Those of you who follow me are probably pretty shocked that I have to write Leelu’s memorial today. Everything happened pretty quickly, and we haven’t even adjusted fully to the fact that we had to let her go today.

Leelu was with us almost eight months, arriving as a foster dog. She was terrified when she first arrived, and wasn’t about to let anyone touch her. She was air snapping at everyone, growling, baring her teeth…every warning sign she could come up with. She had a kennel lead on, which isn’t the most secure option in open territory, but getting a harness and leash on her wasn’t a remote possibility. We didn’t know it at the time, but Leelu was showing us who she was, and it would not be the last time we saw those behaviors. These warning behaviors of hers came to be known as Leelu’s Episodes.

Because we couldn’t get a regular harness and leash on her, I had to go with the kennel lead for awhile and Leelu, spooked by Gracie’s over-exuberant greeting, slipped the kennel lead and took off down the street only an hour or so after getting home. Because you can’t outrun a dog I sat down on the sidewalk and called her to come, and thank heavens, she did just that. From that moment on, I was her person. She growled at Marley for the first 6 or 7 weeks she was here, and was scared of everything under the sun, except me. She was still a little worried about me, but decided I was the most trustworthy element of her new home.

Leelu was good with the animals on our home, even the cats until Gracie taught her the fun game of chasing cats. Leelu quickly learned about one of our cats who has no qualms about correcting a dog that thinks she can chase that particular cat. Hiro doesn’t take crap from anyone, not even the dogs.

Leelu’s behavior adventures continued, and we experienced Episodes at pretty regular intervals. It usually took her about two days to recover from one of them, and you had to give her lots of space while she was recovering. I was convinced she was in pain, but she would never show any signs of it when at the various vet offices. She needed a dental and we discovered that she had a broken tooth and an exposed root, and I hoped, at the time, that her pain issues had been addressed.

Leelu enjoyed a Nose Work class, and it did a lot to boost her confidence, as Nose Work tends to do. She came with some solid obedience skills – sit, down, loose leash walking. It was only as I got to know her better that I became convinced that she had been trained using some pretty heavy-duty aversives (e..g. punishments). She was terrified of hands, and especially hands that held something – anything. Getting her harness and leash on was always a challenge and she would cower, look at you fearfully, and lick her lips – all signs of stress. There were long periods where I just left the leash and harness on and let her drag the leash rather than risk a bite from her.

She only bit once, however, and it was because someone tried to hug her, and I’m not gonna blame her on that one. The majority of dogs don’t like to be hugged, sometimes even by people they love, and it was way too much for Leelu. I wasn’t home when it happened, and it wasn’t a serious bite. Leelu had a stellar warning system and aside from that one time, she never struck/bit. If you paid attention (and it was really hard not too – she was downright scary when she warned) she would slink off into someplace safe – her bed in my office eventually – and recover until she felt better.

It was not all tough times with Leelu, though you never knew when her warning system would trigger. We had lots of nice walks with all three dogs at state parks and other places. And though she slept in the office -she snored something fierce – she would let out a single bark around 5 am, and I would let her come cuddle with us for an hour or so before getting up. Those cuddle times are when she finally got comfortable with Marley, and she would literally step on him while he lay in bed, and demand ask for pets. Eventually she even got comfortable enough to sit next to Marley on the couch, and even climb on his lap toward the end.

In early January, about 6 months after we got her (and we ended up adopting her a few months in because I didn’t see her as an adoptable dog with all her behavioral concerns) Leelu wouldn’t put any weight on her back left leg and the pain launched a major Episode – the scariest of the bunch. We had to get her to the vet, but couldn’t get anywhere near her. Marley came up with the idea of putting Bodhi’s elizabethan collar (from his eye surgery) over Leelu’s head and I put on my feral cat gloves and got a leash on her. The vet was able to get a muzzle on her and examine her, and even though her Adrenalin had kicked in by then and she wasn’t showing pain signs, we did x-rays (I was still convinced this dog had pain issues) and found an ACL injury plus a spinal problem. Leelu wasn’t a candidate for ACL surgery, or even a brace, because she goes way over threshold for any pain, and she won’t let people touch her often. Pretty hard to recover a dog with those issues. We put her on an anti-inflammatory which worked pretty well for awhile. The vet also gave us a sedative to use when Leelu was over-threshold or headed for a scary situation (like a vet visit.)

