Harley – Gone, But Never Forgotten

I remember the first day I met him in November of 2002. Nick and I sat at his foster mom’s kitchen table when he padded into the room, a stunning red Doberman with tail and ears intact. He bee-lined towards us, and after a good sniff, leaned heavily against our legs.

While Nick began stroking his neck, I held back – afraid.

Observing my hesitancy, his foster mom walked over to her charge and slapped his marred side. “It’s okay, you can touch it. It’s all scar tissue now.”

I cautiously reached out to run my hand over the pink, saddle shaped marking on his side, taken aback by the odd sensation of the scarred, hairless flesh under my fingers. I swallowed back my grief, appalled at humans’ capacity for cruelty.

Harley had been set on fire.

When we agreed to adopt him that day, we assumed we could offer him a perfect home and help him overcome his brutal past.

Instead, we inadvertently made him worse.

We gave him all the attention he could desire, until he could not bear the thought of being apart from us, wailing and destroying things in our absence.

We fed him table scraps and ice cream and then tried to fix the subsequent sickness by feeding him a prescription diet that consisted of peanut husks, because a veterinarian said it was ‘healthy.’

We foolishly followed a dog trainer’s appalling advice to ‘cure’ his dominance issues and dog aggression, even when our hearts told us it was wrong.

Her advice made him worse.

Each mistake was eventually set right, but not until his time here had nearly concluded. Harley died tragically in November of 2003, and although I believe he found peace before he left, he never fully lived.

Etched into my psyche, Harley’s lessons dictate every decision I make with my subsequent dogs, and are woven into every word that I write.

If you’d like to read a mini-memoir about my experiences with Harley, you can do so by clicking HERE.


3 Responses so far.

  1. I can only imagine how what you went through with Harley must have scared you. I had a beautiful Black Doberman named John Henry that when I started him in training they used the same awful methods, this was YEARS ago. I couldn’t do it and felt like I was the failure. We know now THEY were the failures. I’m very sorry for your early loss of Harley but I promise you he knew you loved him and were doing the VERY best you could at the time with the knowledge that you had.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Diane…in the end, he TAUGHT US so much about dogs, and what not to do, and regardless of the mistakes we made with him, we did always believe we were doing the right thing for him. I’m glad you weren’t able to do what the trainers asked you to do, instead of being a failure, you were undoubtedly John Henry’s Hero. :-)

  2. Bre Sandoval (Odie) says:

    We had a trainer as well that needless to say, we didn’t go back to. I was livid. But we have lost three of our dear friends, Willie (Yum Yums or Yummers) our cocker spaniel, sick at age 9 two years after stroke, Jake rottweiler, 7 cancer, he was Willie’s best friend, it took him over a year to recover Willie’s passing. And Leo a Rottweiler that was sooooo gentle and lovd stuffed animals. He had over 30 and knew everyone by what it was! We still have a few we couldn’t part with. Lost him to cancer at the early age of 5. Both Jake and Leo to cancers, Jake, had bone, and Leo had lymphoma. Now we have a rot named Cooper who just turned 5. He has already had both his knees (blown them out like Leo did both of his too)fixed and is back up and running. We love him, he is the wild child. never had one so rebellious, but that’s what makes him Super Coop!

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