Monday, January 23, 2012

The Proverbial Farm

Did you grow up thinking that there were magical farms out in the country somewhere?  Places where wonderful people live that take in unwanted dogs, cats, horses, you name it?  You know, the place where dogs get to run free and live out their days?  Where cats get to hang out in barns and chase mice and do all the things cats love to do?  Where horses get put out to pasture to live out their days munching green grass and having a wonderful life?  You may have heard of these farms when your parents took one of your beloved pets there.  Maybe a dog that was struggling with behavior issues?  It could be a cat that your little brother developed allergies to?  Maybe it was that horse that got really sick and couldn't be ridden any longer?  Have you heard this story before?  If you haven't experienced it personally, maybe you have told this story.  Or, if I were a betting kind of girl, you at least know someone that is all too familiar with this scenario.

I now live at the proverbial farm. 

We live in a pretty okay area, and we have been there for quite a while.  I think people with animals they need to get rid of just drive around out there, and think, "This looks like a nice place."  I have one neighbor that adopted a dog that had been roaming our street, drinking water out of horse troughs, and eating whatever he could find.  I have another neighbor that has a couple of cats he has allowed to take up residence in his shop.  I have another neighbor that woke up one morning to find a whole litter of puppies in her flower bed.  Can I add that it was the flower bed in the back of her house, right next to her porch?  Someone took a lot of care in that placement.  They wanted to make sure that they were discovered right away.

When I see one of these lost souls roaming our street, I usually try to catch the thing and see if it has a tag.  I have returned many dogs to their rightful owners.  If I am not that lucky, I usually stick them in my horse trailer and make a trip to town to see if there are any lost animal posters at the post office, feed store, or our one and only gas station.  I have had luck with this a couple of times.  If not, I quickly post this information in hopes that there is an owner somewhere looking for a lost pet.  I rarely have luck with this option.  If none of the above work out, I try my best to find a new home for the beast.  I have had some luck with this.  Once I did have to call the county animal control guy out.  I always make this my last resort.  They are so overwhelmed in our county that once an animal is brought in, they have three days to be claimed by their owner.  The fourth day is their adoption day.  The fifth day they are put down.  These are not very good odds in my opinion.

While I have never been sent a horse, I did find a random, white cow walking down the road one day.  I was actually working out along the roadside, trying to clean up the fence line with my weed-eater.  Sometimes I feel like that task is a priority.  I don't know if you have personal experience running a weed-eater, but they can be rather loud.  I was working, in my own special world, with my mind wondering to whatever it wanted, when I felt like someone was staring at me.  Ever get that feeling?  I turned around, and there she was, just standing there.

I don't have a lot of experience with cows.  I do know that Momma cows can be very protective, and Bulls are a whole other story.  She was just looking at me.  I turned my weed-eater off, and slowly put it down.  Then I briskly made my way to the house.  I called the Man in Charge to let him know I had a knew friend.  He asked me where she was, and when I looked out front, I couldn't see her any longer.  I moved to another window, and now she was in my backyard.  He told me to go out and put our horses in the barn, then see if I could get her into the pasture.  I remember expressing some concerns about this plan.  What if she came after me?  He shrugged me off, and told me I was being ridiculous.  After getting the horses in the barn, I tried to get her in the pasture.  No luck.  We ran around the yard several times, and on more than one occasion, she squared off with me to let me know that this was not acceptable to her.  Eventually she found her way back to the street and took off.

I did have to call animal control that day.  More because I knew they could get in contact with the local ranchers in our area and see who was missing the animal.  He showed up, I explained what happened and pointed him in the right direction.  Later he told me that once he got to the end of our road, she was easy to spot.  She had jumped a fence in a large pasture, and she was the only white cow, leading a herd of black cows, across to the other side.  I guess they were curious as to what she was up to and where she was headed.  I feel certain they got the situation straightened out, and she found her way back to her original herd.  You can bet on it with cows because that is a lot of money walking around. 

