This post is my entry into the BlogPaws Blog Carnival Contest, sponsored by BISSELL Homecare, Inc.
The half-torn animal shelter tag described her as a German Shepherd-mix, estimated age: four-and-a-half months. There were no ID tags on the worn, buckle collar she wore. She’d been found, tied to a US postal mail box, by the town dog warden who had taken her to the holding kennel for strays. She sat in a dog run waiting for her owners to claim her. Nobody came and her waiting time was running out.
The kill date on her shelter tag read October 16, which was twelve days away.
I entered this story when my phone rang and my friend, Barb, asked if I could help her bring two puppies across town to the larger humane society for adoption. Her car engine had conked out and she was stuck. If I was free for a few hours, could I help?
An hour later, we pulled out into traffic with two puppies and Barb as my passengers. One short-haired, pup with long, floppy ears was crated and riding comfortably in the back. Barb sat in the middle seat holding that German Shepherd-mix.
She was a gorgeous puppy with reddish-blond fur heavily streaked with an overlay of black. Her saber-like tail screamed, “I AM a German Shepherd!” She had triangular shaped ears that were thick from base to tip – not quite the match for the ears that a purebred shepherd would have. Sitting quietly, her brown eyes steady and over-sized ears on alert, the pup turned around twice as the car picked up speed, curled into a ball and went to sleep.
We had one stop to make before our final destination. It was a straightforward, twenty minute drive that I found myself trying to prolong because I was having second thoughts about this puppy.
It wasn’t just her sweet temperament and physical beauty tugging at my heart. When you looked into her eyes, her intelligence blazed out with just a trace of wary skepticism. As if she was weighing what it would cost for her to trust you.
We arrived in due course and tumbled both dogs out of the car. Barb handed me the leash attached to the shepherd-mix while she walked the other pup into the building. “Walked” is a matter of interpretation because I was dragged! “My” puppy had no leash manners and would have pulled my arm off if I hadn’t been quite determined to hold on.
In the time it took us to meet up with the woman Barb had agreed to connect with before driving out to the humane society, I had reached a decision. I would take the shepherd-mix home with me. We just needed to make one more stop before heading for the next animal shelter. The school bus garage where my husband worked.
Barb waited in the car. I let this puppy drag me across the concrete floor bays where one school bus was up on a lift getting worked on by my husband.
I said, “What do you think?”
He replied, “Well, we could foster her.”
watched us as if she sensed that her fate was still uncertain. That night, my husband and I talked late into the night, assessing the financial responsibilities of permanently adding a second dog to our family. Should we be practical and put her back into the system and hope that she’d get a great family to adopt her? Or, were we supposed to put our faith into the set of circumstances that brought her into our lives and keep her?
She lay in her crate, nose tucked between her two front paws, intently watching us. Something about the look in her eyes would not be denied. I certainly didn’t think that she understood the context of our conversation. However, I knew that dogs are attentive to tone of voice. It’s quite possible that she was picking up on our worried overtones.
We stopped talking and looked at her.
What my husband and I had figured out about each other is that we are both suckers for gorgeous, smart dogs. This one was both. We also knew that, just like people can enter your life for a reason, animals can too. Perhaps this was one of those times when we needed to accept that this street stray was meant to be a part of our lives.
Over the years, she would test everything we knew about dogs, demanding that we read more books, seek out more dog professional trainers; take obedience classes with and sometimes without her — all in our commitment to her to allow her to be the best dog she was capable of becoming. In return, she would guard and protect us, give us unshakable loyalty along with her absolute trust and stout, loving heart.
She was a take-no-prisoners, very serious dog. This could have been due to the German Shepherd influence, but, I knew I’d understand her more completely if I could figure out what else had gone into the mix. After reading a lot of books on different dog breeds, and talking with people who knew shepherds and husky dogs, I was pretty sure that what we had was a German Shepherd-Norwegian Elkhound cross-breed.
We named her Suzy and we spelled her name S-i-o-u-x-y. We wanted a friendly name that wouldn’t put people off when they met her and we wanted to give her the dignity and true courage of a Sioux warrior.
Because she was dog aggressive and a fear biter and this would be hard.
We came a long way together in ten years with protection being a two-sided coin. Siouxy naturally assumed the role of protector and guardian from the moment she entered our home. She never wavered from this responsibility. And we accepted the fact that our responsibility was to repay that role by protecting her. She’d been abandoned once and we refused to do that to her again – not when she accepted our leadership and would always do her best to please us.
If we had given up on her, we would have sent an unspoken yet extremely powerful message to our young son. We would have demonstrated to him that it’s okay to walk away from hard things; that dogs are disposable simply because people don’t want to take the time to figure them out. Much easier to throw a dog away like yesterday’s trash.
Siouxy took me to places I never would have gone if she hadn’t been a part of our lives. She showed me how complex a dog’s behavior can be and how rewarding it is to work to understand it.
She forced me to think outside the box when she and I were problem-solving together. And, in the end, she taught me about leadership.
She taught me how to put my game face on by focusing on that invisible, inner energy you toss over your shoulders like a floor-length cloak and hug close to your body. Without understanding their compulsion, other people are drawn to you — your alpha- energy pulls them to where you are.
Finally, to my surprise, and when I least expected it, Siouxy taught me that sometimes, going into battle is the right thing to do. [gplus count="true" size="Medium" ]