We also started working with a truly remarkable certified behavioral expert not long after that episode, and another that followed the week after. With K’s help I learned all sorts of exercises and practices that truly helped Leelu. We were making progress with her hand-shyness, and helping her un-attach from Gracie as her mentor dog. For many months Leelu wouldn’t walk without Gracie, and I had Leelu walking with me alone finally. Leelu also learned about wearing a muzzle and that it wasn’t a punishment or a horrible thing. We even had a safety protocol which involved using Bodhi’s e-collar if Leelu had an episode and we needed safe access to her, and we trained Leelu to be comfortable with that. The result of which was a Leelu who finally seemed to understand that she was loved and she got much more affectionate with us. She was still a little scared each time I started a training session – she would cower, look scared, and lick her lips – but a minute of fun stuff before training helped her understand that training would never involve pain or punishment in this house.

The biggest challenge recently is around resource-guarding, and unfortunately, I was the #1 resource she needed to guard. She would try to get between me and Gracie, and when a small piece of food dropped Sunday night while I was doing dinner prep, Leelu actually attacked Gracie. Luckily it lasted about two seconds – I put my chopping board between the two dogs (with onion pieces flying everywhere!) and quickly scooped up Gracie and put her on the other side of a gate. Aside from it being scary, no physical harm was done, just a lot of trauma for all, and especially Gracie. We were working on the resource guarding, but there was a lot more work to do.

K and I talked about what the best possible outcome could be for Leelu, and her honest answer was that with medication, behavior modification, and management of Leelu’s issues and actions in the house, we could get episodes down to perhaps one every 4-6 months instead of 4-6 weeks. And taking a vacation wouldn’t be an option – Leelu couldn’t ever board anyplace or tolerate people coming into our home to care for her. It was sobering, but didn’t require a decision on the spot.

What we wold never be able to manage, however, was a medical issue, and that, unfortunately, forced us into decision mode Monday. Leelu had been having some trouble with the ACL for a few days, and it blew up on her Monday evening. She couldn’t walk, she was in pain, and a Leelu in pain is a fairly dangerous dog. The vet’s sedatives were given quickly in a nice dog food meatball, but the fact that the ACL was only going to continue to get worse, and that we couldn’t control the pain anymore, forced us to make the final vet visit for today.

I was incredibly grateful that muzzle training allowed Leelu to be be as comfortable as possible at her final vet visit. She had been so terrified there before, but she was relatively calm. It didn’t hurt that we were feeding her a steady stream of peanut butter treat through the muzzle.(And for those of you who know dogs, the fact that she was willing to eat the treat is a good indication that her stress levels were not over the top.) It is never my favorite thing to euthanize an animal, but it is fair kinder than allowing one to suffer endlessly. I have a feeling Leelu had enough suffering in this life before she came to us. I am grateful especially for the last six weeks or so when I think she finally came to know she was well-loved and started to return the affection. We would never have been able to fix all of Leelu’s challenges, but if she passed on finally knowing she was loved, we did something wonderful for her.

RIP sweet Leelu. You were a challenging pup, but I learned a lot from you, and you will be missed. I hope life across the Rainbow Bridge is nothing but good stuff for you. You deserve the best.

51 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Leelu

  1. I’m so sorry to hear of Leelu’s passing. At least she had your loving household for these past months and now she will be in no more pain.

  2. Oh my gosh, Debra, I’m so very sorry! I’m sitting here fighting back tears. I know all too well the heartache of having to make that decision. But it was the most loving one you could make for poor Leelu. I’m sure she left this world knowing she was cared for and about by loving humans who wanted only the best for her. And I’m sure she’s happily and painlessly wagging her tail at all of you from her place at the Rainbow Bridge, thanking you for all you did to help her.

    RIP sweet Leelu. As Debra said, you deserve it.

    1. I hope she’s having a good time over the bridge finally. I love the image of her running free and painless.

  3. I am still crying for this sweet dog. Debra, my heart goes out to you. You did so much for Leelu to make her life better. She knew you loved her. Some things are beyond our control, and you did the right thing for her, letting her pass peacefully and painlessly. May she rest in love.

    1. She did have her secrets. I suspect she wasn’t kindly treated, which makes me both sad and angry.

  4. I’m so sorry. She was a lucky dog to finally get you in her life. You were probably the best thing that has ever happened to her.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I hope we gave her something good at the end of her days. She was a sweet dog in so many ways.

