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A Few Days With A Rescued Coonhound, or How I Had My First Southern-Style Hissy Fit
Allow me to start by stating, clearly and proudly, I Love My Husband. Those who know me well would certainly verify that after all these years that is either a true statement, or I'm certifiable. Let's go with the former. He has his flaws (he's male, let's face it, he can't help it) but he is compassionate, loving, and gives his all for a being in need, no matter if it walks, runs, flies, crawls or slithers. He's rescued everything from a garter snake trapped in a neighbor's wall to a pair of migrating ducks who stopped off on our farm a few years ago when the female had injured a wing, to a local “bum” who turned out to be a disabled veteran who had been lost between the cracks. He carries spiders outside to keep me calm, and has stepped in where angels fear to tread when seeing a dog abused; he's even been threatened at knife point trying to stop such abuse.
Most of our four-footed family are rescues or adoptions of one form or another, and though often we pick someone up for a short while before sending them on to a rescue center, sometimes you just know right away that the creature God set before you is meant to be family, not a visitor. Some are like Shorty, a stray bulldog who, though we will never know his real age, lived to be gray muzzled, blind and deaf, and to his last day still greeted us joyfully at the door when we came home. Others, like the wounded kitten Ashe, were only here for a little while, but at least they knew that there were people who loved them, and they didn't pass on thinking they were alone and abandoned in a cold, cold world.
I have always supported these rescues, in fact, I've initiated quite a number myself, but the most recent creature to cross our doorstep has offered me an opportunity I never thought to achieve. My sister will be proud to know that I have now experienced a full-blown Hissy Fit, one that any Southern Belle would have been proud to be a part of. Allow me to set the stage……
The Current Situation
Several days ago, the husband came home with a bedraggled rack of bones and skin in the form of a coonhound he was calling Buddy. Buddy had been walking down the middle of a busy road, narrowly being missed by passing cars, and my man had stopped, flagged down two on-coming semis that would probably have hit the poor thing, and talked the hound into climbing into the pickup. Buddy was so dehydrated, that when he did his first business there was utterly no moisture in it, looked like dried sweet feed crumbles. We gave him food, water, a soft, warm blanket to lie on, made sure that he and Butch, our terrier mix, were going to get along, and spent lots of time petting and talking to him, letting him know he was safe. Husband and I took turns walking him every couple of hours, and despite a couple of accidents on the kitchen floor, he was settling in very well. We had a long discussion about him, and though, as always, our first hope was that we had a new family member, logic won out; we aren't in a position to afford another mouth to feed, and there is no doubt Buddy will need to visit a vet pretty soon, so we decided he'd have to go to our local no-kill shelter. Looking at him, we agreed that it would be best for Buddy to keep him for a week or so, get him fed up a bit and socialized so that the no-kill shelter would have an easier time placing him, and we also feared they might have to consider putting him down because he was too far gone to try and save if we took him right away.
Jump ahead 4 days. Buddy is still very thin, but now he's active, eating free-choice food without rushing or feeling the need to eat everything RIGHT NOW or there might not be more, but also exhibiting the typical behavior of an animal who's been beaten. We've been very patient with him, but we've learned several things in the few days he's been here. He's not housebroken. At all. As in let him out for a while, bring him back in, five minutes later there's a mess to clean up. And it's not a small mess! I've had horses leave less behind themselves. He doesn't obey. At all. Call him to you all day and all night, not happening. Sit? Nope. Lie down? Uh-uh. Be quiet? Awe HELL no. Anybody ever hear a coonhound bell? Non-stop. Full voice. For hours. When we take him out he has to be on a line or he just roams, and he bells the entire time he's out. If he's not tied he does come back, eventually, but you can follow his progress all over the neighborhood. There is that advantage to the belling….if that's an advantage. And when he comes back he has “gifts”. Before we started keeping him on our 50' line out in the yard he brought home a possum and a rabbit. Not alive. Oh, did I mention he's never been taught to walk on a leash either? Found that out the first time I took him out to the line. And yet, despite all of those things, there's MORE. He doesn't attack our cats, but he appears to be fascinated by them. Our indoor-outdoor boy, Drifter, has been treed 3 times. Hey Girl, our indoor lady, has been repeatedly chased through the house, usually with Butch a step behind trying to protect the cat (he loves the cats, sleeps with Drifter all the time) and the husband or myself a step behind Butch trying to stop the whole disaster. And no, we don't have and can't afford a crate, so we've built a kitchen barricade that's now the 'dog area' out of feed barrels, folding chairs and our tall kitchen stool.
