Delta Dawn; My Loyal Friend
I have shared a great deal about the cats in my life...but not much so far about My dog, Delta Dawn. So here is her story.
I came to South Dakota this time back in 2002, Jan. I came to stay with mom and dad, and when I arrived they had a very pregnant dog with them. A woman who had stayed a short time with them had rescued this dog, and only afterwards discovered her to be pregnant. Then she decided she could not take a pregnant dog with her when she left. She was given the name of Lady, and looked to be half German Shepherd and half coyote. She gave birth to her pups shortly after I arrived. I had built her a whelping box at the foot of my bed, and one night I felt this was it, so i stayed awake and watchful and deep in the night she began to have them. Oddly enough most were born breech and needed help into the world. She had seven pups...six boys and one girl.
I have always picked the runt of the litter in times past, so this time I decided to pick the largest male pup in the litter. Soon I noticed that during feeding, the runt would cry. So I began supplementally feed that pup some puppy formula. I used the eye dropper as it gave more control and even feeding. As she grew older she required larger feedings, and one day I decided, greatly against my better judgement, to try a syringe. I don't like using them as they tend to stick. This time proved no different and halfway down it stuck. I tried very gently to keep it going and suddenly the formula shot out and into the pups throat and airway. I tilted her head down and began rubbing and patting her back and she squealed a couple of times and it cleared her airway so she could breathe. I kept an eagles eye on her to make sure none got into her lungs. Strange enough, that incident had a side effect...we became bonded. When I realized this, I looked over at the pup I had initially chosen, and all I could do was shake my head and sigh.
As the pup and I got closer I decided I better name her. I could not decide at first between Delta Dawn or Crazy Daisy (My oldest sisters handle back when she was a teenager talking to truckers on her CB). Finally I decided I liked Delta Dawn better, it somehow suited her. I took to letting her lay beside me on the bed when I would be there and letting her spend part of the night there with me. When we would first go to bed she was all wriggles and licks, so after playing and loving her for a little while, I would take her and lay her on her side with her face turned away from mine, and I would tell her to turn over as I did this (to this day when we snuggle and she wriggles around, I just tell her to turn over and "go seep", and she will turn over and go to sleep).
Whenever she would wake up and begin to whimper, I would take her outside to potty. It never failed as we approached the door, which my parents bedroom door was right next to, she would let out a huge yawn that ended on a sort of yelp. Since we were still in the middle o9f winter, I began to be concerned that going from a warm environment to a freezing one might make her sick, so I put some kitty litter in a box and when she had to go I set her in the box. It did not take long at all for her to figure out what the box was for and she never failed to go when I set her in it. When I tried it with the other pups though, all they did was play in it and attempt to eat the litter. This taught me that raising a puppy by hand raises it's intelligence level.
When Delta was about five months old we would go fishing at a couple of lakes off the reservation. At one she charmed everyone she met with her sweet nature, while at the other she showed me just how strong she was. I had tied her leash to a good sized boulder to keep her from tangling in my fishing line. Soon however I heard a funny noise and looked behind me to see her pulling for all she was worth, dragging that boulder behind her, trying to get to me. When she was much older I would tie her up to our sled in the winter time and let her help me pull hay out to the horses. She really seemed to enjoy doing it. For the next two years or so, we didn't go very often anywhere where we could take her with us. As a two year old I decided to get her fixed. That is when I discovered she had gone from sweet natured people friendly pup to overly protective guard dog. We had to put a muzzle on her or she would have bitten the first person to get to close to me. Later she would fly easily over a five foot fence to go after a man delivering a message from my cousin...the man had been drinking, and that is when I discovered she had a problem with alcohol. Now that I think about it, I will bet it was because of our neighbors who would walk through our yard in the middle of the night going to their friends house next door. They were always drunk and not above striking our dogs. I remember one night one of them threatened to shoot our dog for barking at him, and not with words but by simply raising his rifle and pointing it at the dog. I yelled at him that he better not shoot our dog and he told me to tell the dog to stop barking at him then...I told him to stay out of our yard and the dog would have no reason to bark. It did no good but at least our dogs did not end up dead.
