Friday, October 26, 2007

My Hound

I've mentioned Babs the dog before, but I'm sure most of you don't know anything about her. First, she isn't named after Barbara Streisand. Let's get that out of the way right now. I used to call an ex girlfriend (from Valley Center, niece of a friend at work who set us up, and who dumped me for her ex husband and really screwed me over, but that is another story for another time) Babalicious on the phone for some reason. This dog needed a name, that is what she got.

Babs came into my life not long after Dad died in '98. I noticed Lady's food bowl was emptying out a lot faster than usual - but she wasn't gaining weight. I was working the afternoon shift at the USPS, so I was coming home in the dark. As my headlights swept the yard, I started thinking I was seeing something black and roughly dog sized run away as I drove in.

So, I got a flashlight and checked it out. I was pretty sure it wasn't a skunk, but ya never know out here. It turned out to be a very spooked black dog with some white highlights. She is shaped somewhat like a Newfoundland, but is far smaller.

Anyhow, she absolutely didn't trust me. I'd call to her, and she'd wag her tail and take a step towards me, but that was all. It took a couple weeks of bribing her with dog treats to get her to come to me. At first, I'd throw them to her - she wasn't too sure about eating them at first. Then, I started tossing them a bit closer to me until eventually I had her eating out of my hand.

To this day, if I startle her for some reason, off she goes. Obviously, she had been beaten and turned loose in the country. One fine morning, one of my friends and I were leaning on the back of his pickup talking, and she was lying on the ground a few feet away. She was the subject of the discussion. We were wondering where or who she might have come from. Just as a test, I spoke the word "Puta" in the same tone and level as our conversation. She jumped up and ran. I'm not being racist here, there is plenty of white trash around here that would treat her the same. It was just interesting.

She used to like to chase the rabbits my headlights would reveal from their shield of darkness when I'd come home. A cottontail would bolt in the beams, and off she'd go. One night, a cottontail ran under my truck, followed by a pursuing Babs. I heard the thump. Oh God, I prayed, please let her be okay. I got out and there was no sign of her. Thank You, God. It took a couple of days before she'd come to me again. It was all my fault. She wasn't hurt - I couldn't even find a knot on her head. The cottontail chasing cooled off after that. She still gets one occasionally, just not in front of a moving vehicle. Life is full of lessons, even for dogs.

I've never even tried to put a collar on her. She panics when I do something new. She has no interest in the interior of my truck. When Lady was alive, they'd both about climb in when I'd open the door at homecoming, but Babs was apparently concerned she might miss out on her fair share. Now, she spooks if the wind moves my door. Which is 99% of the time. So, the homecoming schedule is greet me at my door by looking in, getting petted a bit after I step out, and immediately head for the front door. Because it is goody time.

Yeah, I give her goodies for no good reason, usually when I get home. She follows me to the porch, and when I go in to get the said goody, off she goes to her dog house. Then, when I step out, I have to call to her to give her the treat. She acts reluctant, and I sound like I'm begging her to come to me (which basically I am, I guess). If I'm hauling groceries inside, and ruin the regularly scheduled program, she looks longingly through the front door at me to remind me I owe her a treat. It is just a bit of a game she likes to play, so I play it for her.

That is about the only game she plays, if you can call it one. She just won't play. Sometimes, she'll jump forward lifting her front paws off the ground, slightly twisting her body so one is higher than the other. Her version of the Happy Dance. She'll sort of bounce and run at the same time in an evasive pattern when I call her - the Joyous Lope. If she barks, it is generally for a good reason. She's gotten into barking contests with the neighbor's dogs late at night, and a bellow from me quiets her down. I really hate to yell at her, but she's seemed to figure out what I want from her.

She doesn't like gunfire, so range days out here on The Poor Farm find her huddled in her doghouse. Oddly enough, she went hunting for cottontails with me once. Lady was still alive, so they both went. Lady, the hunting breed, was there just in case a dog needed petting. Just in case. Babs actually figured out I was looking for cottontails in those clumps of weeds, and began to inspect them before I got there. We didn't flush anything out, but not for lack of effort. I was carrying a .22 pistol, which doesn't seem to bother her.

She used to take on skunks eating her food. Whew, did she ever. I'm sure she had a few infected bites around her neck - a couple times she swelled up like a balloon under her jaw. Taking Babs to the vet would be a major undertaking - I'd have to hold her and have someone drive us to town. She'd probably never talk to me again. Luckily, she doesn't mind being treated for ticks and fleas. She's never gone into heat, so obviously she has been fixed.

Her attitude about skunks has changed. I heard a bit of a ruckus the other night, and when I turned on the porch light, she was eating from her dish to keep a skunk from getting it all. Oh boy. I don't blame her, but I don't want to get sprayed if I step out during the night.

She's still a one man dog. My neighbors feed her when I'm gone for several days, and they report that she will allow them to pet her once in a very great while. My sister has probably had the best luck with Babs, but generally I have to be there. She will take treats from people's hands, but hang around? Not so much. Sis thinks Babs would defend me were I attacked, but I tend to think she'd be hiding in her doghouse. Who knows?

It doesn't matter to me, because I know she loves me. Her golden brown eyes shine at me when I get home. She goes into a wagging fit when I drive in the yard. If she is out exploring, she always comes running in to see me. Yeah, she likes the treats, but she really likes being petted. Sometimes she'll even groan when I rub her ears a certain way. She likes to "inspect" me with her nose - she knows if I've cheated on her and petted another dog. She doesn't seem to mind, she just wants to know. She gives me the same level of inspection if I'm all greasy from work - she just wants to know what I've been up to.

She really is a perfect dog for me - she is so low maintenance. She only eats what she needs, so I can stock up for a couple days for her when I'm gone. Babs lives outside, and likes it. She waters herself from the stock tanks for the cattle. She's not demanding at all.

Do you think I've come to love this well behaved, quiet, highly intelligent, reserved little dog? You betcher ass I do. I hope there is a special kind of hell for the people who dumped her out here to fend for herself. Honestly, this brings a tear to my eye, because I have to wonder just how much was beaten out of her. How much fun she has missed because of the lack of trust ingrained in her.

I thank God she came to me - someone who gave a crap about her. A few miles one way or another, and she'd have more than likely been shot. People out here get tired of dealing with strays, particularly if they mess with cattle or even look like they might. Babs is fine with cattle, but that isn't the point. I know I feel blessed by having her around for these past seven or eight years. I know that if something happens to me, the neighbors would take her in and she would adapt.

I also know what will happen when she gets too old. No vet for her - I cannot see doing something totally new and completely scary to her on her last day. How would that be humane? The day is coming, yet it is a ways off. The temperature extremes bother her now, where before a really hot or cold day made no difference. Sometimes she is a bit stiff climbing the porch steps. Mortality is creeping up on her.

But, that is a bridge that will be crossed later. Prepared for, but unnecessary at this time. Meanwhile, there are ears that need rubbed, smells to be investigated, and well deserved treats to be consumed. I know I'm enjoying the ride.


Sezme said...

She is a very lucky dog. :)

I can't imagine the cowardly behavior that would cause a dog to still be sheepish after seven or eight years with a good home. Bastards.

threecollie said...

What a great post! I am so glad I stumbled on your blog from People of the Gun (along with a number of other good ones).
I read your story on Lady too, and it was beautiful, yet heart wrenching. You must have really loved her.