Anyone who knows me knows that I am a soft touch for animals. In fact, I am animal-poor: two horses, two dogs and one cat, down recently from three dogs, seven horses and innumerable cats, the loss of all of whom was sadness to me.
I have two dogs: Chili and Scout, both of whom I have told you about in other posts. This is Chili (Belgian Malinois), guarding our front door:
Our cats have short lives out here in the country. They live mostly outside and are fine when they are purring on my wide back porch, which is a perfect feline haven. But, as cats do, they invariably venture forth to the beckoning forest where the “real” game is, no longer content with the bugs and occasional rodent they can hunt in the back yard. Unfortunately, big game country also means bigger predators, and my cats must face roaming dogs, coyotes, and owls, all of whom love to come upon a cat. Sasha is the remainder of a litter of five kittens, all of whom just one-by-one disappeared. It is a fine life for a cat, so long as it lasts. My theory is that Sasha has lasted her four years because she is a homebody, always to be found on a lawn chair on the porch.
My horses are an emotional issue with me. All my life I have been a horse lover (beginning with those stick horses!). My husband used to joke that if one ever got on our place, it never left. He was right. Rarely have I ever sold a horse—I’ve given them away to good homes, but selling is just too hard to do.
When my husband left, I knew I could not deal with pulling myself back together and feeding and caring for horses as well. It was part of our separation agreement that he would take care of finding them homes. He readily agreed to do it, and just as readily has refused to honor that agreement, leaving this sad task to me. Here, a year later, I have placed all but two; and homes for them seem in sight. These horses have been such a part of my life that having none will seem certainly like a chapter closing—a sign of sorts. It is a sad sign, but I am fairly certain this is the right direction for me to go. I have to concentrate on other things.
But, I digress! The point of this story is Quigley…a “newbie” to the farm. My son came in one day and said, “Mom, don’t you think we need another dog?” The question was rhetorical. He knew we do not need another dog. The question was a softening tool. Here’s the scoop: “Quigley” is “the sweetest dog ever” according to him. She belonged to the girlfriend of his college roommate who had moved to an apartment. She needed another home. I declined.
He persisted, knowing where the soft underbelly was located: “But if we don’t take her, they are giving her to the humane society.” Recall that I am a woman who does not sell horses…only gives them away to proper homes. That did it for me! How do you put a faithful dog in jail? I relented, and Quigley joined us. That's her, below on the left, with Chili.
She is a medium-large mixed dog, black and tan. Both her color and her distinctive baying tell us that she has hound in her. But she also has a broad, blocky head that looks suspiciously “pit bull”—not definitively, but suspiciously. She is smart, amiable, and stayed right around our dog-fenceless farm. She seemed to love little Scout and submitted appropriately to Chili. The pack seemed to gel, and all went well…for about a month.
One weekend my sister and her family came to dinner. They live just through the woods, and when they come over, their pack of dogs come, too (one short-haired Border Collie “Lucy,” and two rat terriers). They had been there to meet Quigley before, and all seemed to be fine.
My youngest niece went out to play. Before we knew it, she was back in yelling about a dog fight. We rushed out to find Quigley with Lucy on the ground, her neck in Quigley’s mouth. It was horrific, because it was clear that Quigley meant business. She was shaking Lucy, who is not much smaller than her attacker. It required a broomstick to get Quigley off, and Lucy’s ear was torn badly, not to mention probable bruising that no one could see.
I knew then that Quigley would not be able to stay. This understanding was confirmed when the next day my brother-in-law came over with one terrier, Queenie. Quigley literally strained to get up in the back of the pickup truck to get at Queenie. It was obvious that Quigley was intent on chomping down on little Queenie, as well, and we had to drag her off.
I’m not a dog psychologist, but it seemed to me that Quigley had some “settle in” time, decided who were the members of her pack (Chili and Scout) and who it was that did not belong on our property. She had seen Lucy and the terriers before with no problem, but one day they just were not welcomed by Quigley any longer. It was as if she had determined that these dogs had no business at our home.
I was saddened but told my son that Quigley must go back to her previous owner. I was not going to have a dog that was a danger to other dogs, and I was not going to be responsible for the task of turning her over to the Humane Society, if that was necessary. He agreed.
The following weekend, Quigley’s owner, Sarah, showed up to retrieve her and gather Quigley’s belongings (a vast assortment of toys). The scene was touching. I know, beyond doubt, that Quigley was happy during her short stay here. She was unfettered, allowed to roam at will through the woods and enjoy life as dogs should be able to do. See her sloshing through our creek? Divine for a dog!
But when her mistress got out of the car, Quigley stopped and stared, began wiggling all over and emitted a high pitched whine as she ran to greet. It was obvious that she recognized and had missed her owner.
Sarah’s eyes filled with tears, and she bent down to pet Quigley. I was gratified to hear her say to her dog that they would not part again. We chatted a few minutes, and Sarah joked about how having Quigley was a great incentive to exercise each day as they walked and went to the dog parks.
I had thought that it would be a bad thing for a dog such as Quigley to be pent up in an apartment. I have changed my mind. I think that Quigley, with her super-territorialism and loyalty, needs those boundaries that Sarah will provide her. I am happy that this story had a happy ending.
Call me silly about animals, but I think they are so important to our lives. I interact with mine daily, and my life would be so much “flatter” without them. They each have their own personality, and based on that I can predict how they will react, what they will do in situations. Truly, they are my friends.
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