Continued from 7/28/15 Amazing Gracie, how sweet the hound…
While we were filling out the paperwork, I asked about Gracie’s tail — actually, the lack thereof. The shelter’s vet said it was a natural bob, not the result of a horrific accident, or worse: a monster of a human hurting and torturing her. Our own vet confirmed it, as well as her age, when I took her in the next day for a check up.
It was a huge relief for me, knowing I wouldn’t dwell on the unknown. Being in the dark about how she came to be in a shelter was bad enough. What we do know is that Animal House Shelter in Huntley, Illinois, rescued a group of dogs from a downstate Illinois kill shelter. The kill shelters don’t keep very good records, so the rest is pure speculation on our part and that of Animal House: Gracie was about 2 1/2 months old when they picked her up downstate. The downstate shelter estimated she’d been with them about 2 weeks, but they have no way of knowing exactly how long she’d been on the streets. So a puppy of only 2 months, maybe younger, was dumped. My heart broke at that. 8 weeks old or younger, and dumped outside, alone. We adopted her in early spring at about 4 1/2 months old, which means she was born in the dead of winter — and abandoned outside on her own not long after. I was wrong. A monster of a human DID hurt her.
From what our vet can tell, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with her — except now we know it’s typical for this breed to have a “fish hook” tail, and she doesn’t have a tail at all, except for the furry nub that wiggles when she’s happy or excited. But this monster dumped her because she wasn’t “perfect” when she was born? I strongly believe there is a special place in Hell for people who abuse animals. Abandonment to the streets is abuse.
Some people have asked how I know she was abandoned and not born feral. Several things the vet and the shelter said, namely that she was alone when she was rescued. Typically if a litter is born to strays, evidence of a litter — more pups, even one — would be around, and there wasn’t any. Second, she showed no signs of being afraid of the people who picked her up. A feral mother will very easily and quickly be able to pass her fear of humans to her pups. Gracie adores people. She takes her cues from us. For instance, if I approach the door happy and confidently, Gracie wiggles all the way with me and genuinely welcomes whomever is at the door. If I seem surprised, or wary, the fur on the back of Gracie’s back rises and she stays by my side, even growling if I continue to be cautious. She showed absolutely no signs of fear at the shelter when we met her, and hadn’t been there long enough to have been trained out of any such behavior.
Can you imagine? Thinking that all there is to life is Cold, Hungry, Tired, Scared Loneliness? Thinking that’s what you’re here for? Or approaching your “golden years” only to be dumped at a shelter because you don’t have the energy you used to, or are having some age-related health issues, or just aren’t “cute enough” anymore. Can you imagine suddenly being homeless, wondering what you did wrong to be abandoned?
I am a huge advocate of adopting from shelters or rescue groups. There are too many wonderful and amazing animals who are there through no fault of their own. Stores or businesses that support puppy mills or other continuous breeding practices for any animal have no place in the world. If you are set on having a purebred, ask yourself “why?” Besides the fact that you can often find them in shelters and rescues, unless you plan on showing or breeding a particular animal, you might find it’s a particular size, color, shape, or temperament of an animal you are looking for – and there are (unfortunately) millions of animals to choose from in shelters and rescues all over.
For Gracie, though, her forever home is with us, no matter where we go. She and our cats are family. I have fought to keep us all together on more than one occasion, especially during The Big Bad Awful.
The first year of Gracie living with us was a learning experience for all of us, that’s for certain. Remember, I was hesitant about the puppy thing, and rightly so: I was up every 2-3 hours with her every night for a few weeks; then every 4-5; until finally I could say “time for bed!” at 11pm to her, she’d bounce over to her kennel and get comfy, and I could come downstairs at 6am without discovering an accident! Teething was another puppy trait I could have done without. Finding a good chew was key to keeping my furniture and my sanity intact. I’m happy to report that nine years later, we are still so incredibly happy we made that turn-around and high-tailed it back to the animal shelter (well, everyone except Murphy cat)!
First day as a family, Gracie went to the groomers for a bath and a pedicure. Then shopping at Farm & Fleet for her kennel. And, a final stop at our favorite pet store downtown. It’s a small, family-owned business, and leashed doggies are always welcomed. We picked out a collar and leash, some new toys, really good puppy food, and had a tag made with her name and my cell phone number on it. The shelter microchips all their animals as soon as they come in. They also make sure the pets are all up on their basic shots. All that was left for us to do was love her and train her so we all knew what was expected.
While shopping that day, I saw a strip of large jingle bells that looped over a door knob. I’d seen dogs nudge the strip with their paws or nose, indicating they needed to go outside. I figured it couldn’t hurt – I really wanted to see if we could keep the barking to a minimum. The shelter had said she didn’t bark “much,” but that’s open for interpretation.
I showed Gracie how to use the bells 2 times. She had it down within a ½ hour.
Next up was puppy school. I’m still convinced these classes aren’t so much for the dogs as the humans. Fortunately, Gracie thought school was great fun and passed with flying colors. Unfortunately, by the time she entered doggy “middle school,” like most teenagers, she decided it wasn’t worth her time and would lay down in the middle of class and FALL ASLEEP. And these weren’t late night classes at all!
Now, dog agility: that was a different game all together. She loved it and EXCELLED at it! She loved every piece of equipment, except the weave poles. It’s almost as if she couldn’t communicate with her back end to cooperate, sometimes looking at her rear as if she couldn’t quite believe which way it had gone. But every other task she took on with absolute glee! That was “our” thing, until my arthritic knees decided we were done. I just couldn’t keep up with her – she’s FAST.
It was about this time that a new woman had started working at our favorite pet store. I walked in with Gracie one day, and D practically screamed “Oh my gosh you’ve got a Carolina Dog!”
Um, I do?
D told me what she knew of the breed, and with the exception of the missing tail, Gracie looked just like these dogs. D suggested I go home and Google “Carolina Dogs.” Which I did.
And there was Gracie looking back at me from the screen.
At least, it certainly looked like Gracie. I spent the rest of the evening learning everything I could about these magnificent dogs. Physically, we already knew Gracie was missing the tail. But her coloring, her dimensions (although she is on the larger side, weighing in at a muscular and fit 55-60 lbs.), and certainly some of her more, ah, unusual behaviors fit the bill. I came across a Carolina Dog website, and decided to contact one of the breeder’s listed for more information and to see if she could help me determine how much (if any) Carolina Dog Gracie had in her.
It was just the beginning of a new adventure for us.
Be sure to come back on Tuesday, Friends, and read the last part of Amazing Gracie’s story. Until then, Cheers!