Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Rescues and Labs and Birds and Deer

We had a Beagle for a short time while I was young. It was only for a short time because he never, never stopped barking and we were in the middle of town and neighbors were complaining. So we had to give him away to one of the local farmers where he wouldn't get the pound called on him. Even though we hadn't had him long, it broke my heart and my brother's, and we both turned our attention to the cats we had instead. Cats are quiet. They keep the mice away. They didn't annoy the neighbors.

I had no intention of having a dog again. For years, I had goldfish (they're also quiet) and in times of stress I loved to sit in front of the tank and watch them. One had a crooked tail and he was my favorite. This fish would actually follow me If I walked past anywhere nearby. Fish don't like to be played with, though, as my three-year-old found out when he escaped my notice and pulled a couple out of the tank. Apparently when they stopped playing (moving) he stuck them under a pillow on the window seat. That was lovely to find. Still, I bought more and I've had them continuously until this last move. I've yet to set up my fish tank. But I will.

In the meantime, my daughter and husband talked me into getting a puppy. She wanted the companionship and he wanted one big enough to go running with and we ended up adopting one neighbors were trying to give away, a fuzzy precious little lab-chow mix. I picked him out of the three available. He attached immediately to my daughter. It's funny how they choose their main owner/pal. Never mind that my husband and I paid a big emergency vet visit fee about four days after we got him because he had heartworms. We saved him, though. The rest of the puppies and the mother were lost to them. Heartworm preventative is a staple at our house now.

He turned out to be the most charming dog, although he didn't like running far, being short and stocky and with tons of long golden hair that made him hot too fast. He moved with us several times and never had any trouble being wherever we were. He was quiet unless he felt a threat, walked nicely alongside us, traveled well, and gave the kids such a wonderful friend. Well, my son had to grow into liking him since he was little when we adopted DJ and the puppy liked to chase after and nip at his ankles!

Roxie-LKHunsaker After this last move, which is our last move after 20 military years, we were finally able to get DJ a friend, adopting a twelve week old yellow lab to keep him amused when we weren't with him. We have the big fenced yard with nice shelter and Roxie drove him crazy, I think, following him around and jumping at him. But he clearly enjoyed her company, watching whenever she was out playing in the yard and he was sitting keeping reign. He was purely in charge and she accepted that. It turns out we named her aptly since she loves to play fetch but she won't fetch sticks. She fetches only rocks.

We lost our DJ in November due to liver failure. He was nearly ten years old which was too soon but I suppose the heartworms may have weakened him. It was crushing to my daughter who was so thoroughly attached to him. It was hard on all of us. Including Roxie.

Miss Roxie went to full-time whining and looking so lost that I knew we had to remedy that even if it was a bit too soon for my daughter to want to think about getting another dog. DJ was hers. Roxie is very much my son's since she attached to him. I told her this one would be mine, not a replacement, but a friend for Roxie.

So we went and saved this little pure black 18 month old lab mix who had been rescued from being starved to the extent he'd lost most of his hair. He was about to be put down because no one wanted him. I can't imagine why. We think he's part terrier although it's a guess, and he is the sweetest thing. I named him Axel after the band that we played as our Axel-LKHunsaker first wedding dance, Axe. Since we've had him, he's gained weight to the healthy limit, he's happy to let Roxie be in charge, and although he's wary, was terrified of the snowball fight over the winter and cringes if you pick up a stick to throw it, he's so loving and gentle. He even wraps around your legs if you're standing and cuddles as close as he can to being in your lap if you're sitting, rather like a cat! Of course, he has his annoying moments, such as barking at birds and bunnies and the neighbor he knows well and anything else that moves (other than his family) and usually at 3:00 in the morning. But he's mine. And I can't imagine having not wanted a dog, although my brother stays faithful to cats and ferrets. Ferrets? I don't get it, but I don't need to get it as long as he does.

There are a myriad of other animals in my world. Just now, I saw three deer running in the yard across the road and I know they do it often (part of what sets my dogs barking, I'm sure, although they can't get to them). I'm constantly telling the dogs to stop barking at the bunnies that are always flitting about my front yard. The bunnies don't seem to pay much attention to them. And my bird feeders just outside my den attract red-headed woodpecker - LKHunsaker several species: cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, goldfinches, grosbeaks, red-headed woodpeckers, and others I can't name. There's also my beloved hummingbirds that like to buzz my head when I'm gardening, and the chipmunks I now have hiding under my hostas. Make the environment favorable to little creatures, and they will come.

I like blue jays, although they're raucous and rather aggressive, and have a short story series loosely related to them. Axel stars in my newest short story, a little romantic comedy inspired by a Classic Romance Revival list conversation and a contest prompt. It's listed here as a free read if you'd like to check it out: Beagle and Sneakers. His name has been changed slightly and it's purely fictional but based on my adoptee.

My next novel features a rescued dog and the effect she has on a girl who was also rescued. It's funny how these things work out. I wrote the part of the dog before we adopted Axel, naming her after a friend's beloved and recently lost dog, but the situation turned out to be similar.

I'm enjoying this animal theme week and hope all of you readers are, also. There's something about people who love and care for animals. I think it adds an extra, rounded dimension to them. How about you? Do you enjoy reading animals in fiction? Does it make you appreciate the characters who take care of them more than you would otherwise?

Thank you for reading. You can find me at my website: and read more of my ramblings on my blog: . Of course, I'll also be here from time to time.



Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi LK. What a lovely blog! All these different animal encounter stories and pet stories are amazingly touching. I felt so sorry when I read about DJ, and then uplifted again when I read about Axel.

