred. We hope that it won’t affect his vision. Even he misses Pearlie. He walks around  the house whining sometimes and often goes and sits in the corner where Pearlie once sat to look out the window.



  1. That is incredibly sad. I’m sorry for your loss, and I wish you all the best. There’s nothing else you could have done.

  2. What a horrible experience for all of you. It just breaks your heart. Thank God you were home when it happened. I feel for you all.

  3. GuitargirlRN on

    Oh my god. How awful. As the owner of many past rescue dogs (and someone who is currently looking to add a second dog), this is a frightening story. Our dogs used to fight occasionally if one tried to steal the other’s toy or bone, but it would break up quickly with a loud “HEY!” from me or my husband, and no one ever got hurt. What a horrifying tale. Thank goodness you and your family are ok–I’ve seen so many bad injuries from people who tried to break up dog fights. I hope your visla is ok. So sad. Poor Pearlie.

  4. Oh, how my heart breaks for all of you. You did the right thing, but that doesn’t make it easier at all.

  5. I’m so sorry for you and your family, it’s so very sad. I’m bawling right now because I had to surrender a rescue that bit me and my other dog; years ago, still feel badly. I’m sure Pearl enjoyed every second she had with your family.

  6. I’m so sorry for you, your family, and both dogs. As a pet owner, I fully agree that they are family and can’t imagine how much it must hurt to go through this.

  7. I am so very sorry for your family’s loss. To choose a good friend’s death because their quality of life is gone due to health or age is hard enough. I cannot imagine being forced to make that decision in anger, sadness, and fear for the sake of the rest of my family. Thank you for being the one to give Pearlie a chance at happiness, and showing her that life can be good. <3

  8. I’m sorry, buddy. Very sorry. Wishing the best for your family, your children, and your other dog. My heart is beating out of my chest right now after reading your post…

  9. That sucks. I’ve been there; when I was a kid, we had a dog, a nice Great Dane/Rottweiler cross. He was naturally very protective and a bit of a roughouser, but then a neighbourhood waste-of-oxygen decided it would be fun to tease the dog, and to play chicken with my sister and I whenever we went on walks with the dog.

    Over the next few months, the dog gradually got meaner. He was always very gentle with family members, but he got nasty to others. He tried to bite the aforementioned waste-of-space one day, and Dad got worried that he might try to bite boys that look like waste-of-space. He had the dog put down.

  10. I am so sorry for your loss. I wish that Pearlie had been treated better in the past. I hope that your Vizla is going to be ok.

  11. What a traumatic and sad event for all of you. At least you all gave Pearlie a loving home and she surely loved that. She was given a gift of love in her challenged life. I feel for all of you and agree they are family members. Maybe in time …you can get the kids involved in picking out a new puppy/dog so they can have the excitement of getting to know and love another animal and create some new memories. It’s fun to look on line, although I went to a shelter in which they are put down after a few weeks.

    We adopted a dog from the local pound last November and she wags her tail and entire backside so hard that I am surprised she doesn’t have lift off.

    How is your other dog?

    {{{WhiteCoat family}}}

  12. We had a similar experience with a cocker spaniel a few years ago. She bit several people completely unprovoked (myself, a vet tech, and finally a neighbor’s child) and after she bit the little girl we had no choice but to put her down. 99.9% of the time she was sweet as could be, but that .1%, especially with children around… Obviously she had to go. So sad, though.

    I’m sorry for your loss. I adore dogs and they really are members of the family. It’s tough to let them go, even when you know it’s the only option.

  13. My behavior teacher at vet school spent some time one class talking about this. It’s the reason that so many guard dogs are “retired” to their handlers, and why animals with a history of behavior problems that undergo behavior modification need follow-up visits even after the problem behavior has been corrected. Just like for people, animals have triggers that can’t always be predicted or understood.

    It was heroic of you to intervene the way you did, and I’m truly glad you didn’t get injured, but DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN! Many dogs, once in a fighting frenzy, are not going to bother differentiating between whatever set them off and whatever is trying to get them to stop. Sometimes dumping water or vinegar on the fight can break it up, but you basically want to get the wife and kids to safety and do whatever hands-off intervention you can.

  14. I’m so sorry, Whitecoat family.

    We all know that you made the right decision. I hope the Viszla makes a full and swift recovery.

    Re what Essay says – I recognise the sentiment of not intervening in a fight like that but what on earth DO you do when something so awful is happening? Get the kids out of there, certainly… but what then? Can’t see animal control/cops getting there fast enough to help the other dog out.

  15. Kathleen Wade on

    So very sorry for all involved. What an awful, awful situation.

    ((((((((((Whitecoat Family))))))))))

  16. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know what it can be like. My mom put down a dog that I was really close to after he lunged at someone that was looking for directions. Luckily nothing happened, but my mother wouldn’t take any chances.

