In Peppy’s Death, a Lesson for Potential Pet Adopters

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Aug. 3, 2012

There are many ways in which Alan and Angela Carrigan’s life was touched by Peppy, a miniature pinscher the couple adopted from Vancouver dog pound.

He brought them joy, confusion, and finally anxiety and fear for their safety.

Peppy was aggressive when the Carrigans adopted him. In three years, the aggression increased to the point where he ate his own paw, and had to be put down.

Angela Carrigan is still feeling her way through guilt and a loneliness that comes with the decision to put down a pet that is part of the family.

Photos of Peppy staring innocently at the camera adorn the wall and fridge of the Carrigan home. Conjoined with the picture is a poem Angela found on the web, a mournful dirge that expresses a hope to meet again. 

Peppy’s story, Angela Carrigan says, is instructive for those who might be thinking of adopting a pet.  

When Alan and Angela moved to Squamish, they decided to get a dog.

An online search revealed a number of pets waiting to be adopted at the Vancouver dog pound.

They were warned at the very outset that the dog they were adopting could be aggressive towards people, especially males. The dog pound believes Peppy was abused.

Angela, who grew up on a farm in Alberta surrounded by animals, was comfortable with bringing Peppy home.

“He seemed fine to us,” she said.

For a while, he was their ‘little buddy’, but soon his aggression surfaced.

Peppy was territorial, unpredictable, and hostile to visitors.

He adjust to a life with the Carrigans, but he was aggressive with visitores, lunging at guests, and even biting one of the family friends.

The Carrigans stopped taking him out for walks. They even stopped inviting people over.

“We didn’t even realise our life had changed so much,” Angela says. 

They were advised by friends and families to put him down, but the Carrigans loved Peppy too much to let him go.

They read books, watched Cesar Milan, and browsed through the web to find a solution to his aggression.

Angela said they enquired after a personal trainer, but realised they couldn’t afford one.

One day, Peppy bit Angela on the eye, and they had to rush to Vancouver, where the doctor said she could have lost her eye.

“I thought this is it, I’m getting rid of the dog, but when I came back and looked at him, I couldn’t…” Angela said, her voice trailing off.

She contacted Valley Calderoni from Canine Valley Re-education and Adventure Centre (CVRAC), who tried to help the dog becalm itself, but it was too late.

One day, Peppy injured himself on the paw. Angela discovered to her horror later that he was eating his own paw.

“He had ripped his whole paw off, he was trying to get rid of the pain,” Angela said, tears streaming down her face as the scene replayed in her mind.

Two weeks ago, he was put down.

This tragedy could have been avoided if knowledge and support had been provided for the adopter, said Valley Calderoni.

“Angela and Peppy both suffered unnecessary,” said Calderoni.

If and when they get a new dog, Angela Carrigan says she will ensure she understand the dog, and any underlying issues the pet might have.

“That is a suggestion to those who want to adopt pets, do you research and meet a trainer early if there are problems,” she said.



  1. MichaelL65 says:

    What a heartbreaking story. Just by reading it, it does seem that this poor dog suffered abuse at the hands of someone. I simply cannot understand how someone can abuse an animal that relies on its owner for everything and provides such love in return. I hope Angela is not soured on using a rescue shelter. There are many wonderful dogs that can be found that would make wonderful pets. One suggestion is to possibly look at Breed Specific Rescue shelters. This is a good lesson for anyone looking to adopt – always check out the dog thoroughly before bringing it into the family. So sad that this family went through this, and so sad for little Peppy.

  2. John says:

    I certainly feel for this family and despite their experience I would encourage them to adaopt again, in order to provide another dog with a loving and caring ‘forever’ home. There are so many dogs out there, through no fault of their own, that need our help and assistance. In 2010, after losing our long time retreiver to cancer, my wife and I adopted two rescue basset hounds (see the Calgary Basset Rescue Network on the internet). They were both terrible abuse cases from the U.S., requiring considerable vet care upon adoption. We took a chance on these dogs not knowing how they would turn out personality-wise or what the long term affects of their of their unspeakabale treatment at the hands of their previous owners would be. Fortunately for us their inherent happy, go- lucky personalities shone through and their physical ailments healed. We now have two beuatiful, well-adjusted bassets who are so ingrained into our family that it is impossible to think of life without them. So take another chance on a dog who needs your love, care and attention – everyone who is thinking of getting a dog should consider this as an option.

  3. Kristi Hansen says:

    I hope this story does not harm or dissuade anyone’s choice from choosing to adopt a pet rather than subscribe to any other means that support the likes of puppy mills or pet shops. This family’s bad experience is not the norm, and there are so many loving animals waiting for their non-abusive home. I’ve had precisely 3 outstanding animals that are all rescues, in a row… and can’t imagine my family not having them in their lives!!!

  4. Shelly Dueck says:

    My first thought is something neurologically wrong with the dog, or some kind of genetic temperament disorder. Perhaps something medically wrong. Not natural for a dog to attacks its own human caregivers, and especially itself from abuse alone. My gut instinct tells me something medically wrong with the dog. Too bad an autopsy wasn’t performed to look for medical reasons for it’s issues. So very sad for all involved.