Monday, December 1, 2008

Lucy's First Year

Last year, on Thanksgiving Day, a little brown dog with floppy hound ears bounced into our lives. She sweetened me up with her soulful brown eyes and her sunny disposition. For two days we watched as she peeked from behind the house of the lady who lives across the road. Lucy, as I later named the dog, seemed as though she wanted to join our two dogs as they played in the yard, but like a child not wanting to be rejected, she sat across the road and observed. Maybe there was a chance, is what I saw in her little hound face when I looked over that way as I picked up the mail from our mailbox.

I safely assumed the lady across the road didn't want the little brown dog. I saw her shooing it away. She had a cat, which I had actually brought home a few years ago. The cat had been abandoned, left wandering around my mom's house, Mom sort of pawned it on me. Anyway, after bringing that cat home it decided it wanted to live with the lady across the road because it didn't get along with our dogs. That's fine, at least the cat got a home

Finally, on Saturday, the little brown dog made her move across the road to our property. Our two dogs, Xena and Maggie, met up with her and played with her. She was a happy little dog. I estimated fairly young, maybe a year or a little older. I fed her, of course. She ate like she hadn't eaten for a while. She didn't look starved but maybe she was on the verge. I later learned, the county dog catcher was to be called on Monday, by the lady across the road. She said someone had dropped the dog out of a car around 3am in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. We don't usually get drop-offs up this way. I decided I couldn't let the little brown dog be picked up by the county. She'd decided she wanted to be part of our pack. So, we unofficially adopted the little brown dog, with the floppy hound ears. Rather, she chose us.

I must admit, Lucy has been a pain in the butt at times. Naturally, she didn't know the boundaries at first. She started out badly by chasing my horses about a week in. That is a NO NO around here! I don't know if she had been around horses before but she was acting like she'd never seen one. She barked, they ran. They didn't know her so they ran. Maggie, our Cattle Dog, had learned to stay away from the horses. She was trampled one time, though not seriously hurt. Since that incident, Maggie remains outside the fence unless we are inside with her. Even then, she doesn't bark or try to chase them. She's matured. I'm hoping the same for Lucy. Xena had never chased the horses. She was old and wise.

Barking and chasing the horses has been an ongoing issue for Lucy. Now, a year later, I can see her goal when barking at them. She thinks it's her job to make them move. Most of the time they ignore her. But sometimes, on those days the horses are full of energy and bored, they will run and run with her barking at their heels. This drives me crazy! I hate it. But, progress has been made. Lucy will come to me when I call her off, if I can get her hound dog attention long enough to hear I'm calling her. I've watched as both Spirit and Bo tease her, then run after her. They now know I'm yelling at her and I believe they are laughing that she's the one who gets in trouble. The only trouble Lucy really gets into is that I take her over to her house and tie her to her run line. She usually just lays down because she's worn out anyway. I call this her "time out". So far, hasn't made a big dent in her behavior. I usually release her after about an hour.

Though she aggravates me at times with this particular behavior, I can't stay angry with her. She was a cast off. A throw away. Amazingly, she had been spayed. Someone must have cared about her enough to have her taken to a vet at some point. She is wary of men. It has taken most of this year for her to warm up to Hubby and sons. But now, she looks forward to seeing Hubby in the evenings when he comes home from work. She always came to me. My guess, a woman took care of her and a man traumatized her.

Lucy can have a very annoying bark. I always know when she's barking at the horses. She uses a continuous bark with no breaks and it's LOUD. She doesn't have a hound bark, that's for sure.

Lucy gets sick when riding in a car. The first time I took her to the vet, a few months after her arrival, she messed all over the back seat of the car about half way to the vet office, a twenty minute ride. Fortunately, I was prepared. I didn't know how she would react to the ride so I had covered the back seat with an old blanket. The poor girl was a nervous wreck! Her sunny disposition gone. I think she was terrified she was going to lose her new home and be abandoned again. Animals remember the traumatic things that happen to them. It molds their personalities, good and bad.

A year later, Lucy has matured quite a bit. She had a puppy look to her then, now she looks like part beagle, part God only knows what. She still lapses into moments of thinking she has to tell the horses what they should be doing. They basically mock her by jumping around her, running after her and kicking out at her. It can be a funny sight if I don't get too angry about the barking when it's happening. I do worry she will end up kicked.

I do my best to bring her in when she gets into the horse frenzy. Most of the time, if I can get her attention, she will stop and run to me. I simply reward her for coming to me, which is all one can do. In her mind, she's keeping the horses in line. By rewarding her when she comes to me, I have instilled good will that she can trust she won't be hurt. It wasn't always that way. In the first months when I yelled for her, she would run up into the woods and in the beginning, she would cringe about many things. These behaviors led me to believe, who ever had her must have whipped her and she was waiting for that from us as well. We don't use those methods. They don't work anyway, just makes the animal more fearful.

When Xena, our twelve year old German Shepherd, passed away this summer, we figured Lucy may have been sent to us, not as a replacement, but as a way to fill the hole Xena's parting would leave in our hearts. No dog can ever replace Xena, she was the one in a million, once in a lifetime dog. But, by giving one abandoned little brown hound dog a home, we filled a tiny gap in the world of abandoned animals. I think that would make Xena proud!


Linda Reznicek said...

That's a great way to get a new dog--letting them choose you. Poor thing, though, getting dropped off like that--I don't understand why anyone would do it.

LJS82 said...

I've never understood what people are thinking when they dump an animal out in nowhere. I suppose some believe the animal will be ok on their own, or that someone will take it in or call the county dog warden. I suppose most, really don't care, they think an animal is just a dumb animal. I've seen too much intelligence in my animals to ever think they are just dumb animals. They live at a different level than humans, but they feel pain, joy, fear, sadness, grief, too.