Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Four Amigos

A week ago, these four appeared near our house. Their ribs were visible, their coats rough, and they were so thirsty they were licking at every damp spot they could find. It didn't take us all long to find one another once we were alerted to the other's presence. Though Gary was initially resentful and upset, and wanted nothing to do with saving them (Remember, we already have multiple dogs. The man understandably thinks he's doing his part for the canine world), he set about building them a temporary pen.  

We had a rare argument about it that night, one bad enough that I chose to sleep on the couch (for the first and hopefully last time in better than twenty years). Among the last (repeatable) things I said to him was--"When you ask me to choose between pleasing you and compassion you will lose every time." And--extremely foolishly-- "I'll be amazed if they're still here by this time next week."  Oh and--"I'll take care of them. You won't even know they're here."

The next morning, the minute the sun was up, they were out of the pen. The littlest pup, second from the right in the picture, was an escape artist who figured out that the wires we were using to shut the make shift gate were the only thing standing between them and freedom. So she used her talented little jaws to worry those wires until they came loose. 

I was alerted to their escape by their joyful barks and opened the front door to see all four tearing around the corner of the house with big grins on their faces, burbling and nipping at one another. Somehow they reminded me of a group of high spirited cowboys. All that was missing was the yodels and the yeehas. The boys and Gary and I secured the gate and set about feeding them. This was when I  received a brisk education in the down side of owning a pit bull-type breed and why they do best as only dogs in households with owners who understand what they have. The two white ones had an unforgettable altercation over food. I have since learned that this is common among puppies at this age; it just doesn't usually end with one of them bleeding as it did with these two. We resolved to feed them separately and completely away from one another after that.

An hour later, the little one, who I started calling Lucy, CHEWED A HOLE in the fencing and they all escaped again. And so it went for two days. Gary helped patch the holes and shore up the escape routes as they appeared. He did it without complaint, but made it clear he wasn't happy.  

Meanwhile, I was advertising on every single networking site I could find, contacting shelters and rescue groups, and learning just how hard it was to find homes for puppies, especially boxer pups mixed with a pit bull type breed (I've also learned that there is no "Pit Bull" breed--it is used to describe a variety of bully-type breeds ranging from Staffordshire Terriers to American Bull Dogs. It's also misapplied to other breeds that just happen to resemble bully-breeds--including Labradors with poorly shaped heads). 

Over the next two days we got to know each pup individually and found marvelously engaging personalities hidden in those small bodies. Hercules, the male, was head-shy, probably having been struck by some angry human's hand--he was quick to hide if he thought trouble was coming. Rosie, the largest female was the alpha and when she said go, everyone went--Rose was the brawn, brave and quick to put herself between her litter mates and potential danger. Misty, the brown female, only wanted to have a good time--made it her mission at every meal to steal the measuring cup we used to feed with and trot away with it between her jaws, her eyes twinkling. Lucy, the smallest, was the brains of the operation. She executed all  escapes (could probably factory test prisons for a living). However she was also the one who made a bee line for the front porch. Lucy wanted to come inside because that's where the humans were. 

By Sunday evening, Gary was volunteering to help feed them. I caught his eyes misting up as each one made its way toward their dish of food, devoured it, their tails wagging without ceasing, and then pausing for a snuggle with whatever human was available before returning to the pen where their siblings waited. In spite of being betrayed by the only humans they'd ever known, these little ones were willing to risk loving someone else. One would have to have been made of stone not to be moved by that.  

Also by Sunday evening, I had people asking about the pups. After a lengthy email exchange and some phone calls, we selected two of them. On Monday we transported those two pups to their new homes. That evening I found more people asking about them. By Tuesday morning, the third pup was placed. This left Lucy. 

We began bringing Lucy in almost immediately and we all fell under her spell. She had already decided that Gary needed some winning over and made it her goal to make sure that it happened. Sitting on the sofa beside him, she used a single paw to get his attention. When he turned to look at her, she wagged her tail, nuzzled him, and waited for him to break into a smile. Once he'd stroked her, she was satisfied and immediately turned and laid her head and front paws in my lap--her back feet spread across the cushion between us so she could touch him too. She learned fetch her first day and took turns bringing toys to everyone and seemed to keep track of the last person she'd brought the toy to. Even the cats who were dismayed by the prospect of another dog didn't seem to mind her very much, probably sensing that she was no threat. Lucy was smart, anxious to please, and remarkably gentle and it wasn't hard to picture her as a long time member of my home. But there is no room for another dog in my packed household, especially not one with jaws like Lucy's.   

So as hard as it was let go of her, when the right family (read: people who know what they have) contacted me on Thursday, we took her over to them, watched as she settled in among their small children, un-phased by the noise and clutter that goes with little ones, and we knew she was where she belonged. I cried as we drove away and I wasn't alone. She was with us just a week and it seemed like much longer.

Our pen is empty and all four pups are in other homes. I've been assured by people who do this rescue thing all the time that we were the exception to the rule--that this never, ever happens, especially with pit bull mixes. So you can bet that I've been thanking God for aiding me in placing these pups so soon and avoiding putting further strain on my marriage.

I believe that there is a reason for everything and that God created a universe that is interconnected. One cannot pull one string one side of the universe without causing a reaction on the other. I am absolutely confident that God had a plan when he placed these four pups on our doorstep. We might have found them homes, but they blessed us all while they were here.  

But this doesn't mean I'm not upset with the people who made them our problem and I addressed it in the local paper. While I know what I have to say isn't going to change the world, it would sure be nice at least one person would think before they act. 


Hal Johnson said...

Awesome account. We've had a different problem: we've found strays, then found the owners, then wished we hadn't found the owners once we met them.

I see I now have to prove I'm not a robot to post a comment. Good thing I had coffee first. :-)

Mary O. Paddock said...

Thanks Hal! :)