Pets really do touch us all in so many ways.

Thanks for sharing.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Loraine, what a beautiful post, I'm crazy about animals and I loved your pet stories. I adore beagles. My last little beagle was with me for fourteen and a half years and died of heart diseasw. It broke my own heart, we'd been through so much together and I still love him, as I love all my dogs and horses who've passed over the rainbow bridge, inlcuding Sally, my little endurance mare who turns up in my 'muse' story 'Dancing With Fate'.

I now have an American Quarter Horse/Paint mare and a black Welsh Cob, as well as a rescued Jack Russell, who is the sweetest little dog you could imagine, despite having been ill treated in the past. Rescued animals are so deserving and repay your love a thosandfold. I'd urge anyone thinking of getting a dog to go for one of the 'rescues' who desperately want a good home and someone to love them. Thanks so much for this lovely glimpse at the pets in your life.

LK Hunsaker said...

Lindsay, yes we still miss our DJ. He was an incredible dog, such a nice companion for our kids when they had to move so often and leave their friends. He was still there. There's something poetic about him being there through all that and waiting until we were finally settled to leave. And it was perfect timing for Axel since we barely saved him and wouldn't have if DJ had held on longer.

Lyn, I have Dancing With Fate waiting for me and look forward to reading about Sally! Yes, rescued pets are so appreciative. You have to be a bit careful about some breeds that have been abused if you have little ones around, but most are very gentle and loving from what I've heard and found.

Danielle Thorne said...

Thanks for a great post. I simply can't understand why someone wanting a family pet would pay hundreds of dollars when there are so many animals at our local shelters. My parents to this day, have a house full of rescued pets and they are the most loving appreciate companions. Our current pet is Sparky, a black cat we finally gave in to getting for my youngest. We got him out of a cardboard box at Walmart...and he a wonderful member of our family. I can't believe I waited so long to bring a sweet animal spirit into our home. Oh, the comfort and smiles they bring us. :)

LK Hunsaker said...

We actually got Roxie from a breeder at a lowered price because she was one of the last ones and getting older than most people want. We went that direction because you can't adopt an unfixed animal from a shelter and we wanted to have one litter of DJs puppies before we had her fixed, not to sell, to keep a couple and we had family and friends wanting the others. Unfortunately, he didn't make it long enough. From now on, though, we'll stick with adoptees.

Adopting Axel was more expensive than getting Roxie our pure bred. Not to mention that many shelters will NOT adopt a dog that will be staying outside instead of inside. When you're talking a couple of rowdy labs that are meant to be outdoor animals, that gets ridiculous as long as they are well sheltered. The lady from Axel's shelter came to look at it and was very impressed with his accomodations and agreed it was a good environment for a dog. So I imagine some people choose breeders because they're less retrictive.

Bekki Lynn said...

Terrific post, LK.

My MIL had a black lab/chow mix. Spoiled rotten as he should have been. He loved to play tug of war and fetch. Endless energy, but when she said it was bedtime, it was bedtime. He'd go in the bedroom and lay on his rug.

LK Hunsaker said...

Bekki, aww, how cute! DJ would absolutely not fetch. I guess he didn't see the point of it. He did like tug of war, though. Axel doesn't fetch either. Strange dogs.

Cheryl said...

Hi Loraine,

My daughter just got a puppy about 6 weeks ago. She went to a shelter and picked him out of a litter--half pyrenees and half anatolean shepherd. He is going to be HUGE. His name was "Embry"--they'd named him at the shelter already, and it just fits him. He is the most wonderful dog she could have. Trouble is, I've become so attached to him, because I have been keeping him for her until she can get her fence repaired (hopefully this week.) I'm going to miss him when he goes to her house. He is a dear. I never got to have dogs when I was growing up, just cats. I loved your post about your family pets. They mean so much to us.

Miriam Newman said...

Loraine, this was a beautiful tribute to a loving friend. I have all rescue animals including a horse and wouldn't have it any other way. I even wrote a little novella called Dancer Dog about the pit bull who ate my house! The dog had serious separation anxiety issues as a result of things that had happened to her and she DID eat my house! A pit bull can do that. But for nine years until I lost Dancer to kidney failure, she was the best friend ever. They are indeed our furry children. So your theme this week is really near and dear to many hearts.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Loraine,
What a beautiful story. I am not really an animal lover myself, but I can't stand cruelty. What kind of beasts were they who owned Axel and treated him so badly.

Savanna Kougar said...

Absolutely lovely entry, Lorraine.
Reading about people who love their pets is always wonderful for me.
Hmmm... hummingbirds... their must be a lovely message in their constant appearance to you.

Linda Banche said...

Nice post, Loraine.

I'm a bird person, mainly ducks. The woodpecker on your feeder is either a Downy or a Hairy Woodpecker, depending on the size. Both birds have the same coloring, but the Hairy is bigger. At second glance, I think the bird is a Hairy.

LK Hunsaker said...

Cheryl, you might have to get a puppy of your own. ;-)

Miriam, I had a kid with separation anxiety but a pit bull that could eat furniture would be more of a challenge, lol. I'm glad you had so many nice years with her. And a rescue horse! How wonderful!

Margaret, I can't imagine and I'd sure like to be able to tell them off every time I see him cringe. We were told he wasn't abused. Definitely not true.

Savanna, I never thought about a message from the hummingbirds. I have a couple of feeders but I never expected them to get close enough to buzz my head!

Linda, thank you for the info. They have red on the backs of their necks if that helps. Recently I've seen very gray woodpeckers with completely red heads. That must be the red-headed woodpecker, then? I'll have to research more on the other.