My Thundering Herd

If you ask a dog owner about their dogs, you will never get a brief answer. Augustick was so kind to inquire, so here are my girls and their stories.

Pilot Pilot

So elegant, so noble. So not her.

Pilot is the big brindle & white one. I found her wandering down the street as a stray in 2006 when she was six or seven months old. All long legs and floppy ears. Malnourished and covered in fleas, but happy as a lark. I turned her into the pound and when no one claimed her I took her back. There was just so much to her that pointed to a great dog, too great to have such a short life. At the time I was researching the pilots of Wilmington Harbor during the American Civil War, thus she became Pilot. At first I thought she was four or five months old, but after getting fed regularly, she put on 12 pounds in ten days and all her puppy teeth dropped out. The lack of food had delayed her maturing. She is now a 60 lb. bundle of high energy love. As my vet says, “she runs wide open.” She once sprained her tail wagging it too hard. That’s the kind of personality she is: No half measures. She is a Boxer mix, probably with Dalmatian as despite technically entering senior-citizenhood (she turned eight this year) and getting walked for an hour everyday, she still has more energy than most two year old dogs. (And the spots under the white parts of her fur were another tip off. Those became more prominent as she aged.) She’s a big doofus, but loves people and thinks everyone exists to love her.

She’s also my stubborn little rebel. She is the dog who *knows* she is not supposed to nose around the counter, but the instant my back is turned…

PilotNaughty

She gets down as soon as I tell her to. And she sits and waits to go out and has to down-stay to eat. It’s the game of pushing what she can get away with.

She’s my wild woman. My bud, my pal. My bestie.

PilotBuddy

Unfortunately, having been jumped a few times in her youth by dogs whose owners would not train them, socialize them or keep on a leash, she is now not very good with other dogs that challenge her. We went through extensive training and socialization, but even then the trainer said she has to be supervised in play. That she and Taeda get on so well (even to the point Pilot will let Taeda roll her) is one of the reasons that Taeda was a keeper.

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“Look mommy! I have a friend!” (Note the tail blur.)

Taeda is the smaller, red dog. She is a Pit Bull mix who was living wild in the woods around the apartment complex for at least four months. She was so shy of people no one could get near her. No one even knew what gender she was. I just called the dog “Tyler” and fed her/him everyday when Pilot and I went on our morning walks. Eventually “Tyler” began following us though our walk. Dogs are pack animals and I think she was just so lonely she just wanted some company, despite being so scared. We went early, while it was still dark, so much of the time I could not see and often not even hear her. Stealth dog. They followed so close I would accidentally hit them with my heel as we were walking, but she would shy away if I put my hand out. So we just had a silent shadow following us everyday. At one point, the neighbors had animal control set up a trap for her. For some reason, I woke very early (like 3am) that morning and took Pilot out. We found “Tyler” in the trap. Because she was a Pit mix and so scared of people, it was a death sentence. Animal control would hold her for three days to see if any owner claimed them and then put the dog down. I let her out. After that walk, she began playing with Pilot. Eventually it got to the point where she would let me pet her and I was able to get a leash on her and bring her inside.

Taeda2

My delicate flower. (She is actually. But this is was the first day inside the apartment and she was 35 lbs. of solid muscle. She’s since slimmed down.)

This is after she had settled in a bit.

Taeda

That’s when I discovered she was a girl. I switched “Tyler” to “Taeda.” Taeda is Latin for “pine torch/pine bough” and it’s part of the Latin name for the Loblolly Pine, which were the trees she was living under for months. And I have to tell you, that red is perfect camouflage for the woods. It is the same red of dried pine needles. The first time Pilot and I encountered her, we walked within five feet of her and only saw her when she got up to move away after we passed. That happened twice, the second time when we were looking for her.

Stealth dog.

Then she stayed in one spot in the house for four months. I’m not kidding. If she did not have a leash on to go outside, she went to the foot of my bed and stayed there.

I had never seen anything like it. It took months for her to start exploring the rest of the apartment, almost two years before she would ask for attention and over two years before she would compete for it. I have never encountered such a timid dog. She wasn’t terrified, it was never that extreme, just extremely shy and timid.

I don’t know what had happened to her before she came to us. I have fostered abused dogs before, including a Pittie that had been used as a bait dog in a fighting ring. She didn’t act like an abused dog, more like she had very little human contact. She had at least two or three litters before we found her (and it was a good thing we got her in when we did because she was going into heat again) but was only two years old or so and healthy. The way she stayed in one spot for so long makes me think she was physically cared for, but kenneled for most of her formative life. It’s possible that she was part of a fighting dog breeding program. (She is very fast and agile, which are desirable physical traits for the scumbags in dog fighting.) They started breeding her before she got to full size, before they realized she was going to be small. When they saw she was only going to be 35 lbs, they dumped her. (Gods only know what happened to her puppies.) That’s the prevailing theory anyway. I’m also close to a hospital/medical school/research center so it is possible she escaped from medical research facility.

The gentleman at their boarding kennel thinks it may not be so dramatic and that she simply may have been a feral dog for most of her life. Maybe.

And she was silent. Utterly silent. I began to worry that someone had cut her vocal chords (as some bad owners do to keep their dogs from barking), until one night one of the cats got near her food bowl and Taeda warned them off. That was a shock. She has a low voice for her size. But in two years, I have only heard her bark two or three times.

Really stealthy dog.

Taeda2

(These are early pictures, she is on a martingale collar now.)

And she groans when she stretches. It’s adorable.

Now that she has her confidence in the house, we are working on her confidence out of the house. It’s time consuming because I have to work with her one on one. (It’s hard to work on getting her confident while Pilot is hogging the limelight.) She’s clever,  more gentle and the best barometer I have ever had. If it is going to rain, even if the skies are clear at the moment, she has to be dragged outside.

*picture missing*

No! It might mist and I will be slightly damp!

But after sleeping rough for months, I guess she has earned the right to be persnickety about the weather.

But she is so sweet and when she is happy, she is the happiest being on the planet. She has this sort of running bounce (or bouncing run) that thumps her paws into the floor that really does make the two of them sound like a thundering herd. And she is just *so* excited to be loved. I’m still getting to know her.

So that’s me rattling on about my dogs.

PilotTaeda PilotTaeda2

PilotTaeda4 PilotTaeda3

My girls.

And then there are cats, of course: Sabre & Ghost.

Sabre and Ghost photo SabreandGhost2_zpsc6d180b2.jpg

Those are another set of stories. Sabre, found with a broken jaw and one dead eye under a hedge, and Ghost, pulled out from under a car in the last stages of hypothermia.

So anyone else want to talk about their furkids?