Thursday, September 13, 2012
Albert, my husband came home one day looking as if something was on his mind. His eyes twinkled and he smiled slightly as he walked up on the deck out back where I was sitting enjoying the day. It had been so long that I could not go out at all. I could hardly get out of a chair for many months. After a head on collision caused so much damage I treasured the days I could take a few moments and sit enjoying the sun and sites outdoors.
"I know we discussed it being so difficult for us to get another dog. I also know how much you miss having one. Now, before you say anything, I want you to let me explain. I agree we can not get a dog that could jump up on you because it would be so easy for you to loose your balance. We can not risk an infection from scratches or bites even if it is a puppy playing. I understand about your immune system after all of the steroids but....."
I had to laugh at how he danced around telling what was on his mind. "Don't tell me that you bought me a fish?"
His expression changed showing a sadness instead of the comic reaction I expected from the fish remark. With a frown creasing his brow he said, "Not a fish. There is this little dog. Before you say no you have to hear about him. I would have said no until I heard about him and saw him. He is little and can not jump up. He is not a puppy that would chew or play. He needs a home. He needs a home so much but he needs to be loved."
Before he could say more I felt overwhelmed with my own limitations. "There is no way I can take care of an animal even a small one. I can hardly get around now and risk falling. There is more to it than just letting them live here. You know how hard it was when BoBo died. They are part of the family."
His smile returned. "I will feed him and clean up and do what ever he needs. All you have to do is what you do best and give the little guy love. He needs love. He has never in his whole little life had anyone love him."
I knew there was so much more to the story but it was going to come out a little at a time. "What makes him so unlovable?"
"It is not what he is other than he is a very valuable breed of dog. It is who had him all his life. I ran across a friend of mine who had him. He found him when he was looking for a little house dog for his wife. She has been sick and can not have a big animal or one that jumps up. He thought it would be good for her to have a pet to keep her company. He found this place in some add and when he got there it was one of those awful puppy mill kind of places. They kept trying to sell him a big dog and he was ready to leave when he saw a little dog in a tiny cage back out of the way."
Albert paused and then went on to explain that the man who ran the awful place said, "You can have that little .... for free. He's no use to me anymore since he is too old to breed. He's nothing but a breeder and that's all he's ever been. He used to get top dollar. He's old."
As Albert explained the rest of the story I could not help feeling sorry for the little dog. The man who owned him went on saying, "What in the world you would want him for is beyond me. He would never make a pet. You will never house-train him because he has lived his whole life in a cage. He knows nothing but the bars of his little space and what to do with a female. Now that he is too old to be good at that he is useless. He is a stupid old has been."
As Albert sat down beside me I could not help but feel for the little animal and could see how deeply touched Albert was. "My friend said they tried to housebreak the little thing but the vet he took him to, said that would be impossible. He had never developed control living in his own filth in a cage and was too old. It would be physically impossible to expect him to understand, let alone train the muscles of his organs to hold and release at designated times. Their yard is not fenced in and any animal that came up could kill the little thing. He has a lot of problems. He has no idea how to be a dog or how to do anything. He needs us and in a way....we need him. I know how bad you hurt and how long the days can be. I know how much you miss our own dog when he died. Will you at least let me go get him and look at him? He is a Yorkshire Terrier. He has all his shots."
I could not say no. Albert was back in no time with a little brown furry thing tucked under his arm. He brought the cutest, saddest looking little dog I had ever seen. His eyes had a sadness to the soul. There were none of the usual reactions of fear or aggression or even nervousness with strangers to him. He just looked at me.
"What happens if we don't take him?" I reached out petting his little head.
"I don't know. They really can not keep him. She is starting chemo and so sick. He would never make it in an unfenced yard with stray dogs and what ever else came up. He needs us." He paused for a moment watching my reaction then smiled and sat him in my lap. "I will go tell them we will take him. We can do this and I think it is the right thing to do. I know it will not be easy but it is the right thing for him and us."
As I stroked and petted him talking softly he gazed at me with those soulful eyes. He had long and shaggy hair. He was my little shaggy dog. When Albert came back he said they asked we agree not to try to sell him but give him a good home. Albert assured him the little thing would be loved. The dog had papers with a big long name on it but the man said it was only a legality. No one had ever had enough human contact with him to ever teach or give him a name. We could call him whatever we wanted. He had no real name only one on paper for breeding.
I softly said...."Shaggy. His name is Shaggy."
Albert had to laugh and asked if I was sure. "You really want to call a registered Yorky, Shaggy?"
He smiled and agreed that that was his name. That was the beginning. When Albert sat the little dog down on the porch we saw a sight that at first left us speechless and then we had to laugh. We did not laugh out of a cruel nature, but the surprising sight of the little creature that was now part of our family. You love them no matter what and at times have to either laugh or cry.
