by Tina Stone
The story of my beloved problem child.
|It wasn't long before the people in our neighborhood learned that one of us had gotten a new puppy. He was a pug mix, brindle in color with a black velvety pug nose. His family had two small boys ages 9 and 5. The five-year-old was a semi-regular visitor of mine, drawn to my yard because of my big, black and white Dalmatian/Pit Bull mix dog. The little boy was unimpressed with the tiny pup that chased after his feet and caused the boy to always have to chase and fetch him out of trouble. He loved my dog and every chance he got, he'd spend hours in my yard throwing a baseball for my dog, running and tumbling with the dog-like little boys do. He couldn't rough house and tumble with his pup, but that didn't stop Tiger from trying to join in!
It became my routine when I knew the school bus would be coming, to take a cup of coffee out on the deck and without fail, shortly after the bus passed by, first, I'd see Tiger, his tiny little legs flying as he raced down the street his boy not far behind. The boy and my dog would greet each other like long lost buddies and Tiger would launch himself from the ground and totally bypass the four steps leading up to my deck and leap straight into my arms! The wiggly buddle was all cuddles and kisses and had a weird habit of trying to latch onto my earlobe, which always caused me to giggle and fuss.
All that changed one deep fall night. The air was crisp and chilled. The scent of woodsmoke and rain hung in the air. A whimper at the door caught my dog's attention and they alerted me that something was out there. Opening the door I found Tiger shivering. No wiggles or kisses this time. I picked him up and he just nuzzled into me in a sad kind of way. He spent the night sleeping in my bed.
The next day, the little boy came running into the yard as always. I asked him if he knew where his puppy was. He said no, his daddy had kicked the pup out because the pup had chewed up something in the house. He went on saying the pup was a bad pup. He went potty in the house, he chewed up their toys and everything else. His dad said the pup has to stay outside now and not allowed in the house anymore.
For nearly a week Tiger hung out at my house with me and the dogs. The boy told me his dad had stopped feeding the pup. I noticed my dogs allowing the pup to eat THEIR food. My dogs don't typically share! Tiger came and went as he pleased, technically he wasn't MY dog, By he ate at my house and he slept in my bed at night.
Then suddenly they were gone. Packed up lock, stock, and barrel in the middle of the night and made like ghosts. The whole family just disappeared but guess who got left behind? For weeks the pup cried. He would perk up when he heard the school bus and you could see him slowly deflate as kids went by but not his little boy. It was getting colder now, Christmas had past and New Year was fast approaching. My husband said for me to just admit it the puppy was now ours. I took him to the vet and got his rabies shots and tags and gave him a bright blue-collar, which he hated.
I tried keeping him in the large enclosed pen where we kept our dogs, but he kept digging himself out. He'd run the roads and when he had enough, he wasn't happy unless he was lying pressed against me. He had a bad habit of chasing my cats. Digging in my flower beds. Chewing my husband's boots, stealing my husband's socks. Stealing my house slippers. As far as my husband and I were concerned, this was typical puppy behavior.
Spring came and I noticed he started spending a lot of time down the road at an elderly lady's house. She was an elderly Spanish lady and had a few dogs of her own. Tiger started staying over there more and more, and I decided that was just fine with us. We already had 3 dogs, and we really were not looking for a fourth.
Then one day, I noticed something lying crumpled in our yard out by the fence. I sent my husband to go take a look. When he came back, my husband had tears in his eyes as he cradled Tiger in his arms. The dog was barely alive. From his injuries, we supposed he had been hit by a car or truck. A trip to the vet confirmed he had broken ribs, broken tail, cracked leg, and the side of his face was pretty mangled up. We took Tiger home and I nursed him back to health. For weeks, I laid on the couch next to me and he was my constant side-kick. I admit, I probably spoiled him.
Once back on his feet, his desire to run the roads seemed to have been curbed. He still went to go see the little elderly lady but not very often. He more often than not liked pestering me while I tried to do my housework. When I would try to sweep or mop, he thought it was funny to try to attack the mop or broom. When I had my dirt all piled nice ready to swipe into the dustpan, he thought it was for him to walk through. Not two minutes after I finished making my bed, he would decide to jump on it and take a wiggly role all over it. Oh yes. Problem child indeed.
