Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lost Dog in the Desert

Nearly two weeks ago, I was driving to the sandy hilltop to walk the dogs when I suddenly had the oddest feeling that I was going to see, well, a dog! The feeling was so strong that I slowed down my car when we reached the road leading to the hilltop and scanned the fields of sagebrush. Nothing. The feeling grew stronger as we approached our favorite spot and I started to panic, thinking that perhaps this was an instinctive warning that we were going to encounter a coyote.

The place where I walk my dogs, the sagebrush where Baby was hiding.

The feeling grew so strong that I decided to turn around and go somewhere else. As I started to back up my truck, a young brindle male shepherd mix crept out of the sagebrush and sat in front of my bumper. To say I was surprised is an understatement. He was thin, scraggly, and clearly asking for help.

Baby when he first crawled out of the sagebrush. 

I got out of the truck with our water bottle and dish and offered him some water, which he eagerly accepted. I then tried to pet him--he rolled over onto his back and let me scratch his belly. I decided to let Buddy--my friendly meter--out of the truck to see what would happen. Holly and Chewy escaped out the side door. Buddy and the new dog were instant friends. Holly and Chewy strangely ignored the new dog. They acknowledged that he was there, but acted as if he belonged there, as if he had always been there.

When Baby first met my husband he followed my husband everywhere, 
sitting at his feet with his head bowed down. I'm not sure what that meant. 
He is still very attached to my husband. 

It was a bit touchy for a few minutes. When Buddy would get too rowdy the new dog would run back into the sagebrush, then his head would pop up like the coyotes do and he would peek at us for a few minutes before rejoining us. I began to wonder how long he had been roaming the desert to learn this habit.

Buddy and the new dog ran up the road just as another car came down. I ran after them and told the man Buddy was my dog. "Is the other dog yours?" I asked. He hadn't seen another dog. We looked at the sagebrush on the side of the road and there he was, his little brown head peeking up over the top of the bushes. The young man had two labs in his truck and I had three dogs in mine, so we were in a bit of a pickle. He called the Humane Society, though, and they told us they would meet us at a local intersection...if we could convince the dog to come with us. The dog allowed us to clip Buddy's leash around his neck and the young man tried to drive with his arm out his car window as the dog ran alongside. It took quite a while as the leash kept slipping. We were concerned about lifting the dog into my truck bed in case he tried to bite, and had the same concern for putting him in one of the vehicles. We finally made it to the street corner and waited until 10 at night--no Humane Society.

I decided to take the dog home since I didn't have to work the next day. The dog readily accept everyone, even my husband, who was not eager to accept the dog. I started calling the dog Baby--it seemed to fit. He's very young. Baby spent the evening sitting at my husband's feet, staring up at him. I could feel his ribs, so I fed him slowly and he acted as if he was starving, and very grateful. He was wary of Chewy the chihuahua at first, but perfectly comfortable with the labs, (but who isn't?) That night, when I got up for water, I discovered Baby snuggled between the two labs, sleeping. I knew then that I would have trouble leaving the dog at the Humane Society.

I was right, I had trouble. Baby allowed me to put a collar on him and the leash and walked by my side as if he had been trained. He was very trusting and loving. At the Humane Society, they told me he was under a year old and a shepherd mix. He was a little undernourished, but otherwise healthy. They took our information and told me I had a week to find his owner, then I would either have to surrender him or he would legally be mine. If I surrendered him, they had five days to find an owner before he would be "put down." The kennel was full of lost and abandoned dogs. I took Baby with me, along with information on low cost shots and neutering clinics.

Baby and my husband walking in the desert. 

Baby is now a part of the family. He has a love/hate relationship with the cat, but the cat likes to smack him around, which isn't very nice. It took two years for Chewy to get used to having his forehead smacked! He lifted his leg a few times in the house, but no longer. He eats three times a day as opposed to the twice a day the older dogs eat, but he is more active and much younger, and still a bit skinny.

Baby chews on pieces of wood all the time--and he always sticks his butt up in the air. 
I finally bought Kongs for all of the dogs and he plays with his Kong all day long. 

He also sits, gives me paw, understands no, already knows his name, walks on a leash even when the other dogs are running circles around us in the desert, sleeps with the big dogs, loves to have his belly scratched, cuddles me, and smothers my face with kisses if I try to take a nap. I am going to try to teach him tricks--he is one of the smartest dogs I've seen. He gets a bit anxious when there is too much commotion, but we now have four dogs and a cat, so that's understandable. I rearranged the areas around the door to lessen traffic jams and moved the dog food so I no longer have four dogs hovering around me at feeding time. I also feed him outside and the other dogs inside. I am working on removing his food then giving it back to lessen food anxiety. He has no problems with looking me in the eyes or shyness of any kind. Last night, he had his first bath, and handled it beautifully.

Baby walking on a leash with my husband while the chocolate labs follow along.
When we first adopted him we kept him on a leash until he learn to stay with the pack.
Now, I walk him on a leash in the neighborhood every day so he gets continuous exercise
as he tends to get a bit chubby (he has a peanut butter addiction.) 

We are now at our limit for animals--in this area, the limit is five. I never imagined I would have this many animals in this small house, and when the grandchildren come, it will be a challenge--there will definitely be increased noise and activity, so the dogs will most likely be spending their time outside. The week has passed and he is now "our dog." Next week, he meets the vet for his shots. I believe things happen for a reason. I don't know why Baby came into our lives, but it is obvious to me he was meant to be here. He adores us, and we love him, too. My husband still grumbles about "all these dogs," but as I watch him walking Baby down the dusty trails at sunset, I know in my heart that he would never give one of them up.

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