  5. I’m so sorry. She was a lucky dog to finally get you in her life. You were probably the best thing that has ever happened to her.

  6. I was surprised to read the title of this post, but after reading what you were facing, it was clearly something that had to be done. You gave her the best possible treatment these last months and what a gift that must have been to her. It is never easy to euthanize, but I expect she was at her proper end. RIP little Leelu. ❤

    1. Thanks, Eliza. Leelu’s pain made the decision for us, otherwise it would have been exponentially harder. We will miss her.

  7. I am so sorry. She was lucky to have found you and Marley, to have known love, and to have left this earth peacefully. These were your gifts to a dog who would not have stood a chance without you.

    1. Thanks, Audrey, for the kind words, and also the wise support as we worked with Leelu over the month. Folks who do rescue know how hard it is to help and make decisions at times, but I’m glad she didn’t die alone 8 months ago in a high kill shelter in West Virginia.

  8. I am so saddened to hear this. May the lovely doggo and you find each other some other time (if this is the right expression – new to pet after life…), have a fantastic walk or two together.

  9. I had a lump in my throat as soon as I saw this post title. You had us all loving Leelu and pulling for her. I hope she has found comfort. Rest in peace, sweet girl.

  10. Oh Deb, I am so sorry. At least LeeLu can now Rest In Peace. It is so caring to be able to help animals like that.

  11. We are so sorry about Leelu – after all the work and love you and all the human helpers – and Gracie – put in to help her it must hurt tremendously. It’s too bad we can’t truly communicate and explain why sometimes they must do things “our way.” She is free once again. You all did the best you could for her., but some damage occurred before you had any chance to intervene.

    1. Yes, she certainly came to us damaged. Hopefully she left us a little bit better than when she arrived/

  12. Oh Debra- such a difficult post for you to write. You took her in your house and heart and she could not have landed in a better place. I really do not have any fear of passing- it’s going to be such a party to see all the animals who were part of our lives here. You do know: “All dogs go to heaven.” (and I guess I’m being presumptuous that I’ll be there too. 😉 )
    Holding you, Marley and the entire household close tonight.

    1. Thank you, Connie. It was a rough day, and we will miss Leelu. And hope to see her again someday with some of our other wonderful dogs who came before her.

  13. I’m so sad to hear this but I know what a difficult journey it was for all of you including the vets and everyone who knew her to deal with Leelu’s multiple issues. She was a pup who had significant problems which you all did your best to help her overcome. No doubt her time with you was the BEST of times for her and that was a special gift you gave her that many would not have had the patience to do. Nobody likes to have to make “that decision” in the end but the kindest thing is often the most difficult thing. Sending you hugs – it’s ever so hard I know.

    Love, Pam

    1. It is hard, thank you. We really missed her 5 am bark/command to come cuddle for an hour this morning. It was the right decision, but we are sad.

  14. So sad but she had you and your husband at the end and she was loved and respected during her time with you. I am so happy she had you. Had someone that was understanding and knew of her problems and worked with and for her. She is at peace and sometimes, often times that is the best most loving thing that we can give them.

    1. Thank you. We take comfort in knowing that we gave her the best we could, and probably better than she had before she joined us. We will miss her.

  15. I am so sad for you and no doubt she knew the endless efforts you put in to making her life worth living. Sending strength. (Hi Bohdi)

    1. Thanks, Sue. And Bodhi is doing so well. He’s getting to be a senior dog at almost nine years old, but still a wonderful, happy boy. Thank you for fostering him many years ago, and getting him to us.

  16. This just breaks my heart to hear-poor Leelu. She fought the good fight but alas it must have been too large to bear indefinitely. So very sorry for your loss. May the tender memories provide a measure of comfort as you grieve her loss. Sending oodles of poodles of comforting thoughts your way with ear scritches for Gracie. 💔

    1. Thank you. It was so hard not to hear Leelu’s 5 am command bark for cuddle time this morning. Tough days, which I’m sure you know about!

  17. With all the challenges she brought, Leelu was finally able to understand love both given and received Even though we as guardians to our special angel 😇 that wonder into our life have a difficult decision when it comes time to let them go We want to have them with us but sometimes it is in the best interest to let them move onto a better place without the pain and suffering Grieve and give yourself some time Blessings on you and your family

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