Pack behavior at its finest
A couple of days ago I received an urgent phone call from a Humane Society asking me if I could help them with a stray mom and her 3 pups. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I am just a very small training facility run by myself and my partner Brandie-thankfully she loves this business as much as I do- but still, we are not a rescue group. So why did I get the call? The little family they needed help with, they told me were staffies with disabilities. This is a double death sentence for this poor little family of furkids. See, mom and her two boys, only 10 weeks old, are completely deaf and all are missing one eye. The eye they do have, they have very limited sight out of. The baby girl of the family was perfectly healthy and happy, but again she is a Staffie mix. Due to overpopulation and space this little family was the next in line to be killed. Now I am not one to keep my mouth shut when it comes to breed discrimination and I tend to be in your face about the issue. I recently became involved with the Austin “Pit Bull” –hate that term- Task Force, to try and help local groups like Love-A-Bull Inc., educate the communities about this noble and loving breed. So alas, the word spread 130 miles north that I was the one to call in order to help this little family.
Now we all know staffies typically are euthanized first, regardless of health or behavior, due to the difficulty of getting them adopted. What with the living restrictions and bad press out there, who would take on the possibility of not finding a home or worse, being constantly badgered by friends and family that your dog will “eat your face off” someday? But three 10 week old pups and a mom, that even though she can’t hear you or see you coming, would rather lick your face and snuggle into your arms then run away? I mean really, how threatening could they be? Just because they were labeled Staffies, this tight nit family that has survived on their own, would likely be killed just because they were born a certain breed. This is what drives me to continue to help them, the love they have for a prejudice species-us- is unconditional no matter how we view them. No prejudice on their end, if you have two hands to pet them and a lap to lay in, they love you no matter what.
So I anxiously awaited their arrival, getting more cages set up in our already packed center of rehab cases. After lots of phone calls, to the ever patient transport people with directions of how to get to our tucked away location they finally pull up. As they get out of the truck, I am immediately fighting with myself about not feeling bad for these dogs. I tell all my clients to repeat the mantra, “I do not feel bad”, when we are working to rehabilitate them; and yet I am finding myself having to repeat the very same thing. Puppies are handed over; only two as I was told some unique soul adopted one of the deaf boys, and out comes mama. She is not a Staffie, oh no not at all; she is a very scared bull terrier cross. The transport volunteer places her down on the ground and she is just about shaking out of her fur. I can only imagine what this poor girl is feeling at this point; she has been in a moving vehicle for about four hours, surrounded by humans that she does not recognize -by her only sense- scent. Mama crouches down and basically crawls to her puppies to check on them, she has no idea that we are here to help her and her pups and I have no idea what type of interactions she has experienced with humans.
After entering the Center, mama-having to be carried- slowly walks over to me and sniffs my leg in a polite greeting and curious way. She then proceeds to circle her pups to keep them near her, with only limited sight in her left eye, she keeps turning around and placing her back legs against them to feel where they are. We set them up in their little cages with fresh food and water, letting them get used to the smells of their new temporary home. Within just a few minutes they all were quick to fall asleep, safe and secure.
Our evening walk, took a bit of time; baby steps so to speak. The entire family had to learn their surroundings and how to walk with this thing we call leashes, around their neck. Mama took the lead and stayed very close to my leg as I walked, trusting that I would guide her safely, like we have asked of her fellow canine friends for years. Yes, I am a guide-human for this very trusting canine and I am completely ok with that. After a bit of navigating down stairs and around fence posts, we reached our destination of the potty yard. Mama like any mature dog immediately relieved herself and kept persuading the pups to do so as well. Once everyone was done, we stood around outside so they could get some playtime and investigate more of their new surroundings. The pups were too involved in their game of tumble but not mama, her job was to scan the area, to clear it for her puppies.
After a good bit of time, we all started walking back to the Center to tuck them in for the night. The little boy, also deaf and blind suddenly became startled by something and started to have a panic attack, screaming and throwing himself around. I calmly walked up knelt down and just laid a hand on his side, to get him to relax and feel more secure. He immediately stopped panicking and started following us again, albeit very cautiously. As we approached the steps, he sunk to the ground and stopped moving-his baby sister already jumping up and down the stairs like it was a game- then mama, a dog I have only known for a few hours, did something I will never forget. She calmly walked over to her baby boy, touched him on the side, walked back to me and proceeded to lie down next to me. Her baby boy now walked slowly over to me and followed us back into the building. I have to admit, I was honored that she trusted me this much in such a short amount of time. As we settled them back into their cages, mama began to wag her tail- a level, happy wag dogs give to people they trust- and I received the best thank you kiss followed by a very gracious bow.
To think these poor furkids were to be put to death, just because they were wrongfully labeled a certain breed kills me inside. What human could show this much trust in a complete stranger they cannot see nor hear, not only with their own lives, but with the lives of their children- in such a short amount of time?
That is pack strength at its finest.