For three days, Tiger did not come home. We couldn't imagine where he had gotten to. My husband went out looking for him but couldn't find him. On the fourth day, my husband spotted him laying in our yard once again. This time, he had been shot. Not once, but twice. In the front shoulder and in his thigh. One bullet went all the way through. But the other one, we were not so sure. I did my best to doctor him up and nurse him back to health. It was touch and go for a while as he ran a fever and had chills and I feared infection. But, my problem child fought a good fight and survived. To this day, if you rub a certain spot on his leg down near the back lower part you can feel the BB pellet that is still there.
Somewhat resigned to it, we made room for Tiger in our home. After all, our other dogs accepted him and our cats tolerated him even though he liked charging at them and chasing them. The cats didn't express fear though. I'd watch them rub against him and touch noses. So, I figured they had all come to their own agreements. Christmas came again and he knocked the tree down stealing candy canes. We discovered he LOVES peppermint.
One day, while my husband was away at work, a lady and her daughter came to the door, giving out invitations to their church's special event. When they turned to leave, I took a step to close the door and lost my balance. I fell and hit my face on the door frame. My legs were weak due to getting over a bout of infection, and no matter what I tried, my leg just was NOT going to let me get up. The dogs took full advantage of the open door and did what most dogs do. They took off down the road at top speed. Except for Tiger. He kept looking at me like he couldn't understand why Mama was sitting on the floor.
I was embarrassed. The nice church lady tried to help. But she was about 90 pounds soaking wet. I, on the other hand, am a full-sized BBW and probably triple her weight. After a few tries, we both do what any rational woman does. We both called our HUSBANDS. When all else fails, ya call your husband. When her husband AND son arrive, I can't help by groan in disappointment. Two scrawny, tall, men get out of a huge 4x4 truck. The husband is speaking a rapid string of Spanish, which I can't even understand a single word the man is saying. The son walks up to me and as he leans down to talk to me, Tiger picks that exact moment to leap onto my stomach, plant himself firmly on top of me and bare his teeth at the nice man who was going to help me. The man laughs but backs away a few steps. I tell Tiger to stop it and try to push him off me. The dang dog won't budge. Each time one of the men approach me, Tiger nips at them, growls and acts like he will rip their hands off. SO, it's a standoff. I'm stuck on the floor. The men obviously want to help but can't. The woman and girl are watching big-eyed. I keep trying to convince them MY husband will be here soon, so they should get in their trucks and leave.
But no. That would be too easy. My other dogs, the ones who didn't care Mama was on the floor, the ones who took advantage and went racing off, start wandering back into the yard. When they see Tiger planted firmly on top of me, the strangers in the yard, they immediately decide to take action as well and start growling at the nice Church people who are only trying to do their Christian duty and help the crazy lady on the floor.
At this point, I really wish the floor would just open up and swallow me whole. FINALLY, my husband pulls up. Only he's not alone. See, my husband works on a construction crew with half a dozen guys, some who are not legally in the country. When they heard MRS TINA had fallen and needed help, four of the crew members decided they also would come along to help. The arrival of more strangers and Daddy sent the dogs insane mode and all four dogs turned into growling, snarling, snapping monsters that refused to allow ANYONE, my husband included in the door to where I was. My husband grabbed the larger dogs and hauled them back to the bedroom and secured them, Tejas, our other smallish dogs took off running again, but Tiger refused to budge. I kept talking soothingly to him and my husband managed to pick him up but when Tiger saw he was taking him away from me, he snapped and bit my husband, drawing blood.
The whole time this is going on, the group of men silently stood by watching the crazy white people try to control their dogs. I am sure we made a comical sight. In the end, my husband got me up off the floor, everyone got invited to the church event, which was at a Spanish church just down the block, and Fred rounded up the crew and headed back to work.
Until that incident, I never would have guessed it would be my trouble child who would stand and defend me. You have to understand. I have a huge 140-pound Dalmation/Pit Bull mix dog, which is mostly Pit Bull. If ANY of my dogs were to exhibit protective instinct, I would have bet on that one. My Catahoula mix hunting dog is not big, but being a hunting dog, I felt he too would probably be more protective than my little pup not even fully grown up yet. But no. It was my pug-nosed, impulsive, trouble child that stood firm and refused to let anyone near me, even if it was only to HELP me.