    Essay is right. You don’t want to break up a dog fight. I would be concerned about you getting mauled accidentally by Pearlie. Dogs often don’t distinguish between other dogs and humans when they are fighting and could turn on you to protect themselves because they feel double-teamed. It really could have ended worse for you, and I’m glad it didn’t.

    You and your family is in my prayers, and I pray that you will find the perfect dog for you. There are so many other dogs in the pounds. Maybe consider taking your Viszla along to see how it gets along with the other dog(s) you are interested in before taking one home. It might help know if this will happen again.

  17. What a heartbreaking story. It also made me angry–at anyone involved with dog fighting. I’m happy that everyone in your family is ok and at least Pearlie had a few months of knowing what a loving family was. {{{Whitecoat family}}}

  18. I”m so sorry you lost Pearlie and am glad Viszla will be ok. I feel just as bitter toward the jerks who plan and witness dogfighting. I don’t understand how humans could take pleasure in something so terrible and mean.

  19. Airedalelover on

    I’d like to add my sympathy to your family and your dog. As others have noted, this is such a tragic situation. Please let the folks who placed this dog with your family know what happened. When you are ready for another dog, please consider contacting a pure breed rescue organization. These dogs generally live in foster families with other dogs, kids, and can be evaluated for temperament over time. Some shelters also have foster programs and you should seek them out. You can even sign up to foster a dog to see how it works out and then adopt if it is a good match. Our rescue program has had to euthanize foster dogs from time to time because of temperament issues and we cry over each of these wishing our love and care could have had a different outcome.

  20. Thank you for sharing this difficult story. My husband and I have rescued 2 boxers and have seen glimpses of that aggression that seemingly comes out of nowhere. However, we have felt good to have given them a loving home, however brief. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  21. Wow! Scary that must have been. I am just glad that it wasn’t you or one of your family members in the grip of those jaws! I have one older collie and he has never been abused as far as I know. We found him running in a rainstorm about 3 years ago. Even if the dog went bad, you will still miss it for a long time.

  22. I am so, so sorry for all of you. Thanks for calling Pearlie a family member. She can’t help what she was. Thank you for taking a chance on her.

    I’m with you about the dog fighting, and cock fighting and any other form of animal abuse. You are a force for good in a world that contains too much evil.

  23. I am sorry for your loss and the horrible situation that caused it.

    Run free, Pearlie. Heal soon, sir Visla.

  24. As has been expressed so many times here, I am deeply sorry for this event that has traumatized your family. I am glad no one was physically injured, and pray the wounds of the heart will heal well.

  25. Sorry for the loss whitecoat. We had a mix breed pound dog that bit my son on the face years ago (thankfully no lasting damage besides a couple small scars). For years I put my foot down about another dog until the children became old enough to protect themselves. I finally allowed it to happen but insisted on a breed that almost never bites (though every dog can bite obviously when provoked). Sadly we had to go through a breeder. I have always had pound dogs up until now. But when it comes to my children I didn’t think going the pound route again was the way to go. Sadly, a lot of the pound animals have been abused at one time or another and you just don’t know what you are getting. Frankly, if it were up to me Mike Vick would still be in jail and he would NEVER be allowed to play football again. But in this society we put athletes and movie stars on pedastals such that they get passes on things the rest of us would not. Look at Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen, Ben Rothlisberger, etc, etc. Any team Mike Vick is on is a team I root against.

  26. Cathie from Canada on

    When one of our dogs died young, my dog-trainer sister told me a very comforting thing: dogs don’t know how long they live, they only know how well they live. Your family gave Pearlie three months of living well, and this was time she wouldn’t have had without you. Condolences to all of you.

  27. Vizsla lover on

    Vizslas are my breed of dog, I absolutely love them.. When I read your story, I saw some danger signs that while they won’t help you now, it can help you in the future. First of all, the people who adopted out Pearlie should never have adopted her into a home with another animal. There are subtle signs that dogs show when they aren’t entirely comfortable with another animal, and the shelter either didn’t do the right tests or they missed them. Your V-mix was giving some big signs that he was not entirely comfortable with the boxer.

    One of my own Vs was attacked, two weekends in a row, by different dogs. All three were boxers. The attacks changed him permanently. Your dog may now approach other dogs on the defensive, ready to attack if the other dogs show any signs of it (just coming across dominantly can do it). Once your dog heals up, there is training you can do to either prevent your dog from doing that or making it so that you can control your dog’s response in that situation.

    When and if you’re ready, and you want a certain breed, like someone else said definitely go to all breed rescue. Definitely get a dog that has spent time in a foster home, vs one that has only been in a shelter with minimal socialization and behavior testing. There are tons of Vizslas in rescue, you can email me and I can hook you up!

