Menagerie Musings

After several years of my four-legged population being fairly stable (no pun intended), the last couple of years have seen some turnover, some of which has been noted here and some hasn’t. In the past 20 months, I’ve lost 3 dogs, acquired 3 dogs, and lost one horse. Since I’m killing time updating the blog today, I might as well fill in all the details.

I’ve already documented Chowder’s sad but expected death, the shocking and sudden loss of Norm, which left me dogless for the first time in over twenty years, along with the more recent Goodbye to Shadowfax in the equine category. And, on a more positive note, I’ve mentioned Barry’s arrival, which ended the dogless streak.

More recently, I failed to mention Lilo’s arrival until now, after he’s already gone. He did get introduced on Facebook, in pictures and video, but I sadly ignored him here. (Actually, I really wasn’t ignoring him, I was just ignoring this blog.)

Lilo was here less than a year. He came in June 2009, about 3 months after Barry’s arrival. I’ve always thought that a dog whose owner is gone all day needs a playmate, and Barry’s surplus of energy made this even more true for him. So, shortly after his arrival in March 2009, I decided that I needed to find him a buddy.

I perused Craigslist for a while, looking for dogs that needed homes. When I encountered an ad for a dog that was described as a “goofball”, I decided that was what Barry and I needed.

Aside from being a goofball, the ad provided little information. I contacted the owner and got some pictures, which were so blurry I still didn’t know much about him. So I decided the only thing to do was to go meet him. And, since I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like, he was obviously going to come home with me.

His ancestry was uncertain, but he looked like he was probably part pit bull. Despite the ominous sound of that, he was really a very sweet dog. Here’s a picture of him.

He and Barry hit it off instantly, and played constantly, as shown in this picture. They were constantly chewing on each other, or chasing each other around at high speed, even in the house.

Sometimes I think Lilo got a little too intense, as he would never let up on the playing and would chase Barry even when Barry just wanted to chill. At times, Barry just got so overwhelmed that he would go hang out in a neighbor’s yard or barn until I got home. Fortunately, the neighbors loved him, so that wasn’t a problem.

I came home one night in March, and Barry greeted me but Lilo was nowhere around. I found him beside the road across from my driveway. There was no visible sign of trauma except for a couple of minor scrapes on a back leg, but he must have been the victim of an unexpected vehicular encounter.

That once again left Barry as the sole canine occupant of my estate. From the frantic way he greeted me every time I came home, I decided that he needed another playmate to preserve both our sanity.

A few days ago, my sister called me with information about a dog that needed a home as his owner was moving. So Thursday afternoon, I brought Soldier home, and took Friday off to give him a 3-day weekend to become familiar with his new home and famly and make sure he knew this is home before leaving him home alone with Barry.

He and Barry became instant friends, as Barry taught him the benefits of baling twine as a toy.

At first, I kept him on a leash, or under very close supervision, when he was outside, wanting to make sure he knew this was home. After he spent Thursday night in the house, and seemed content not to stray beyond the yard on Friday, I got a little bolder and left him unconfined in the late afternoon while I was mowing a pasture.

I was able to see him frequently, usually sitting on the other side of the fence watching me. At one point, I saw him trotting towards the back yard, out of sight, proudly carrying one of the many pieces of trash that Barry and Lilo have deposited in my yard. Although I couldn’t see him any more, it didn’t seem likely that he could disappear from there, and his earlier behavior showed he wasn’t likely to.

I was wrong. When I quit mowing, after sunset, he was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t come when I called. I walked around for a while looking and calling, and then drove up and down the road, with no sight of him.

This was a scenario that was not likely to end well. Having been here just over 24 hours, without being out of the yard before, he obviously didn’t know the area. There was no telling where he might go to try to find home, wherever he thought home was. His old home was over 30 miles away, so if he was trying to find that, it was a lost cause. I hadn’t asked his previous owner if he was chipped, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t. I had ordered an ID tag for him, which hadn’t arrived yet. In the meantime, I had made a makeshift tag by writing my name and phone number on a piece of index card that was attached to his collar with several layers of clear packing tape. With luck, and the protection of his heavy coat, that might last a few days. But with the thunderstorm and flash flood warnings in the forecast for the next day, it might soon become illegible.

Finally I decided that all I could do was try to get some sleep, get up at dawn and resume the search, and start contacting neighbors and animal control at some reasonable hour. Fortunately, the worry about him lost and scared in unknown territory with the approaching inclement weather kept me from sleeping soundly. So I was half-awake about 4:00 AM when I was aware of some motion outside my bedroom window, followed by canine-sounding whimpering. Unlikely as it seemed, he obviously knew where his new home was, and managed to find his way to it from wherever he had been.

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