My neighbors are not the only ones that have elected to take pity on a poor abandoned animal.  We have taken in one ourselves.  Boy, has it been an adventure.  This is a story about Flower, and how she came to the proverbial farm.  I felt like I should tell it due to the previous post.  For the number of animals that we have seen, it has managed to work out for a few lucky ones.

This is Flower.

She had been with us a while when I took this photo.  You see, someone had dumped her out somewhere between our place and a nearby town. I do not know why people think this is a good idea.  I know there are a million different circumstances that could lead to this decision.  I just have to try to believe that they exhausted a list of other options first.

I had seen Flower running around a couple of times.  She was always off in the distance in an open pasture, but I had noticed her for some reason.  One Sunday, on my way home from a marathon shopping excursion at Sam's, the Full-Timer and I were squeezed into the only available space left in our vehicle.  We were seriously covering ground on the home stretch.  Just as we topped the hill on a Farm to Market road, this little girl was running up the other side, right down the center line.  I had no choice but to stop or hit her.  I guess I had one other choice, I could have hit the ditch, risked wrecking my truck and possibly being buried under a mountain of groceries and supplies, but we didn't go that route.  We managed to get stopped at the top of the hill. Flower came to a dead stop right in front of me.

Full-Timer and I just looked at each other.  Glad we stopped, but what do we do now?  I opened my door, and she opened her door, and before we knew what was going on, Flower had jumped in her side of the truck on the floor board.  She then put her front feet on the seat next to my girl, and hid her head under her arm.  Again, we just looked at each other for a moment.  We both shut our doors and started moving again. In that moment, Flower had clearly communicated with both of us.

"Just hit me or take me home, but I can't do this anymore."

Now, being the brave little soul that she is, my Full-Timer just looked over and said, "I am not going to be the one to tell Dad."


We finished the short journey home.  Once there, I pulled a dog kennel out of the garage, moved it to the back porch and deposited my new found friend.  After grabbing an arm full of supplies, I went inside.  I found the Man in Charge in the living room.  The conversation went like this...

(me) "You are not going to believe what just happened!"

(him) "What?"

(me) "A dog just ran right out in front of me!"

(him-jumping out of his chair) "Did you hit it?"

(me) "No.  She's outside."

(him) "What!"

There may have been some expletives that followed, but I can't remember.  He went outside and took one look at her, and then there were definitely expletives.  Maybe even some yelling, pulling of hair, and then the "Why? Why?" of it all.  I mean, really?  It all happened so fast.

(him) "Woman! You have brought home a pit bull!"

(me) "Nu-huh."

(him) "Yes-huh."

(him) "I don't know what your plan is, but keep her away from our dogs."

(him) "What is your plan?"

(me) "I guess I will see if I can find her owner?"

Long story short. I posted signs. Signs that read:

Black & White Female dog Found
Please call.

Even at this early time, I felt the need to protect her.  I didn't want someone with shady intentions calling and claiming a dog based on breed.  Not that I really knew much about her, but she seemed so sweet.  The only call was from a poor man that had lost his Border Collie and was desperate to find her.  I could offer him no consolation, and he could offer me no solution.  She stayed in that kennel for three days.  Happy and content to eat large quantities of food several times a day.  She come out only on a leash to do her business.  The rest of the time she slept.  She slept almost non-stop.  She was literally worn out from what ever she had been through.

I have never been a fan of Bully Breeds.  (I prefer to call them that now.)   I, like most people, had only been associated with them through the bad press that they are given on the news.  This is usually because these dogs have done bad things.  My thoughts about them were very negative, and I never understood why anyone would want one.  Then I was faced with this very sweet, happy-go-lucky version of the breed.  Once it became clear that no one was going to claim her, I had to come up with another option for her future.  I started making phone calls, and found that I could put her up for adoption through a local shelter, but keep her as a Foster Parent until she was placed.  Again, wanting to protect her, this seemed like a good idea.  I didn't want her to go to someone with less than credible intentions and I wasn't convinced that the screening processes at shelters would be adequate enough to weed these people out.  I am not bagging on shelters.  They have their hands full as it is.  To find a home, any home, is counted as a success in their book.  Also, a little known fact about some shelters, the no-kill shelters aren't always better.  If they have a breed that is hard to place, they move it to a kill shelter or just refuse to take it in the first place.