Then The Bottom Starts to Drop Out
My other half has a new job working the night shift, so he sleeps late into the morning. I am and always have been a rise-with-the-dawn kind of person, so I have the critter duties alone all morning. This day started out special vis-a-vis the animals. Two messes in the kitchen from overnight, plus a puddle the size of a lake. Ok, all cleaned up. Walk him out to the line, he manages to almost knock me down 3 times. Hook him up and the belling starts. Luckily the bedroom is at the farthest corner of the house from the line, so it's not waking him, but I can sure hear it. Wait a half hour to let him do whatever he's going to get done while out, go out to get him, he's got Drifter treed again. Now why the stupid cat, on a FIVE ACRE farm, had to go into the 100' diameter circle the hound can reach I'll never know, but he's 30' up in the tree, crying. Buddy is standing on his hind feet up on the dog house at the base of the big oak, telling the whole world he's treed his prey. Sigh. Hook up the lead, have to drag Buddy away from the tree, then almost get knocked down when he decides he wants to be in the house right now and bolts BETWEEN my legs and hits the end of the lead. 'Patience, patience, you really don't want to kill the dog' I tell myself. Butch, good boy that he is, is waiting to go in right by the door, get them both in the house, put up the barricade, and go back outside (oh, did I mention it's 35 degrees and raining?) and spend fifteen minutes coaxing Drifter down out of the tree. I come back into the house to THAT smell. Another mess to clean up after he'd just been outside for a half hour. Repeat the patience mantra. Two hours later, out for another 30 minutes of belling. At least the cat didn't come around this time. Bring him back in, 5 minutes and the smell wafts through the house again. I'm starting to understand why someone didn't really want this dog. Don't understand the abuse or starvation, there's no excuse for that to man or deity, but to want him gone? Oh yeah. I understand. Can you guess what happens two hours later? I bet you can. One thing different this time, while I'm out getting the (insert your favorite curse word here) dog, the husband gets up for the day. Bring Buddy back in, husband is all nicey nice to the animal that by this time I'm having day dreams of using the shot gun on, but it's all good, I have patience, and I know the dog has never had anyone teach him the proper way to interact with his humans, so deep breath and all is well. Five minutes later, the smell. Himself asks me if I'm going to clean it up. This leads to something just shy of an argument, but in the end even though he insists that it's not as bad as I'm making it out to be, he does go in and take care of it.
Fast forward to 2 pm. Unbeknownst to anyone, the Hissy Fit is just around the corner. I've never had one before, so am totally unaware of the fact that all the issues of the day so far have been building towards this massive release of pent up frustration and aggravation. One hour until husband has to leave for work, and he says he's going to feed the horses early so I won't have to. I want to be a good wife for my mate, so I tell him, no, I'll do it, I'd be happy to so he can enjoy a little more downtime before he has to get cleaned up. Grab the feed, grab the dog (might as well put him on the line while I take care of the girls, it's on the way up the hill) head out the door. Buddy tries multiple times to wrap the leash around my legs, yank it out of my hand, balk at the end and have to be dragged, you name it. Hook him up. As I walk on up the hill the belling starts. Still 35 degrees and raining, by the way. Get to the paddock, despite the sand savannah we live on it's about an inch deep in mud and water and sloppy horse manure. Ugh. And not thinking about it I wore my tennis shoes, not my boots. Ah well, I'll just have to be careful.
And It Keeps Getting Worse
There's a pecking order in our small herd, and Abby, my palomino, is at the top, so she gets her grain first. Dusty, the husband's appaloosa, is bottom rung, but she's also a sneak thief, so you always have to watch out for her circling around to Abby's other side to try and steal a couple of bites of her food to top off her own. I holler at Dusty, Abby spooks and trots off a little ways, Missy, the paint pony, tries to sneak in during the confusion and grab Abby's portion for herself. Chase her out of it, go over to Missy's bucket, she comes right over for her feed, turn around and Dusty is in Abby's food again, with Abby still standing a ways off. I start to run towards Dusty, Abby takes off, my left shoe sticks in the muck and I can't stop in time. Step right down into a soft spot in my stocking foot, clear up to the ankle in cold, wet, sticky nasty. Dusty trots down to her own bowl, and I kid you not, she's tossing her head up and down, laughing at me the whole way. I limp through the cold wet muck, one shoe on, one shoe off, to her bucket, fight down the sudden urge to just bop her right in the nose, dump her feed and make my way back to my buried shoe. I dig it out, and exit the paddock carrying the feed pail in one hand and my tennis shoe in the other. Hook the lead to Buddy, who mercifully stops belling when I get within reach, and as I bend down to pick the bucket back up he wraps the lead around my ankles and lunges down the hill. Now I'm wet, cold and muddy from my blackened and stinking sock foot all the way up my backside and into my hair. When I walked in the door I'm not sure if the sounds I was making were sobs, screams or just cuss words. My husband started to ask what happened, got hit by the wisdom stick and shut up, took the feed bucket and the dog from me, and simply watched and listened, I think somewhere between awe and fear as I limped into the bathroom to strip and shower, still crying, yelling and cussing in a full blown Hissy.
Fifteen minutes of steaming hot water and the aroma of coconut shampoo instead of horse poop help to restore my senses and calm me down, and a few minutes later I rejoined my mate wearing clean dry sweats and my other tennies. I sit down, and we are assaulted by THAT SMELL again. He didn't say a word, just hustled into the kitchen to clean it up and take the dog back out.
And Sometimes Providence Gets Even.
Later that night, after two more clean-ups and long loud belling sessions, he gets home from work. No arguments, but he's still of the opinion that it's not as bad as I think, and that with time Buddy will come around. I was sleepy long before he was ready for bed, but sometime after I fell asleep, he apparently decided that maybe the problem with Buddy was that he wasn't deep enough into our world. So he came up with the plan to sleep in the spare bedroom with the dogs to try to make Buddy feel more at home.
I woke up at 5 am as usual, but was laying in bed enjoying the warm covers, Drifter curled up at the small of my back like a big puddle of furry heating pad, and the view of the first glimmers of dawn coming up over the hill out my window. I hear my husband moving in the spare room (I snore, so he sleeps there sometimes, nothing unusual), and I can hear him talking, at first I assume to himself, also not unusual. Then I hear “what the hell, my feet are wet, is that….oh *bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep* you dirty son of a….awwwwwww NO you $#!& in here too??? TWICE!!!” I am now biting my lower lip, trying to hold my breath to keep from laughing since I know how well that will go over, and I pull the covers up higher so I can pretend to still be asleep and enjoy the show. Amid much cursing, stomping, grumbling and complaining, he cleans up everything, puts on clothes and takes the dogs outside for a walk, then finally goes back to bed, the dogs now corralled in the kitchen.
I don't think there's going to be any argument about whether or not the hound will be getting dropped off at the shelter soon.