Another Gus 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Glenn was waiting in the exam room with his new pup, an 8-week-old border collie.

“Where did you get his guy,” I asked.

“A friend in Eugene had a litter of eleven pups, and he couldn’t get rid of this last one,” Glenn said. “Since the old dog died, I figured I could use a new dog. I call him Gus.”

“Well, let’s get a look at Gus,” I said as I started an exam. “Then we will get him started on his vaccines.”

“What do you think of Border Collies?” Glenn asked.

“They are great dogs, probably one of the smartest of all the dogs,” I said. “They are working dogs, however. They need something to do, or they sort of go crazy.”

“He has plenty of room but probably no specific job,” Glenn said. “We don’t have any other animals.”


After his initial vaccinations, I didn’t see Gus for a couple of years. Then one morning, Glenn called.

“Doc, Gus has a broken leg. Can I bring him down?” Glenn asked.

Gus had a broken tibia, the lower leg bone on his rear leg. Tibia fractures were always a joy because they were easy to repair. If there were money problems, they could be fixed with a splint, and you could expect good results. We repaired the fracture on Gus with a steel pin in the bone.

Gus was fine to work on. We got him under anesthesia, took a couple of x-rays, and prepped his leg for surgery. Gus had a simple fracture, and I made in small incision over the fracture site, placed an IM pin in the bone starting at the knee joint, and pushed it down to the fracture site. With the pin in view at the incision, I threaded it into the distal bone fragment and seated the pin. The reduction of the fracture was almost perfect. I closed the incision at the fracture site and cut the pin at the knee after bending it slightly so it would not interfere with the joint function. 

Gus woke up and was bearing weight on the fractured leg.

“What do I need to do with him now?” Glenn asked.

“Not much,” I said. “I think that by the time we get his sutures out in two weeks, he will be walking on that leg like nothing ever happened. At six weeks, we will plan to take that pin out.”

When Gus was in for his pin removal, he was walking normally. He proved a little tricky to handle then, but I didn’t think much of it. We sedated him, took an x-ray to make sure the bone was healed and removed the pin. That would prove to be the last time that I actually was able to handle Gus.


Two years later, Gus came to the clinic for his vaccinations. He was not happy, and to say we had a struggle would be an understatement.

Small dogs often bite out of fear or anxiety, and those bites are usually unannounced. Large dogs tell you they are going to take your arm off, and over the years, I have learned that you had better believe them.

Gus was no exception. Glenn had to restrain him from the moment I stepped into the exam room. I think he was thinking of a leg rather than an arm.

Glenn couldn’t get a muzzle on Gus, and we finally tied him short to the exam table, and I was able to get a rabies vaccine into him.

“That will keep him legal. Let’s call it a day,” I said

“I tell you, Doc, he is not like this at home,” Glenn said. “Of course, he is not around other people much.”

“He may just associate this place with his broken leg,” I said. “I seldom get credit for helping these guys.”

“When we do this again, maybe we should do it at the house,” Glenn said.

“Yes, that might be better,” I said. “I will make sure we mark his record.”

And mark his record we did. Sandy had large caution marks all over his chart so nobody would be taken by surprise when working with Gus.


It was three years later before I saw Gus again. Gus was even worse at the house than he was at the clinic. He was displaying some severe aggression now, to heck with an arm or a leg. Gus was going for the jugular now. Glenn finally tied him to a tree in the backyard, and I was able to get a rabies vaccine into him. 

“I don’t know, Glenn,” I said. “Gus has some real problems. This isn’t just a dislike of me. I think he has some real aggression issues, and he is probably a liability for you.”

“Yes, we know,” Glenn said. “He is aggressive to almost everyone now. We must be careful to have him in his kennel when we have anybody visiting.”

Getting a rabies vaccine into Gus every three years became a herculean struggle. The older he got, the worse the battle. Gus had become the stereotypical junkyard dog.


And then it happened. Glenn and his wife went on an extended vacation, and their son was in charge of caring for Gus. In no time, Gus escaped from his kennel. He was at large for some time before a young couple found him and somehow read his rabies tag. They brought him to our clinic.

“You seem to know this dog without even checking his rabies tag,” the young man said.

“Oh, yes, I know Gus by sight,” I said. “In fact, I am surprised you still possess your right hand.”

“I told you that I didn’t think he was a dog we could trust,” the young lady said, looking at her husband.

“I’ll take Gus and get him into a kennel, and we will make sure he gets home,” I said. “And thank you for bringing him in to see us.”

I grabbed the leash and literally ran Gus into the back. Terri had a gate open to a run, and I had Gus in the run before he knew what had happened.

“Do those two know that this dog is mean?” Terri asked.

“The gal suspected it,” I said. “Gus must have known that he needed help, or he would have taken the kid’s hand off.”

Glenn’s son came by and picked up Gus. He seemed at ease with him and had no problem getting him out of the dog run and into his truck.

Two days later, the whole thing was repeated. This time another young man brought Gus into the clinic. I couldn’t believe it when he petted Gus after placing him in the kennel.

We called Glenn’s son a second time, and he was prompt in picking up Gus.

“They’re due home this evening,” he said. “None too soon. I have a hard time keeping track of this old dog.”

“When are your folks going to be home?” I asked.


I wish I could say that was the end of the story. But in those escapes that Gus enjoyed, he found a Black Labrador in heat. And a couple of months later, there was a litter of pups.

We saw the litter for vaccinations when they were six weeks old. You had no problems believing that their father was Gus. These pups were biters from the start. They were perfect examples of the inheritability of behavior. 

The pups were all adopted out to new owners. We heard that most of them were never able to be trained, and most were given to the humane society. We saw two of those pups. One for only a visit or two before the new owner gave up on trying to make him a trainable pup. 

The other was owned by a lady who worked hard with the pup, and she could make him behave pretty well for several years. But like his father, his behavior worsened as he aged, and in the end, that last pup was given up on by a sad owner.

Photo by Julissa Helmuth on Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

2 thoughts on “Another Gus 

  1. It is a good story, but what happened to Gus in the end? Did he die of old age, or did he finally get euthanized because of his behavior? It sounds like neutering him might not have changed his aggression much as his pups were biters from the start, but would it have helped any? I hope that was the last litter of pups he sired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, you are pointing out the weak points in the story. That is a good thing. With Sandy’s care, my writing is barely keeping up with my schedule. I finished this story about 10:00 last night.
      Gus lived out his years at home. He did not mellow with age. Neutering eliminates sexually based aggression, it does little for other forms of aggression.
      To my knowledge, Gus only sired to one litter.
      I think that some border collies go nuts when they are stuck in an apartment or house with nothing to do. But I think Gus had some inherited behavior defect.

      Liked by 2 people

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