We made our decision on shelters, and Flower and I headed down there to have photos taken of her for their website.  She was happy to be in the truck, one of her favorite things to do.  The Man in Charge was happy that there may be light at the end of this tunnel.  I was happy that I could do this and feel good about it.  All of that ended when we got there.  The place was a mad house.  Animals were everywhere in the lobby.  Someone had abandoned a cat in a carrier under the bench we were sitting on.  No one even knew it was there until Flower discovered it.  She didn't do anything aggressive, but I could tell that she was focused on something under there.  Once I took a look and made the discovery, I started taking a good look around the place.  The red flags were popping up everywhere.  Then, when I thought it couldn't get any worse, a large city animal truck backed up to the front door.  They started unloading dog after dog.  We got up and left.

Back in the truck and headed home, she was happy to be going again.  I was happy to be out of there.  That just left the Man in Charge.  I gave him a call at work, and told him what had happened.  He didn't really ask any questions or raise any arguments about my decision.  Come to think of it, I don't really think he said much of anything.

This led to days of keeping Flower in my mud room, separated from the other dogs.  I took her for walks on a leash, and read as much as I could on the Internet about the breed.  Surprisingly, she was great on a leash, leading me to think that maybe someone living in an apartment situation may have been her previous owner. She didn't cause any trouble.  No chewing on things that weren't hers.  No accidents in the house.  Nothing. We progressed to letting her off the leash and allowing her to run around the yard and play for short periods of time.  Always supervised, of course.  She never tried to run off.  She always came when I called her. The only problem at this point was the fact that she lacked basic behavior skills.  Like...sit, down, stay.

Who doesn't teach their dog to sit? This is dog 101, right?

Every night, after everyone would go to bed, I would sit in the dining room and let her hang out with me.  I found website after website on Pit Bulls, mostly positive information.  One of the most fascinating sites that I found was a site called Bad Rap.  You can check it out at .  These guys were instrumental in rescuing the dogs from the Michael Vick dog fighting ring.  I read a lot of the story about the rescue on their blog, but have checked recently and can't find the links.  There is a book out on the story.  It is called The Lost Dogs.  Google it if you have a little time.  It is amazing, sad, uplifting, inspirational, etc.

The more time I spent with her, the more obvious it became that she was eager to learn.  She loved the one-on-one attention, and had a very happy disposition.  She was very food motivated, maybe a result of living on the streets.  She did have a few weird habits though.  One habit, that took months to break, was the fact that she would try to stick her head in places that it didn't fit.  If there was any chance there may be something to eat in there, she stuck her head in it.  Sounds funny enough, but she actually had rubbed a place above her left eye from cramming that big head in places.  The spot didn't have any hair, and at times she would make it bleed from just forcing it where it didn't belong.  I don't know if she thought she would never get fed again or what?  Like I said, it took months before we could get her to stop and let the area heal completely.

She had been with us for a few weeks when one very muddy, rainy day, we were out playing.  She took off running and in a matter of 2 seconds had disappeared around the corner of the house.  I was right behind her, but when I got to the back yard - no dog in site.  I ran to the other side of the house, and nothing.  It was like she just disappeared.  I looked in the direction of the barn, and thought, no way.  The horses were in their stalls, so the barn was completely open.  The back door of the horse barn leads to the chicken barn.  As the thoughts were running through my mind, she shot out like a rocket from the back of the horse barn.  She then proceeded to take off across the pasture.  I was yelling at her, but she was gone.  She didn't have a name at this time, so I think I was just calling her dog.  I ran after her, and she didn't stop until we got to the very front of our pasture.  We had both run through a lot of standing water, and a lot of mud.  I was mad.  She finally realized that this was not a fun game anymore, and she stopped.  I grabbed her by her collar and escorted her back to the house.  We both rinsed off in the hose, and then I put her back in the mud room.

What was that?

