Wednesday, November 26, 2014
My Cu Dona
One of the fellows working for the MNR up there came across a den of puppies left orphaned after one of the nuisance dog round ups. There were as many pups as there were MNR... er... officers I suppose? living up there, and moved by sentiment, they each decided to keep one of the pups. The man who took in Kaylee (he had called her Tweezer... we changed it) had an uncle who lived next door to our trailer. He left the pup with this uncle, saying he'd come back for her when his 6 month posting in Atta was up, and he moved back to Sudbury. The uncle had small children and an allergic wife and was now faced with a rambunctious, exuberant, bitey, strong, shedding pup who had never been exposed much to people, spent the first winter of her tender life out of doors living rough in the extremes, and had never been in a house. Certainly wasn't potty trained. But he meant well by her, after all, it was only temporary, and so he put up a chain link fence in the back yard with a snug little house and she seemed happy enough. She was better off than most dogs who run loose, she was protected from round ups, fed daily, and sheltered from the worst of the weather.
Come damp spring and humid boggy summer, that little pen was quickly torn up to a mud pit by the relentless pacing of a husky mix born to trot along tirelessly for hours on end. The flies and mosquitoes that kept us all inside crawled all over her eyes and ears and constantly stung and bit her. She was walked, but not often, and with pent up energy and a flat buckle collar, she took the poor uncle for a drag each time they went out. Her "owner's" contract had ended and he was back in Sudbury, making no move to reclaim his dog.
The pen butted up against our yard. When I'd go outside to rake the lawn or trim back the brush she would stare wistfully at me through the fencing and whine gently. I was feeling a little lonely, and missed having a dog, so I waited until the neighbour was out in the yard one day and walked over and asked him could I start walking her? The exercise would be good for both of us, and I thought maybe I could help with her relentless pacing, and maybe train her a little so she would be easier for him to walk.
That's when he told me her story, and explained that he really didn't think the backyard pen was a fair solution for her long term, and that they were going to be looking for a new home for her. One moment please... hold the phone... let me go consult with my husband.
He was smart enough not to argue with his pregnant wife who told him with tear filled eyes how lonely she is when he's gone to work all day, and just how much a companion would mean to me. We both had concerns however. This dog was.... raw. Raw is the best way I can describe her, and very wild. With a baby on the way, would she be safe? So, I said let me try her for a week. I'm a fair hand at dog training, and while she won't be perfect in a week certainly, I figured I'd have a pretty good idea of whether she would turn out ok, or whether she was just too much dog for our young family.
She was very rough around the edges, scared of all the things in a people house... the steps to get inside, the hum of the fridge motor, the dvd tray popping out of the machine, the toaster. She played hard and had no "off switch" once she got going, we pretty much had to throw her outside by herself for a while to cool off. Her play bites broke skin. She would scratch and paw at people. She sure wasn't potty trained (though she did learn quickly). She was very food agressive. I had my doubts the first few days, but I could really see the potential in her. She came to trust and love us. I walked her for over an hour every day in all weather, which really made a big difference. And I use a halti, which puts pressure on her nose rather than a collar around her neck. She may be only 40 lbs, but she is STRONG and she was born to pull things. Yep, I could work with this, I decided, and so we named her Kaylee, and decided to keep her.
In the winter I bought her a harness, and we learned the ins and outs of hauling with dog power. Quality food made her eyes bright and her coat shine, she was healthy, vibrant, and did I mention STRONG!? She settled down into life in a people house incredibly fast. She has become a brilliant companion for our son. When he was little and helpless she was very respectful of his space, and now that he's more active, she's his partner in crime. He thinks up mischief she would never dream of on her own (like raiding the diaper bag for cookies) and she uses her strength and coordination to help him implement his devious little plans. He bites her ears, pulls fur out of her tail, plays with the tags on her collar, steals her bone right out of her mouth and even tries to eat out of her dish. She takes it all in stride, and licks his feet until he giggles. She was, in fact, the first thing he ever laughed at. We rigged up a baby sled for her to pull him around in, and both seem to enjoy our outings (though, the road crews here are far too diligent for our liking, we practically have to drop everything and go when we see it start to snow.).
In short, she turned into an amazing dog, one of the best pets I've ever had. And if she sometimes jumps up on guests and happens to think one corner of my garden is her personal litter box, well, I suppose it could be worse!