Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Reluctant Visitor

The first time I saw J.D. her name was not J.D. It was Jeannie or something like that. Bobby (a neighbor that lives down the road from us) had given her a name just to have something to call her. She was a feral dog living at his house in the bushes and covered areas when the weather was bad. She is about 12 or 14 inches high and had no discernible personality; skittish would be the best way to describe her. While she lived with Bobby he had made some small inroads with her but since he worked a lot he did not have the time to concentrate on domesticating her. Bobby did feed her but she almost never allowed him to get close enough to touch or pet her. Many of the people living here in the Big Creek community supposed she was a feral dog that was born in the woods and never had contact with humans. Maybe some was made but it was probably of the most negative kind. She was likely the target of rocks as people tried to chase her away. She was very thin and if you looked at her directly in the eye she would run away until she was out of sight. If you noticed her at all she was very uncomfortable and would disappear into the bushes with her tail between her legs. She existed only in my peripheral vision for a year and a half and I did not touch her for longer than that. She did get to the point to where she followed me around in the yard and garden. One afternoon I walked down into the garden to check on the chickens. She followed me closely but just out of reach. I carried with me a length of rope in which I had, for some reason tied a slip knot. I held one end of the rope in my hand and the other end trailed behind, dragging along the ground following me. J.D. inadvertently stepped into the small circle of the slip knot and the pressure from her foot snatched the knot closed around her paw. She quickly realized that she had been caught and had an immediate panic attack. She reared up; she did several flips which only further tightened the knot and she howled in protest. When none of this relieved her situation she turned and raced directly at me with her teeth bared and did her best to bite me. I leaped and cavorted around in order to escape her snapping teeth and narrowly avoided them. Eventually I dropped the rope and when it fell the knot loosened and her foot came out of the loop. I did not see J.D. for several days following this incident but eventually she showed back up..

Her coat is black and white, large spots, dull with little shine but all in all not a bad looking little ordinary dog. Her feet are freckled with many tiny black spots. Some who saw her referred to her as a feist, whatever that is. I always thought feist was some sort of adjective, like feisty, that or maybe a verb. When J.D. first showed up she was in heat which made her even less desirable than her looks did. My male dog Jesse was probably a pretty lonely dog living here with no companion to interact with. J.D. must have realized this. Either that or she was just in heat and looking for a male dog to procreate with. Whatever the reasons she started staying down at our house more than she stayed at Bobby’s. I tried to chase her back to Bobby’s numerous times but she would have none of it. Frequently I would look out in the driveway and see J.D. standing there with Jesse behind her his hips pumpimg the air trying, frantically to mount her in a desperate effort to copulate. Jesse was too big and could not get down low enough for intercourse with the much smaller dog. She eventually passed out of heat with no puppies. We planned on having her neutered in the following months but could never get close enough to catch her. Six months passed and of course she came back into heat. She and Jesse disappeared into the woods for almost two weeks and during that time he apparently managed to complete the copulation. Perhaps she stood on a tree stump or maybe he stood in a hole. Really there is no way to know just how they managed it but they did. They were both significantly thinner when they finally returned home.

On the first day of May J.D. delivered four puppies under the front porch of our house. It was an impossible area, almost inaccessible and could only be reached by crawling on your stomach. Hearing her cries of distress around 10:30 in the evening I crawled on my belly till I could just glimpse her pushing these huge puppies from her back end. It was very touching seeing her struggle so determinedly under the front porch in the darkness under the porch illuminated only by the trembling spot of light from the flashlight. I left her to her business and went back into the house pretty sure that everything would be all right. The next morning early I went out to check on her. She had carried all four puppies up to the front porch before daylight where Jesse had pawed three of them. Not knowing what they were he pawed them till he tore the skin open on the back of one and injured two of the others. We quickly separated him from J.D. and the puppies but even after rushing them to the vet’s that morning the most damaged one died later when we returned home. She lived only a few hours. I buried her underneath one of the espaliered pear trees in the garden. She was a beautiful infant puppy already covered with spots. The surviving puppies were amazingly healthy. They were large puppies, rolling with fat and enthusiasm, pawing the air and searching for J.D. with their little feet. They sucked on her tiny teats till I thought she would be pulled inside out. That morning was the first time J.D. ever let me touch her. She shook with fear and trembling but finally knew that I meant her no harm. After that morning she began to be friendlier and allowed me to furtively touch her and not run away when I neared her. The puppies grew like I could not believe. Many afternoons I would take them all over to the other side of the creek and let them run in the sun through the fresh green grass and tumble over each other in a puppy tangle. They were adorable, a mass of soft black and white puppies. A favorite memory will always be those puppies, soft and yielding, tumbling, yapping with that amazing puppy breath.

Six weeks passed before I could believe it and the time came to find the puppies new homes. They were all so cute I couldn’t imagine having any trouble placing them. We didn’t. After posting photos of them in several of the local businesses, Tractor Supply, Ingle's and on line, we began to get calls from people wanting them. In no time at all we placed the two puppies we planned on not keeping. Calls wanting information about them continued for months following the placement of the final one. The puppy we decided to keep we named Moose. He was adorable, covered in the tiny spots like those that freckled his mother's feet. He also had three large black patches, one on his right hip and the other two on each of his incredibly soft ears. During all this passing time J.D. became more and more gregarious with our immediate family and even with some of the neighbors. She has become a pretty good dog and has adapted to the point that she seeks our company voluntarily, especially mine. Sometimes I bring her into the house and she dutifully sits in my lap and watches television as long as I want her to. She is still not all that comfortable visiting the inside of the house but tolerates it at my insistence. She is frightened by the large screen television and I believe she thinks it is real. Three of our four dogs are not primarily inside dogs but they do spend many nights in front of the fireplace sleeping while we watch television. AT 10:00 all but Brownie (actually Peyton’s dog) go outside and sleep on the side porch where I have heat lamps rigged up for them in colder weather. They frequently have disagreements in the wee hours of the mornings and wake us up. There is a time when one or the other of the dogs has to go out into the night to relieve themselves. It causes a small riot when they return and try to reclaim their warm spot. Usually there is very little bloodletting and after a minute or so of nonstop barking they settle back down and sleep soundly the rest of the night, or until something else disturbs them and they all go racing out into the night barking hysterically after whatever woke them up, a deer, a raccoon, an opossum or maybe the neighborhood ax murderer.

By the way I completely forgot to explain how J.D. got her name. During the first long months of her coming to live here she would not have anything to do with any of us and tenaciously clung to Jesse and him alone. He was the only one that could get near her and they were constant companions. They slept curled within each other’s warmth. We needed some way to identify her from Jesse and the other neighborhood dogs so we called her Jesse’s dog. The moniker stayed but we shortened it to J.D. We all really like her and have enjoyed having the “reluctant guest” stay with us for the past several years. We hope she continues to stay and she is more than welcome since she is now spayed. Jesse I am afraid would not agree with our decision concerning this matter.

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