A Day at the Park (or, no one saw me fall down)

Yesterday morning we were debating how lazy we were actually going to be when my phone rang.  It was Emily.  Her husband’s band, Sound Check, was going to be playing at Fowler Park in Walnut Cove, and she was going to set up a table for SCHS.  She figured she’d take The Sundance Kid with her and start getting his face out & about the community.

I’m going to backtrack for a minute.  Back in February Emily rescued a GSD/lab type mix bitch from the Stokes County Animal Shelter.  The dog was very pregnant, and rather than abort the pregnancy, Emily elected to let her have them.  There were five puppies, and all had very interesting markings.  There was obviously a fair amount of husky in the mix, probably from dad’s side.  Emily & her kids, who are homeschooled, often come up with very catchy names for their fosters – and it does pique interest.  This time they named the mama dog Mae West, and the puppies were Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid, Pecos Bill, Calamity Jane, and Annie Oakley.  Sadly, Annie Oakley didn’t make it, but the rest of the pups survived.

The pups lived with Emily’s niece until late April, when Emily took them.  By that point they were wild as sin from not being handled, and Emily started working with them.  Unfortunately Emily wasn’t able to work with them very long because she rescued a puppy from the shelter – a lab mix named Luke – who came down with parvo.  Emily was overwhelmed, so I said I would take The Bandits and Red, a Vizsla mix who had turned up on a local farm & who Emily had taken in as a foster.  That took a lot of pressure off of Emily and she was able to give Luke all of her attention.  Sadly, she lost him, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Most of our pups go to North Shore Animal League, in Port Washington, NY (read my post Operation: Puppy Love).  There was question early in The Sundance Kid’s life as to whether he could see or not – he didn’t track properly.  Later, even though we were sure his vision was okay, we still couldn’t get a vet to conclusively prove that his vision was good (I think this is more related to a husky/GSD mix ADHD than to any vision problems – the pup can see us all the way at the other end of our yard).  For this reason, The Sundance Kid will not be going to NSAL.

Fast forward back to yesterday.  I thought Emily’s idea was very good and said I would bring Baby along as well.  I brought Sundance inside, gave him a bath – he and his sibs are very talkative, again a husky trait, and he talked in great detail and at great volume about that bath – and once he was dry we loaded him & Baby in the car and headed to Walnut Cove.

Charles has been saying ever since I brought Red and The Bandits home that he really, really liked Sundance.  He said if he was going to keep one it would be Sundance.  He said he really liked Sundance.  When he found out that we were going to push Sundance to find him a home, Charles said, “I really want that puppy.”  So I said, “You have to talk to Mona.”  What ACTUALLY happened was that he wanted me to talk to Mona.  So I texted her, and then we went ahead, loaded Sundance and Baby up, and hit the road.

We were in Walnut Cove and at Fowler Park when Mona called.  “If Charles wants to keep that puppy, let him keep it,” Mona said.

So now I have four dogs – two males, two females, and a motley crew they make!  Max, who might be a GSD/Belgian Manimois/Husky/Akita/Chow mix (probably not all but any combination of at least two); Peaches, who is a Pointer/Lab type mix; Maggie, whose son Scooter’s DNA test indicates that she is Manchester Terrier/Alaskan Klee-kai/Flat-coated Retriever; and now The Sundance Kid – whose name has been changed to Nanuq, and who is definitely a Husky mix.

Emily brought a dog play-pen along, and we alternated walking the dogs and leaving them in the playpen.  They had a great time. Emily’s husband’s band is amazing – they’re called Sound Check, and if you’re ever in Stokes County, NC, and have an opportunity to go see them, it’s well worth it.  They do bluesy southern rock and a wee little bit of bluegrass – but no matter what they do they’re great.  Her daughter, Maya, is also an accomplished musician – and she’s only 14!  I would recommend Sound Check and Maya Sings to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  I’d pay to see them.  I’d buy their albums.  They’re really and truly that good.

Along about two o’clock or thereabouts, Charles and Damon went to Hardees to grab burgers for lunch.  Emily’s kids were walking Sundance – I mean, Nanuq – and Baby was laying beside me enjoying being out.  I happened to glance up and saw a huge English Mastiff coming down the path.  Not good, I thought, and I scooped Baby up before she could see him with the intention of putting her into the playpen.  I didn’t think I had time to fool with the clips so I was just going to lower her over the side.  It all worked out so well in my mind in the split second I had to think about it.

What REALLY happened was this:

I have chronic vertigo, managed by prescription meds.  Managed – not cured.  I still have a great deal of trouble with my balance.  When I started to lower Baby over the side of the playpen – and mind you, she’s a 45-50 lb dog who really OUGHT to weigh 35 lb – I lost my balance.  I dropped Baby and I fell.  I struggled to catch myself on something, anything!  I called for help – no one could hear me over the band, and NO ONE SAW ME FALL!  It was amazing.  In retrospect, it’s extremely funny, and I can’t believe no one saw the incident at all.  Baby was scrambling backward on her belly, staring at me in horror; the pen was collapsing under me and digging violently into my underarms from my armpits to my elbows.  I finally got one hand on the ground and was able to stop falling before I squashed Baby – thank goodness! – and pushed myself up.  The playpen, which has seen better days anyway, was bent.  I straightened it as well as I could, and at that point Emily, who was seated nearby, turned and called, “Did Baby try to escape?  What happened?”