Later that night, I had finally calmed down.  Everyone else was in bed and we were in the dining room.  I was reading anything and everything on training pit bulls, when I ran across a site that started describing this  random behavior that they sometimes exhibit.  The guy was recommending that you only train in a fenced-in area.  I was in agreement so far.  He went on to explain his theory because at times, no matter how hard they are trying, they will have these uncontrollable outbursts.  He humorously referred to them as Zoomies.  His description went something like..."this is a cross between a motor-cross race, a monster truck rally, and the Kentucky Derby."  She was sitting right next to me as I was reading, and I looked down at her at said, "Oh.  So, that's what that was?"  She just wagged her tail and looked at me.

We almost named this dog Zoomie.  When it happens, she can't stop it.  You can't stop it.  It just has to run its course.  She has to run her self out.  She has Zoomied outside and inside.  When it hits, we just get out of the way and wait. Or, now that we are used to it, we encourage her to work it through by yelling "Zoomie" as she goes by.

She really likes it when you do that.

Boy, is it exciting.

One day she Zoomied in Full-Timer's bedroom.  She was back and forth.  On and off the bed.  Spinning  in a circle so fast that her shoulder was touching the ground.  She looked like she was break-dancing. When she's done, that's it.

Back to the the days kept passing, I was becoming more and more attached.  Surprising, I know.

One day the Man in Charge came home and asked...

(him) "What do you want to do about the dog?"

I immediately noticed that the question was different.  Not the normal, "What are you going to do with the dog?"

(me) "I want to keep her."

(him) "Why?"

(me) "Because I love her."

It was pretty much all over at that point.  He acted mad, but he allowed it.  We started introducing her to our dogs one at a time.  It was a slow process, but it went well.  She has never shown aggression towards any of them.  My Border Collies on the other hand were nasty to her.  They are sort of snobs, and not really interested in growing the pack.  They are also sisters out of the same litter, and they didn't see the point in another dog hanging around. We also had a 16 year old Miniature Schnauzer at the time.  He was blind, deaf, and more than a little senile.  He didn't know or care that she was a pit bull.  All he knew was that she was really warm and he could squeeze his way onto the dog bed with her for a nap.  If he occasionally bumped into her due to his blindness, he would just duck and walk under her belly.  She never cared.

Once we were sure that she fit in and could stay for real, we needed a name for her. It took much longer to decide on one.  Most of our dogs are named after Disney characters, and we wanted to find one for her, but what? We researched and agonized and debated.  Nothing really seemed to fit.  She did have one issue that stood out during this time, and that was a sensitive digestive system.  If the food she ate didn't agree with her, she would have horrible gas.  I mean, clear the room horrible.  Most of the time, she was the first one to leave.  We were doing our best to find a food that worked for her, but it was a process.  One evening, all together in the living room, she disappeared.  Seconds later, we knew why and we were all running out of the room ourselves. The Man in Charge knew right then what her name should be...

"You can call me Flower."

Can you name the movie?

Leave a comment if you have a memory of a proverbial farm story.  I would love to hear them.  The Man in Charge won't admit it, but he has come to love her too.  Regularly she walks to the side of his chair, she knows she is guaranteed a nice scratching when she stops by his side, and he will yell out, "Who let the Pit Bull in the house?"  She just wags her tail, happy she has a home.

More stories to come this week...there are tales of Bees and Coyotes to share.  I think that should be enough to keep you guessing.

Disclaimer:  I am not recommending Pit Bulls to everyone out there.  It takes a special kind of person to own certain breeds.  This is one of them.  Not all Pit Bulls are created equal either.  The instinct to be dog aggressive is bred into them.  Or, at least some of them.  People aggressive dogs are not acceptable at all.  I do recommend that you read up on any particular breed prior to deciding to own one.  There are things that may not work with your personality or life-style.  Better to know about it ahead of time, instead of later when you are in search of the proverbial farm to dump them off at.

1 comment:

  1. I love this story. I can relate to it on so many levels. Swore I would never have one of those evil, demon, thug, pit bull type dogs. Then I met one who needed me. My new motto became "all dogs are individuals"