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.

Wrong!

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.

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Unleashing my inner farmer

Hubby & I have been talking about getting chickens for over a year.  I’m unhappy with the whole idea of chicken mills – hens trapped in battery cages with no room to spread their legs; hens & roosters raised from hatching to slaughter in filthy warehouses and no sight of sun, no chance to spread their legs or wings and chase bugs and graze.  Not to mention the fact that commercially produced livestock doesn’t receive the best treatment or care… Well, I’m ready to unleash my inner farmer and take a step AWAY from inhumane food industry practices.  Just because something’s going to wind up as dinner doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a right to a happy life.

Which way would YOU be happier?

 

So two weeks ago, when I got my very first paycheck from my shiny new job,  I stopped at Southern States on my way home from work to pick up some cedar shavings for the dog houses – and heard the cheeping from the back of the store and knew it was now or never!  I bought eight chicks – two Rhode Island Reds, two Sex-links, and four Ameraucanas.   I also bought a 100 gallon tub to house them, a water bottle, a feeder, a 25 lb bag of feed, a heat lamp with a bulb, and a bag of cedar shavings.  See, I didn’t forget what I went in there for.

I had hoped to surprise Hubby with my purchases by showing up at home with eight cheeping downy chicks, but I wound up having to call him and tell him before I ever left the feed store.  I was driving his car that day and a 100 gallon tub just isn’t going to fit into a 1995 Geo Metro hatchback, no matter how you try.  He took the news far more calmly than I’d expected, though he wasn’t happy with the idea of driving all the way to Summerfield.  I bargained with him and agreed that we could meet in Stokesdale instead.  We swapped cars.  He took the chicks home and I went back for the tub.

I single-handedly wrestled the tub into the house – but Damon had to help me lift it over the furniture & shelves to get it into the master bath, where it very neatly filled my garden tub.  Last week Hubby built a chicken-wire and wood lid for it so we can leave our bathroom door open now and the cats can’t get a free meal.

Chickens have got to be the dumbest creatures on God’s green earth.  I’ve been feeding them table scraps in addition to their milled feed.  One night they had macaroni & cheese.  There was a whole dish of mac & cheese but they were too busy fighting over one little piece to realize it.  Same with lettuce, spinach, grapes, carrots, whatever.  Of course once they figure it out they don’t waste any time.  What baffles me is when they pick up cedar shavings & drop them in the food & water dishes.  And goodness, the way they panic every time I go in to give them fresh food or water!  I pick them up & they act like the Beast of the Revelation has risen from the sea before them.  I swear, I’ve always heard about how dumb chickens are but I never really believed it until now.  I used to think we should be mildly offended that Jesus called us sheep.  Now I think we should be hugely relieved He didn’t call us chickens.

Over the past week my hens chicks have been growing feathers – wing feathers, tail feathers, and most recently neck and back feathers.  Their cute, soft down is falling out.  Well, all the chicks but one.  One of my Rhode Island Reds is still a little yellow bit of downy fluff with a few short feathers at the edges of the wings.  No tail feathers, no other wing feathers, no neck feathers, no sign that any will ever grow.

I was concerned.  I thought perhaps I had a developmentally delayed chick.  What does one do with a developmentally delayed chick?  Would she it lay eggs?  Would it be safe to eat?  Was it ethical to consider eating a developmentally delayed chicken?  It seemed as healthy as the others – it’s active with a good appetite.  It just wasn’t growing any feathers.  One of these chicks is not like the others, one of these chicks just isn’t the same…

Well, there’s a reason for that.  I’ve done a copious amount of reading over the past few days, and after today I have concluded that I might have bought eight hens, but I brought home seven hens… and a rooster.  Sigh.  Hubby wants to let him “expand our flock” a time or two; I’m more concerned about whether or not I’m capable of killing and eating something I’ve raised.  The good news is, while I have been extremely amused by the antics of these chicks, I’m not even a little bit emotionally invested in them.  Whew!

So I’m now a chicken farmer.  In the next couple of weeks we’ll build a chicken tractor with an attached coop so they can safely free-range… and I guess now that I’ve got a rooster too they’ll eventually be able to truly free-range in relative safety.  I’m led to understand that a rooster will protect his hens from most predators.  I suppose we’ll find out the truth of that.