I had to laugh.  I told her what happened, and she laughed.  I asked if the playpen needed to be replaced – she said no, that it was fine.  I left Baby in it until Charles & Damon got back.  I told them what happened and showed them the scrapes & cuts on my arms – they laughed.  It’s really very funny.

Last night we went to Mona’s to get dogfood and boosters for Red and The Bandits – they’re going to North Shore this coming Wednesday, and they’ll need one more round of puppy shots before they go.  Mona and Danny asked us to stay for supper; we didn’t have any plans so we accepted.  It’s so funny that we’re becoming such good friends with them, and we’d never have met them if it wasn’t for Maggie.  Oh, Vannesa and Mona’s daughter Kelsie are friends, but that doesn’t mean we’d have become friends with Mona and Danny.  It’s funny the good people one meets when one is in rescue.

I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol last night even though I was offered – I figured I was falling down sober as it was, I didn’t need help.  Besides which I don’t drink strong alcohol with my meds – maybe the occasional wine cooler but nothing stronger.  In spite of my continued sobriety, when we got home I went to check on my chickens, stepped in a hole… and fell down.  Hard.  My poor knees.

This morning, the undersides of my arms are badly bruised – I look like I’ve been battered.  And my knees hurt like crazy.

I had a good time yesterday, but I don’t know that I’m exactly eager for a good time again in the near future.

Baby the Wonder Dog

In mid-October 2011, shortly after my 35th birthday, I was the “victim” of a corporate downsizing.  The company offered a fair severence deal – my salary through the end of the year – so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I laid around the house a couple of days, and then I decided to go on a shopping spree.  I bought new clothes for my pending job search; suits, tops, slacks… I went to Ross so it’s not like I went overboard or anything.  Of course when one is unemployed one can only spend so much money without guilt, severance or not, and so after I shopped for a couple of days I was bored again.

I spent time with the dogs – Max and Peaches, my own dogs; Maggie, my first rescue and a classic foster fail, and her five remaining puppies – Georgia, Hershey, Lil’ Bit, Po, and Chunkybutt.  I took them places – not all at once.  I had long philosophical discussions with them.  I played a lot of fetch.  But contrary to popular belief, there are periods throughout the day when dogs don’t want to play fetch or engage in philosophy.  Those periods are called “nap times.”  During “nap times” I was still bored.  Oh, I took one nice nap each day, but one can’t nap as often – or as long – as a dog and still sleep through the night.

I had become semi-involved with Stokes County Humane Society at this point, though not as involved as I was about to become.  One “nap time” I was on Facebook, that most wonderful of all social networking inventions, when a fellow rescuer/SCHS volunteer sent me a message on Facebook:  “Female dog with 9 pups at the shelter – do you know anyone that can help?”

(Coincidentally this is the same friend who gave me notice of Maggie’s plight back in July.)

Maggie’s pups were the most amazing pups ever.  Maggie was a wonderful mother.  Things with Maggie had gone very smoothly, all told.  It would be that way again!  I would go and rescue this dog and her puppies, and it would be a walk in the park!  I was doing the Lord’s work, and He would never send me more than I could handle!

I’m convinced that the Lord enjoys a good joke as well as anyone, and He possesses a very twisted sense of humor.

I was babysitting my nephew that morning – he was suspended from school for getting beat up.  I’ll blog about THAT subject another time.

“Gaven,” I said.  “I’m going to go to the dog pound.  You need to sit in the lobby and be very good while I’m there, and don’t touch anything.”

“Are we getting a dog?” was his eager response.

“Maybe,” I said.  “I want to see her first.”

So we rode over to the animal shelter, and Sarah took me back to meet the little mama.  Little is a relative term – this was a shorter dog, appeared to be an Aussie/spaniel mix of some sort, but she was the fattest dog for her size I’d ever seen, and nursing a litter of nine fat, rolly-polly, adorable four week old puppies to boot!

Sarah opened the kennel door, and I walked in and knelt down.  Mama dog raised her head and looked at me.  I spoke to her and held out a hand; after a minute her tail began to thump the floor and she licked my fingers.  I picked up a puppy; the tail never stopped wagging, but mama dog did lay her head back down and heave a sigh.  She knew why I was there, bless her soul.

I had so much to do – I needed to go home, set up Rosie’s/Maggie’s crate, find the old towels and sheets, and on and on.

“Don’t do anything with her,” I told Sarah.  “I’ll be back for her.”

On the way home, Gaven asked, “Aunt Heather, are we getting a dog?”

“Yes, we are,” I told him.  “And she has nine puppies!”

“Just like Maggie!” was his enthusiastic response.


Things went smoothly at first.  My husband was home when Gaven & I got back & nothing would do but that we turn around and go ahead and pick her up.  He won’t admit it, but Charles enjoys this rescuing – not as much as I do, but he does enjoy it.