I began working with Delta whenever chance presented itself, around strangers. She is still very protective of me and mine, but at least she won't bite unless she is given reason to. I also encouraged her to think for herself. She showed me one night when she was about four years old and we had been at our new place for about a year or so. One night the dogs started barking and I went out to see what all the ruckus was about. It was pitch black out there, So I walked with the dogs using my flashlight. The only dog I paid attention to was Delta. I found someone hiding behind our motor home. When I told them to come out they took off running and fell off the small cliff. We went down the driveway to where I thought the person might have landed, and I watched Delta closely. She was running around sniffing and suddenly she swerved to the side then went back towards what had startled her, growling viciously. I called her to me and went closer to the area shining my light on the ground And there lay a young man wearing just trousers and shoes...and it was a very cold night. I told him to get up or i would let my dog have him. He did and I attempted to find out what he was doing here. Delta wouldn't shut up so I turned and told her to go back to the house. She reluctantly shut up and went up the driveway, but instead of going to the house, she laid down and watched us. I knew that if that man tried anything with me she would attack instantly. Turns out the man was very drunk and had been in a fight with his cousin and was trying to get home, but when I offered to call the police to come give him a ride he said no thank you and left...but instead of going to the road he cut across country. Maybe he thought I would call them anyway and decided he did not want to be caught on the road.
Delta has always been a very courageous dog. When she was a little over two years old and we still lived next door to the mean people, she got in a dog fight with their dogs. I heard the chickens sqwaking very early one morning and took Delta out to see what was stirring them up. The neighbors female black chow, followed by three male dogs, which told me she was in heat, was trying to get into the chicken pen. As I yelled at them to get out of there, Delta took off after them. The male dogs were one Yellow Lab and two German Shepherds. When Delta caught up to them the female turned and attacked her, then the three males joined in. I stood there and watched them fight, and for some reason I had no fear for Delta. Within a few seconds of furious fighting, the chow broke away and ran off. Then one by one so did each of the male dogs. When Delta returned to me, she was prancing with joy. I searched her and found blood but no injuries. I was very proud of her...that she took on four large and heavy dogs and beat them all without injury to herself. In later years, I would learn that Delta would never initiate an attack with another dog, but she also would never back down if attacked by one. I have had her chase many a stray dog off the property...and only once (this time I wasn't even aware a stray dog was here) did she get into a fight. I heard yelping and ran outside to see what was happening. I followed the sounds of a furious dog fight, but before I could get there Delta came running up to me full of self satisfaction. She had a cut on one of her ears. I never did find out who attacked her.
One of Deltas favorite things was herding horses or cattle. The first time she was not fast enough to dodge a horses hoof I thought sure that was the end of that (she ended up with a broken nose), but I sent her immediately back in after the horses and was surprised to see her go. She has been kicked quite a few times but it has not made a coward of her...she just tries to be faster in dodging them. And as for cattle, she will take on even big mean bulls and send them packing. We no longer have horses, but the neighbors cattle are forever breaking down our fences and coming into the yard, so she still gets to herd cattle...and her toughest targets are the mother cows with little calves tagging along next to them. Thankfully she has not been hurt by a cow yet, as I am always close enough to send the cows into a run if they prove to stubborn.
Delta was never one to play with toys...to this day, I (my feet and hands especially) am her favorite toy. The thing that sends her into a deep depression is if I go away. She became very depressed when I went to California for six weeks. The day I pulled into the driveway, she became ecstatic when she realized I was home and she could not contain her joy and burst forth into song...It was so beautiful it made me cry.
Delta is almost ten years old now. Every once in awhile she will have a seizure. According to my research, a dog her size normally lives 9 to 10 years. She is no longer the hyper little puppy, though she still has her moments when she races around me in circles with joy. I am not allowed to go anywhere without taking her with me. If she even thinks I will go without her she begins to cry. Even on gorgeous days she is not happy unless she can be near me, even if it means staying inside. She resents the cats because I spend so much time loving them...I can't help it because when they insist on getting in and staying on my lap, I must love them so they will be content and go play. Delta will crawl into my lap any chance she can and does not understand that there is a huge difference between a 10 or 12 pound cat and a 65-70 pound dog. But I have not the heart to make her get down immediately, so I hold her much like a little child and give her love to.
Delta is the best, most loyal and protective, most intelligent dog I have ever had. I will miss her when she dies. I truly do not believe I can ever find another dog to be as good as her, and in all honesty, I have no desire to.
And now you know about my Delta Dawn.