Shaggy stood so still for so long in the same place Albert had tried to encourage him to walk around. The little guy finally seemed to realize what Albert wanted but seemed unsure or unable how to go about it. How do you take off walking when all you have known is a very small cage? All at once he got so excited he tried with all his heart. His hind end sprang up into the air so quickly he looked spring loaded. His front feet we planted and hind end shooting straight up almost vertically and then down in rapid succession. He then began to turn in an circle with the back side bouncing up and down. I had never seen anything like it.
Albert looked totally shocked and amused as he stared wondering why in the world he was doing what he was doing. After going so long not using some muscles after the accident I realized how much they can weaken and even draw up and get stiff. Could it possibly be that Shaggy had never used his muscles of his legs in a walking manner? Was he unable to even walk around?
I am now sure that is what his problem was. One little step at a time he ventured from inches to feet and finally real steps. It was a slow process but he got so excited. As the days progressed he quickly became able to take more than one step. He could quickly take little trotting steps but he only went in a small tight little circle. He would zoom round and round the deck of the back porch. The circles got bigger and bigger and he would fly round and round and then stop at my feet waiting to be petted and talked to.
We had two cats we had had for years that had adopted us. I would say we adopted them but they are independent creatures and we were their people and this was their yard.... except there was a strange new little creature there.
The dog we had lost was a big dog. When we got him as a puppy those two cats adopted him too. They would clean his head and took care of him. They were all so cute. I call the black one Momma Kitty because she is like a momma to all creatures. When the dog grew up he never lost his love of those two cats or they the love they had for him.
Time passed and we spent as much time as we could with the dog. We cooked out back and enjoyed talking and working with him and still show plenty of attention to the cats to avoid jealousy. The cats jumped up on the table looking almost fearful of the little dog spinning and making circles around the porch. About every fourth or fifth step his hind end would bounce up in the air as if it was trying to pass the front. I have never seen two cats look so confused.
The dog finally tired himself out and lay at my feet napping. The cats had watched for some time deciding to get a closer look. Their natural fear of a strange dog...stranger than any they had ever seen was overcome by their curiosity. They seemed to know he was here to stay by our reactions and it was time to make contact. While he slept, seemed like the best time so the would stalk closer and closer sneaking up on him.
Just as Momma cat gave him a good sniff on the head he opened his eyes looking directly into her eyes. For a moment she looked panicked almost in shock nose to nose with a strange dog. The moment passed and they stared into one another's eyes and any fear there might have been dissolved. The dog stayed so still he did not seem real. She finally gained the courage to sniff him from one end to the other.
Little by little the three of them became the best of friends. Two cats and a strange little dog shared the back yard and our attention. It was wonderful when Shaggy began to go farther and farther making bigger and bigger circles. One day he finally ventured into the yard. I think he really had no conception of space. It was as if he was discovering the miracle of a new and unexplored world.
Albert had been right that it was a good thing to give him a home. We had found he could not be house trained but he loved being outside and free. The big dog we had had been raised with our grandson from when one was a puppy and the other was a baby. The dog followed the boy everywhere. Instead of building a dog house, Albert built a play house for them both. It had everything a little house had including a window that opened and closed.
Little Shaggy found the house and claimed it as his. He spent most of his time walking in the yard. He sniffed and explored and seemed to be free. He became king of his yard, with his kitty friends. When we showed him the play house he sniffed and explored then went right back outside to walk free.
I got so tickled to see that now and then he went into the house and would sleep in his bed there. He had his own little place inside. It looked so strange to see the big play house with him sitting out front as if he was at home on his own little porch. He progressed so much he could run and play almost like a puppy. He wandered and knew every inch of his yard.
I started to notice odd behavior after a while. When we came up to the gate he would carry on as if he did not know us and was going to defend his yard to the death. As soon as I would tell him to hush up that noise he would stop barking and start wagging his tail so hard his whole body wagged.
He did it so much to my daughter everyday when she came to pick up her son, our grandson she talked to me about it one day. "Mom, every day that crazy little dog of yours throws fits with me and acts like he does not know me. I am almost afraid he will become a little ankle biter the way he acts. I know he is old but I think he is getting senile."
That may sound funny in one way but he did act odd. As soon as she talked to him and petted him he was his good old friendly self again. One day Albert had been working in the yard and had placed a big bucket in the yard near the porch. He had gone on with what he was doing as I sat there with the critters. The dog decided to go romp in his yard and walked right into the bucket face first. He was going blind. He heard strangers approach his yard and acted to protect. When he heard our voices he knew who was there. The mystery was solved but it made me sad too. We did not know how old he was but we knew that for the first time in his life he was free and loved. He had a place in life, he had a home and he had a family and love. He and his kitty friends were family too. They even slept together.
He never minded me brushing him or taking care of him. He seemed to enjoy any time we spent with him and I enjoyed him just as much. Albert had been right. He needed a home and we needed him too. He had so much love in him when he finally had the chance.
I could feel sad at all the years of horror that had been his life but I see him as king of his yard. I see and remember him happy, playing with the grandson, kitties and us. I remember him with love. A little puppy love from an old dog living for the first time. We called him Shaggy. He was my little shaggy dog Shaggy.