Several years ago in May, our beloved dog, Gaby, died. While we were all devastated by losing her (I had her before I had my husband), she lived a long and wonderful life. I always wanted to have 2 dogs, but Gaby was one royal bitch who had no interest in sharing us or her home with any other member of the canine species, bitch or otherwise. A few weeks after she left us, we decided it was time to find 2 dogs to add to the chaos that was already our lives. To cut to the chase here, we ended up with, not 2 new furry additions to our home, but 3- a very large male, goofball, descended from Bernese Mountain dogs and some type of terrier, possibly Airedale, and 2 females (yes, bitches). One was a medium/small part black lab, part who knows what, 3 legged sweetheart and a puppy (for more on her read my previous post called “bitches part 1”). In order, their names are Major (Tom), Ziggy (Stardust), and China(girl). See the connections? Hint-we took our 2 big kids to their first concert shortly before getting the dogs and the performer was (drumroll, please)….David Bowie. They are also known to us as Majee, Zigmund and China Berry Pie.
Other than the large expense of feeding these 3 mutts and cleaning up the inevitable outcome of those feedings, all went swimmingly in our house of 4 humans and 3 canines for about 1 1/2 years. During that time, we added one more human to our family and the delicate 3 male/4 female ratio shifted even more heavily in favor of the females. (kind of like the liberal/conservative ratio on the Supreme Court) Anyway, we were one big happy pack, until one day. I can’t remember much about it except for one incident. China and Ziggy got into fight, not a little catfight, mind you but a teeth-baring, till-death-do-us-part kind of fight. It is all a blur to me now. All I know is that I had to separate them and somehow I did. But, not before Ziggy was bleeding heavily from several spots and I was terrified. I had absolutely no idea what got them started or why. All I knew was Ziggy needed to get to the vet. Several stitches and several hundred dollars later we returned home. With trepidation, after Ziggy recovered sufficiently, we allowed the 2 girls back together. Major, being the alpha male of the pack would get between them if he saw anything amiss and they would respond respectfully to him. Things seemed fine for a while until it happened again. Again we took Ziggy to the emergency vet and got her fixed up. Keep in mind that Ziggy is at a numeric disadvantage when it comes to legs and by this point in their lives China had outgrown Ziggy by a good 20 pounds.
We assumed China was at the root of all this evil so after many consultations with our dog trainer and our vet, we shipped China off to doggy boot-camp to be rehabilitated. She was away for a few weeks at which point, our very own dog whisperer returned China to us with specific instructions on how to manage the dogs. He told us we needed to establish ourselves as the leaders of the pack and that they should read our signals to stay away from each other if they couldn’t be bff’s. We tried, we put up gates where there were no doors, we closed doors were there were some and we kept the girls separated unless we were with them in the room. Thing is, I had an infant in my arms during much of this time. The big kids were good about remembering to keep the girls apart and so were we up to a point. After all, we are only human and always remembering to keep the girls apart was not easy or convenient. Major would take turns hanging out with each of the girls so almost always, one of the girls was by herself. Truth be told, this was a very stressful way to live for human and canine alike. We were in constant fear of the dogs getting hurt or killed or worse, even, one of the kids.
Nonetheless, the dogs are part of our family and we had trouble even conceiving of giving one of them away. We are not give -up-easily or dog-giving-away people. End of story. But, alas, that was not the end of the story. One day, one of us left a door open, Ziggy found her way to China and as my 10 year old son saw them approach each other, he jumped in to try to stop them. It was too late and they were lunging at each other. The worst happened. As China went for ZIggy, J’s leg got in the way and China sank her teeth into his leg. Interestingly, as soon as she realized what she had done, she immediately backed off. Ziggy went after her though and it was, then, in hindsight, that we realized that It was not China after all, but Ziggy, sweet little ZIggy, fiercely dominant and unrelenting Ziggy who had been the instigator all along. Jalen was fine, after an ER visit (it was not his first nor his last). But our pack, our family, was not fine. We realized with heartbreak that one of the girls had to go. We couldn’t decide which so we put out the word for both of them. My husband wrote beautiful biographies for each of them and we advertised around. Eventually a family came forward who fell in love with Ziggy. We knew this family would love Ziggy as we did and so one sad day my husband took ZIggy to her new home, where she, surrounded by 3 cats, lives as the 3 legged queen of the roost. Our hearts ached, not only for our loss, but as parents, for the loss that our children felt and our inability to provide them any comfort. They understood that we had no choice.
The only solution for peace in our household was divorce.
We visit her and she always is thrilled to see us, but when it is time for us to leave, she walks us out and looks at us as if to say, “that was a lovely visit, please do come again.”
We are told that Ziggy has a gentleman (dog) caller named Archie.
P.S. Last week (in May), we received a holiday (2008) card from Ziggy’s humans. There was a detailed explanation for its late arrival and inside, a picture of Ziggy, wrapped in a red cape sitting on the lap of Santa Claus, looking almost like she belongs there.