    Just know that what happened was not your fault. And know that they still haven’t come up with a good way to break up a dog fight.

  28. I do understand why some people are recommending getting a dog from a foster home vs a local dog pound, but admittedly also saddens me.

    This is because except for our German Shepherd,Bob …our dogs seemed to have found us.

    Even though we did not get our first and third dog from the pound …they very easily could’ve been placed in one, but instead we got them through other people. The first one was am older border collie with Indiana dog tags found wondering here in NJ. She was one of the best dogs we ever had. (I say that about all of them:) We were her last chance before the pound.

    the third one was being abused by some neighbors and we ended up taking her in. She could’ve been in the pound.

    I am certain that there can be really good dogs that would be grateful for a good home that would be put down after a few weeks because they have to make room for new dogs.

    If only there could be a trial period if any doubt.

    We adopted our 5th (current) dog ..a shepherd mix from the pound last November and oh boy does she have some bad habits that we are still working with her on. But, she is a love ..a most endearing dog that had been found wandering in a local state park.

    Maybe I am wrong, but I just hate to see those poor pound animals discounted because they will be put down, whereas the no kill shelters and foster homes keep them until adopted out.

    Off topic, but this bothers me. When we went up to check out the dogs in the shelter, there was one that could not be adopted out because it was a wolf dog mix. It did not have a good temperament. It was owned by a guy who lived out in the woods. This wolf dog mix was BEAUTIFUL! But …I would be so afraid to risk which traits would show up in the dog and God forbid it hurt someone.

    Oh and the dog fighting or any other kind of animal fighting is disgusting and so cruel.

  29. Vizsla lover on

    Sea Spray: The Vizsla rescue groups are constantly pulling Vizslas from the pound. This is actually a good thing. We can place the dogs in homes that know or are made aware of just how high energy they are, which helps prevent them from being dumped again in a pound when the owner can’t handle it. It also opens up space for other dogs so they don’t have to be immediately euthanized. Many shelters and pounds can not afford expensive treatment for the animals, and we routinely pull Vizslas that need surgery or long term heartworm treatment. We also have shut down puppy millers and fostered the animals that we’ve taken from them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in getting a dog from a foster home, a lot of animal shelters foster out their dogs as well. It’s not like those dogs are not in need of permanent homes. And some of the Vizsla rescues take in Vizsla mixes, they have the means to do so. So, in short, you’re still helping dogs in shelters and pounds by adopting a fostered dog.

  30. My condolences to you and all your family. What a sad situation!

    As someone who always adopts from a shelter or takes in strays, I salute your efforts on Pearlie’s behalf. At least you gave her a chance for a loving home. Bless you for that.

  31. I am so, so, sorry. What a horrific event. I hope Viszla gets well soon and you and the family recover. You didn’t have any choice–and I know it hurts.

  32. Fuzzy_Lugnutz on

    This was horrific for you to have woken up to. I am a hardcore animal lover & live too close to Camden, NJ where there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of dog fighting rings. These sub-human savages who go enjoy these sort of things & use them to bilk lots of drug money from dealers when they place bets not only come looking in the suburbs for small or complacent dogs for use as “trainers” for their highly abused & neglected (except for beatings) fighting dogs, but they will snatch up cats & kittens too, to FEED to the dogs. I believe that these sorts revoked their right to be called human/people & should be euthanized too. I had a similar experience with a “rescue” Doberman Pinscher, Sparky, however, it was not our goofy Lab-Shepherd mix that was attacked, it was me, when I went to give him a bowl of food. My husband had to get a baseball bat & club that dog like a kook to get him to let go & before the dog had time to react, he picked him up & threw him into our yard, then called Animal Control. I bawled as I was being stitched up & poked with a rabies injection, feeling bad because I knew Sparky would be euthanized & then be subjected to a rabies test, for the faint at heart, I’ll spare the details of how that is done. I applaud those who work with rescuing & rehabbing abused dogs, but I have seen & heard too many stories of them turning to keep me far from taking another into our home. We even lost our 15 yr. old, good girl Cookie on the last day of January & we’re thinking of actually buying a puppy to avoid it turning on us or our cats & birds. You did your best & gave Pearlie an awesome, love filled life with your family & as you pointed out, it’s those Vick-like slimeballs who are to blame & I honestly believe that they are also too fouled up to continue living & should be put down, but maybe not as nicely & humanely as we do with those dogs. I could go on, but I think my point was made & I do not wish to be redundant in my violent thoughts. I send you, your family & Vizsla the best to heal & remember happy times with Pearlie.

  33. Oh man, I just came across this post. I just want to say that I’m really sorry for your loss, and that her life had to end that way. 🙁 What a traumatic experience.

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