Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Are You a Dog Person?

In high school, I had a blonde golden retriever named Lucy who was my best friend.  She LOVED to play hide and seek.  I would hide in the yard and then Mom would send her to find me. 

She’d tear around, searching every bush, tree, and building until she found me.  Then she would dance and jump and wiggle around in victory until I sent her back and hid again.

I was heartbroken when she passed.  I couldn’t stand looking at her empty place.  

Within a month, my husband and I adopted another golden retriever, this time a male, and we named him Grizz.   His coat was dark, red, and curly.  I knew that a male dog would be different.  But he had issues beyond the ones that come with gender. 

He was timid from the start, and wanted to mark everything on the property—plants, bushes, trees, tools, etc.—with poo.  Yuck!  As he grew, he began to show aggression at feeding time, and around other animals, and sometimes for no apparent reason, towards me and the boys.  Although my husband and I worked patiently yet firmly with him, it became increasingly obvious that he was not your normal golden.

One day while my toddler and I were out near our gate, another dog and owner walked by on the road.   Although they were more than 30 yards away, I guess he still felt threatened.  All of a sudden Grizz  whipped around and went after my son, snarling and snapping.  Lucky for me I was close enough to intervene.  But it scared me to death. 

That attack terminated his placement in our family. 

It was more than a year later when I finally worked up the courage to get another pup.  This time, I went with a German Shepherd, which we named Sam. 

He quickly became the standard by which all future dogs would be judged.  He was brilliantly smart, loyal, athletic and obedient. Sam

We all loved him.  He was the kind of dog which was reassuring to have playing in the yard with your children.  No one in their right mind would think of hurting one of my kids with this companion at their sides!  Sam 2

But then we relocated from Pennsylvania to Indiana.  I wish I had known how stressful moving could be on German shepherds.  I’m not sure what I could have done differently to prevent what happened next.  Maybe I could have been more cautious.  I don’t know. 

He was normally easy-going and friendly to all.  So we were caught off guard by his aggression towards one of the movers at our new house.  As one of them was backing off the truck with a heavy item, Sam dashed past us and bit him.  I was horrified. 

A week later, he bit my 4 year old who had stepped too close to him while he was eating.  It was TOTALLY out of character for him.  It wasn’t a bad bite.  But still, I was crushed.  The doubts that surfaced a week before now felt like a weight on my chest.  My trust in him was evaporating. 

When a neighbor’s dog wandered onto our property, Sam took off after him—all about the business of protecting.  Although he whirled around when I called him, we realized we needed to keep a very close eye on him.

We put him on double probation, like my husband likes to call it.  Sam was penned when company came, and supervised closely when he was loose.  Neighborhood children (and parents) were instructed not to come in the drive if they saw Sam out—until we put him away.  I was taking no chances.

And then the unthinkable happened. 

I was alone in the yard with Sam, and 8 months pregnant with my youngest.  Because I had the tractor running, I didn’t hear a neighbor boy when he zipped in the driveway on his bike. 

Seeing Sam momentarily in the pen getting a drink, the little boy didn’t realize the door to his run was open.  So he had ridden to the garage, tossed his bike down, and was on a dead run towards me to ask if he could play. 

He was one of many children who came to play every chance he could.

By the time I saw him, Sam had latched on to his arm and pulled him to the ground.  No doubt protecting me. 

Only, I didn’t need protecting from this little boy. 

I screamed, “Sam, OFF!” and he immediately left go and lay down.  But not before leaving two puncture wounds on an arm that would heal long before my heart ever would.

It was one of the most difficult things we’ve been through as a family to have to give him away.  But I couldn’t keep Sam penned up for the rest of his life.  And I couldn’t risk another child being bitten.

I kept thinking about how it could have been much worse.  Sam was large and powerful.  As much as we loved him, children and their safety came first. 

So I began to pray about finding a new home for Sam.  Something I thought would be nearly impossible.

However, in a way only God can orchestrate,  a man looking for a shepherd for his remote property contacted us the next week.  He and his wife had no children or animals at their house, plenty of room for a dog to run, and they immediately fell in love with Sam. 

I kept telling myself and my husband it was the right thing to do. 

But it was incredibly hard.

It’s been 7 and a half years since we gave Sam up.  My husband and I have been reluctant to bring another puppy into our family. 

But I saw an ad on Saturday and the wall around my heart began to crack.  With the boys older now, I realized that maybe it was time to give them the gift that I always treasured growing up. 

Reluctantly, my husband agreed to go take a look.

So we did. 

And I was immediately smitten. 

This Easter weekend, while we celebrated our risen Savior and thanked him for new life, we also welcomed a new little life into our family.

I can’t wait to show you pictures of who we brought home.  :)


in the coop said...

I can't believe you didn't put a picture of the new pet in this post!
It is so hard to know what to do when a dog that has been a wonderful part of your family suddenly changes. It happened when our dog had puppies. She never came after any humans, but she did jump the fence and kill our neighbor's two pet goats for no apparent reason. Just an awful situation all around.
I'm glad to hear that you have healed enough to try with another dog.

Mari said...

I'm happy for you and can't wait to see what you got. I was bit by a german shepherd when I was young and have never really been a dog person since that. I never got over that distrust I guess. However - I'm not really scared of them, just not the sort of person to want them snuggled up to me! We did have a dog for 13 years - a chocolate lab and he brought lots of joy to our family!