It happened not long after our whole household moved to our new house. I had always made a point never to allow Tiger to be left alone with any of our cats. He loved to lunge at them and chase them. In all honesty, I think he really just wants to play with them. The cats don't ever show fear of him. In fact, when Tiger is calm, they will rub against him, sleep next to him and touch noses with them. But Tiger just gets too rough and rowdy and I always feared he might hurt them. Then, it happened.
While moving into our new house, we enclosed the dogs in one of the back bedrooms to keep them out from underfoot and we did the same to the cats. We enclosed them in a bedroom. However, somehow or other, one of the cats had managed to get inclosed in the room with the dogs. We do not know what really happened but when I went in to check the dogs, I discovered Tiger standing next to the dead cat. When he saw me he wagged his tail like he was showing me something he was proud of. Without saying a word, I turned and walked out of the room. I told my husband very clearly I wanted that dog out of my house, and I wanted him out NOW and I did not care where he went or what my husband did with him, but I wanted him gone. NOW. In my anger, I told my husband not to even think about coming back home until he made sure that the dog was gone.
Now, to my husband's credit, he didn't say a word. He first picked up the cat, took it outside to the back and buried it. He loved that cat too, it was the one he found abandoned in a gas station parking lot. He found it when I was very sick in the hospital and he named the tiny little kitten after me by giving it my middle name. Michelle. He called the kitten Shelly for short. It was only after Shelly got to be about 8 months old when he discovered Shelly was a BOY...But, he had bonded with that kitten and loved it, so I am sure he was just upset as I was about the poor cat's death. He put Tiger in his truck and left. Three hours later he came back. Tiger was gone. I was so angry at the time, I didn't even ask what he had done with the dog.
A few days later I discovered just how much time I spent chasing after Tiger and cleaning up after him. I no longer had to do so. My other dogs seemed gloomy and not their usual hyper, bouncy selves. My husband never said anything, but I could tell he too was not himself. I figured he was missing his cat. Finally, during supper, I broke down and asked. What did he do with Tiger?
He said he had given him to one of the guys on the construction crew. He had seen Tiger before and liked him and he gave Tiger to his little boy. I was glad. Tiger loved little kids. He was just the type of dog that needed rowdy little boys to play with. I was sure Tiger was happy in his new home. So I decided everything had worked out for the best. I had never really wanted that dog anyway. Who in their right mind would want such a stubborn, impossibly naughty little dog anyway? I was better off without him!
Fast forward three months later. My husband came home from work one hot July day. After we sat down for supper he casually mentioned that the man who had taken Tiger was trying to find Tiger a new home. Evidently, Tiger had killed a few of the man's chickens and had a habit of getting loose and causing trouble in the neighborhood. The man raised expensive prize-winning chickens and didn't want a killer dog near his flock. I asked what the man planned to do with Tiger. My husband said he didn't know but the man wanted him gone immediately. We ate in silence. My husband kept looking at me. Finally, I said it. I looked up at my husband, knowing he would have every right to fuss at me, every right to refuse what I was about to say. But I said it anyway. I said perhaps we had just better let Tiger come home.
My husband got up and asked me to step out on the porch for just a moment. I followed him out, and he walked to his truck and opened the door. The second the door swung open, Tiger sprang out hit the ground at full speed. He didn't even slow down as he took a flying leap at me, fully trusting that I would catch him. I DID! He was practically impossible to hold as he wiggled, licked, and tried to burrow into me all at once! He latched onto my ear and bit down on it...I yelped, giggled and yea. It was one of those Hallmark kinds of reunions. That night, as Tiger laid in our bed, pressed tight against me, I talked softly to him. He had his head rested on my shoulder. I looked into his sweet brown eyes and I promised him no matter what, I'd always love him. I promised him I'd never again get rid of him. That he would be my dog until the day one of us dies. He looked right at me when I spoke to him. I have no doubt in my heart he understood every word I said.
I'd like to say that from that moment on, he was a perfect boy. That he mended his ways and became the best dog in the world. That's not how this story ends. Even as I type this, he has dug under the fence and gotten out of the pen. He has chased a squirrel and I've watched as he dived headfirst into a stinky mud puddle. He's going to require a bath. My husband will have to go mend the fence. Again. He still chases the cats. He still pulls my clean laundry off the line. He still chews up anything and everything he gets into his mouth. But at the end of the day, when bedtime rolls around, I know right where he will be. He will be pressed right against my side. His soft doggie breath on my arm and his velvety pug-nose nuzzled against my hand and forever embedded in my heart.