Sarah told me her name was Baby, and she was an owner surrender.  The owner’s statement was, “We can’t do it anymore.”

I made Gaven ride in the front seat on the way home from the shelter.  Strange dog with puppies + 9 year old nephew could possibly equal a bad situation.  I’m very careful with new dogs.  I didn’t have anything to worry about with Baby.

I laid one of the back seats down and I sat on the other one.  The theory was that Baby and her puppies would ride in the cargo area but if I needed to I could reach them via the laid-down seat.  What REALLY happened was that overweight mama dog rode home IN MY LAP and the puppies kept falling off the seat and into the floorboard, so I was squished and rescuing puppies the entire ride home.

Once home, we carried the puppies inside and installed them in the crate.  Then I went back for Baby.  Baby spotted Max, Peaches, Maggie, and Maggie’s puppies in the fenced backyard and went ballistic.  She roared challenges, insulted their mothers, called them lily-livered cowards and codfish, and said things that I would blush to put in my public blog.

That was my first hint that this wasn’t going to be quite the breeze Maggie & her pups had been.

Baby didn’t want to take care of her puppies.  She didn’t want to nurse them; she didn’t want to clean up their poopy messes; she didn’t want to be around them the majority of the time.  She was a terrible mother.

I had to bathe the puppies daily – sometimes Mama would come over & help me.  She wishes she’d had the sense to get a video of them in the tub – they would sit and howl so mournfully.  They HATED bathtimes!  But if I left the house, by the time I’d come back they’d be covered in pee, poop, and mushy puppy soup.

Within a few days I had an inkling that something was more than not right – something was dreadfully WRONG.  I was trying to make Baby get in the crate to nurse her puppies.  I opened the crate door and the puppies rushed out.  They knocked Baby down.  She gave a heart-wrenching cry of pain as she went down, and as the puppies swarmed over her and found teats, she lay trembling and whining and staring at me with wide, frightened eyes.

I called Mona, and Mona set me up an appointment with a vet in Kernersville.  The verdict:  Baby was suffering from bi-lateral luxating patella.  We took her to a vet in Walnut Cove for a second opinion – same diagnosis, except this vet recommended putting Baby on a diet.   She also quoted a fairly steep price for the necessary surgeries.  We’ve been fundraising ever since.  We’re close to half-way there, but it’s taken seven months to get here, and I really hope it doesn’t take another seven months to raise the rest.  Baby deserves better than that.

I’ve gotten to know Baby fairly well over the last seven months.  She’s opinionated, self-centered, always hungry, and nosy.  She’s also sweet, loving, playful, and funny.  If she needs to go outside and I don’t jump up as soon as she scratches the door, she’ll start talking about it.  She’ll start out with a few whuffs under her breath.  If I still don’t answer, she’ll escalate to barking, but she goes through several increases in volume along the way.  And if that fails to elicit a response, she’ll come to me, climb into my lap, and bark in my face.

Baby has developed a relationship with my pack, and enjoys the steady stream of older puppies that comes through.  She’s still aggressive toward strange dogs, though.  Honestly, I don’t know if it’s real aggression or if she’s just so unsocialized that she doesn’t know the proper way of approaching other dogs.  I do know that she’d start a fight if I’d let her, whether she intended to or not.

She’s always had a keen interest in birds.  When I walk her she’ll run to the end of her leash and back to me – but if there are birds in the woods she’ll try her best to chase them.  So I don’t know why I was surprised when we moved my chickens outside (they were under a heat lamp in my bathtub to start with) and Baby tried to make a meal of them.  Funny thing – she goes straight for the chicken coop now every time I take her outside.  The other night the stupid hens were sleeping with their heads stuck through the chicken wire.  I barely kept Baby from decapitating one of them – I heard her teeth click together as I pulled her back.

While I have no intentions of letting Baby eat my chickens, I would like to see her be able to run and play like she really desires.  She’ll sit and watch the other dogs play, and she’s got such a keen interest in them.  She likes going places – I take her to soccer games, and when SCHS had a big yard sale fundraiser last weekend I took her to that as well.

Baby is great with children.  She can be jealous if she thinks the children are getting more attention than she is, but that jealousy always manifests in non-aggressive acting out like eating Gaven’s Christmas present, or jumping, or barking, or getting on the furniture – things she knows better than to do but, like a spoiled toddler, she does them because she thinks negative attention is better than no attention at all.

This is Baby napping at soccer practice with the coach's young daughter.
This is Baby napping at soccer practice with the coach’s young daughter.

I’ve called her a pampered princess, a food whore, an attention whore, a little fat thing, and my sweet Baby girl.  In truth,  Baby is a wonder dog and she’s going to make someone an excellent pet someday.  Sadly, she can’t be put up for adoption until her knee surgeries are behind her, and without help, that’s going to be awhile yet.

If you’re able to contribute even a small amount toward Baby’s surgery, then visit http://www.stokescountyhumanesociety.com.  Follow the links on the “Our Fur Babies” page to Baby’s fundraiser.  Every little bit will help.