Living in the country, we get our fair share of dumped animals. Over the years our family has rescued over 10 stray dogs and infinite number of feral cats that were simply left out here to try and make it on their own way. Cats are simple to humanely catch, spay/neuter, feed and let live out their lives catching mice and living what comes instinctively natural to them. Dogs, on the other hand, take much more work. Many of the dogs dumped learn to be predators to survive, killing chickens, and sometimes even larger livestock, like goats and sheep. When this happens it is impossible for them to be kept as farm dogs, and they must be relocated to homes without this temptation.
Growing up we had several strays that became family pets. Some simply wandering up to our house, some found lost, wet, and scared on the side of our country road.
So, 7 years ago, when my Mom called me saying she had a dog that had been living under a neighbors mailbox for a week with no collar and no apparent home, we were willing to take her in.
This girl was so skittish towards me. I would have to put out my hand but look the other way for her to even approach me. If I turned to look at her, she shrank back in a coward. Our Techie, just 5 at the time, was the only one she felt at home with. She would walk up to him and let him pet her, but with a distant look in her eye.
She was reddish/brown, looking to have some chow and maybe some collie in her, and extremely under weight.
We made an appointment with our vet and took her in to be checked out. She came back with a clean bill of health, appx 2 years old, already spayed, and 15-20 lbs under weight.
We named her Andy.
Andy never tried to leave our home, but she never really acted like she was ours, just as if she chose to hang out here as long as she chose. I mean, who could blame her? Lots of good food, a little boy to follow along behind, clean water, and a big tree to sleep under at night. Oh, ya. And chickens to eat.
Yep, our Andy had an overwhelming taste for fresh chicken. I really don’t think she even knew what happened when these urges took over. It’s like she became zombie dog. She would go into a trance and then all at once just snap out of it and look at me like “What just happened? What DID I DO?” We tried all kinds of resourceful things to train her not to kill chickens, but alas, just had to keep her separated from them. She was banned from the goat yard and any space that the chickens inhabited. Don’t feel sorry for her, though. She still had a full acre of yard to run free and happy in.
About a month after bringing her home from the vet check, we observed what looked like a heat cycle. The vet had told us that she was spayed, but we decided to schedule an appt. anyway.
We took her in to the vet again, they check her out and showed us the incision line from her spay. The vet commented that it looked a little jagged, but it was indeed a spay incision and that she was fixed. We were told she probly just had a infection. So, Andy came home again.
During the next month, Andy became more and more trusting of us. She began to come up for love and pets. One evening while I was stroking her head, I noticed a Y shaped scar on the top of her head. It looked as if she had been hit over the head with something, splitting her skin open. It had been long healed, but was disturbing to say the least.
A few months later, Andy came back into what appeared to be heat.
We loaded her up, once again, and took her into the vet. This time I ask the vet to do an incision and check for sure that she was spayed.
A few hours later the vet called me and said, sure enough, Andy was not spayed, but is now.
The next day I went to pick her up and bring her home. Before leaving the vet told me a gruesome tale. He said once they had her on the operating table, they discovered that someone had tried to cut her open and spay her themselves. She had a very long, jagged scar on her belly that went deep, all the way through to her female organs. He said it’s a wonder she did not bleed to death from the ragged surgery. I told him about the scar on the top of her head, and we both wonder if the two wounds were inflicted at the same time. Could this sweet, beautiful dog have been slammed over the head hard enough to knock her out, and then cut open, with the intention of fixing her?
Andy became more and more a part of our family, learning to trust us and come to us for affection, but she would never look us in the eye when we talked to her or gave her love, and for years and years she kept her distance from Preston and all men in general. She had absolutely no trust for grown men.
Christmas Eve, a few years after Andy came to live with us, she and I went on a run, which was a common, everyday thing. As I came to the end of the run, Andy didn’t stop with me like always, for some reason, I still don’t know why, she ran across the gate and right into the middle of the road our ranch is on. At the same time a Honda Accord was fast approaching. I remember yelling “Andy!” and her looking right into my eyes, and then the car hit her. They were traveling a good 40-50 miles an hours. Andy flew through the air, landing about 20 feet away on the side of the road. The car went another quarter mile and pulled over. A man got out, checked his bumper, got back in his car and drove away leaving us there. Andy was not moving and I could not see any breathing.
I ran home, as fast as I could, and told Preston that Andy was dead. I stayed with our Techie and Preston’s Side Kick, who was just a baby, while Preston went to get Andy in the truck. I was sobbing hysterically. Christmas was ruined. Andy was dead.
A few minutes later, Preston came driving up with Andy in the back of the truck. She was sitting up, looking out the truck bed.
I couldn’t believe it! I ran up to her and Preston said when he got down to the end of the drive, she was sitting there, looking around.
We gingerly brought her in the house. While we could not feel any broken bones, and there was no blood, we did not know if she had sustained any internal injuries. She was also in severe shock and was shaking all over.
We made her a soft bed of blankets and pillows and Preston took her vitals. Everything seemed normal, we were just going to have to wait and see. All the rest of the day she slept on and off, but never tried to get up. She drank water, but no food. We didn’t know what the outcome would be.
The next day was Christmas morning, and we woke to find Andy sitting up, the shaking gone, and a smile on her face. All throughout that day she got better and better. By the end of the day she was scratching at the door wanting to go out and play.
Our Andy girl was going to be OK.
From that time on she has stuck close to the house, stays far away from the street, and from time to time, gets a little cross eyed look in her eye.
For years we called her “Andy, the dog that belongs to herself”. She loved us all, and lived here contently, but never seemed as if the world would end if she had to go live somewhere else.
One cold morning last winter, Preston and I were sitting next to the fire, drinking our coffee. Murphy, our big yellow lummox of a lab, was curled up with his head in my lap, Chico, our little chihuahua/terrier mix, was curled up in our lap, and Andy was curled up next to Preston with her head resting in his lap, looking up into his eyes as he stroked her head. It hit me, suddenly, that she had learned to trust him. And also, that she had decided she belonged here.
She was no longer the dog that belonged to herself. She was Andy, the dog that belonged with her family.