I often catch myself thinking about what our dog’s life might have been like before we adopted him: where all he’d been, what sort of abuse he endured. I wonder if his people couldn’t afford to keep him, if turning him loose and driving off seemed like a good solution, or if he just escaped one day and wandered too far. I wonder if he had a little kid who loved him and played with him and rode in the truck with him. Invariably, I wonder what would lead someone to abandon Tayter.
If something upsets him, I really get those thoughts going. When he first came to live with us, he couldn’t bear to be left alone, and wouldn’t eat unless someone was in the room with him. He’s overcome those anxieties but thunderstorms still plague him. In the middle of stormy night, he can be inconsolable. He’ll pace the entire house, searching out that safe spot. If that doesn’t help, he’ll make a frantic leap into our bed, counting on his people to protect him from the raging cacophony that is scaring him to death.
I had no idea that a bunch of corrugated boxes might torment him. I had four or five big moving boxes to load into the back of my stationwagon, and began carrying them one at a time through the house to the back door, down the steps and into the car. As soon as he saw the first box, Tayter was beside himself. He jettisoned himself through the open car door and planted his stout 50 lbs of anxious energy in the front passenger seat, determined not to be left behind.
I felt sick. The storyline unfolded in my mind: his first people had moved away. They packed their house in cardboard boxes and left. I wondered how long my beautiful big orange dog waited for them to come home, how long he stayed at his home thinking they’d come back like they always did, how long he looked for them, how long he went hungry. I wonder if he had desperately chewed his way out of fence, if that’s why his lower front teeth are worn down. I don’t know how long he roamed the county until a park ranger found him by the side of the road, skinny and demoralized, and took him to the local animal shelter. When one of the folks from Carolina Basset Hound Rescue sprung him from jail, Tayter didn’t hesitate to hop right into his car. He knew about going for a ride.
I can’t know his whole story but I think I’ve uncovered a piece of it. And even though I can’t tell him there won’t be any more boxes, I can always tell him I’m coming back. And I always do.
We brought this boy dog home to live with us. Everything made him nervous. He barked ferociously at his reflection in the sliding door. He couldn’t stand being left alone, even for a minute. After a year of our doting on him, he’s seldom nervous. And a ride in the pick-up truck will calm him right down.
Cheers, sweet Tayter.
He’s still a newcomer here but yesterday he lay down right on the middle cushion of the couch, stretched his long, short-legged self out to his full length, and half-closed his eyes in that dreamy, oh-so-relaxed state. It’s hard to interrupt such comfort, even if you have never allowed dogs on the furniture. Ever.
Beats me why people will go and get a dog. I can’t explain why my husband and I ended up with Dierks, this guy on the couch. Between the two of us, we’ve had one dog or another in our lives for the past 20 years and our last dog, a Basset, had died only three months earlier. Sophie was 18 years old, the love of my life and I wasn’t done crying over her. We weren’t ready for another dog but if asked, we told people we were “thinking about it.” I guess we’d thought about it pretty much because we had decided that when we got another dog, we wanted a puppy, a little girl dog, and one who wouldn’t weigh more than about 40 lbs. And we were pretty sure we didn’t want a Basset. There was no replacing Sophie. (cont’d p.2)
Tayter snuck out of our yard a couple of weeks ago before we had finished building the fence, the one designed to keep him from sneaking out of the yard. I tried to track him down, and started out wandering the neighborhood, hollering, “C’mere Tayter!” I’m sure I sounded more Southern than anyone I’ve ever known. Naturally, this unplanned little outing occurred on a day that was about 95 degrees with humidity to match, which taxed my patience a bit. When I circled back around to the house to put on better walking shoes, there he was, tail wagging. After an enthusiastic greeting, he scampered around the corner of the deck to retrieve his prize, a carcass that appeared to be most of a chicken. I’m not kidding. The feathers, still attached, were about 8 – 10 inches long. Good grief. I pried open his proud little jaws and told him he was a wonderful hunter and threw the carcass in the trash, thinking “salmonella? MRSA? avian flu?” He was clearly disappointed about losing his treat but he’s so compliant, he kinda shrugged and followed me back indoors. I practiced positive behavior modification, resisting the urge to wring his little neck.
A week later, he managed to outdo himself.
He slipped through part of the almost-finished fence while we were working on another section, only a few yards away. The search was about to begin when we spotted him just on the other side of the fence, intending to come back (He’s good about coming back, I have to admit.) He had a similarly sized carcass in his mouth and he was not about to let me pry this one away from him. Where does he get these birds? I was clumsily negotiating the positive, cheerful words that say, “C’mon, buddy. Let’s come back into the yard,” while thinking, “Get back here, you ##!!# big orange rascal!” Still on the other side of the fence, he looked at me, paused a moment, started chomping away, obviously intending to snarf down the entire carcass. I heard bird bones being crushed, I saw feathers sticking out of his mouth, I saw–oh, no!–feathers disappear into his mouth and I watched in dismay as he swallowed this very large portion of bird and licked his lips. This time, I skipped worrying about the nasty viruses he might have encountered, and went straight to the possibility of chicken bones puncturing his intestines. Taking a deep breath, I commended him on an impressive performance, suggested that he not do that again and ushered him back into the yard.
The fence was secured in less than a hour but it took about eight days for all the bones to pass through his GI tract. Just so you know.
It was an odd, but reasonable name, befitting his Germanic roots along with a country music inspiration. The name, Dierks was bestowed on him by the folks who rescued him. We didn’t want to cause the poor displaced dog any further confusion so for several months, we called him Dierks. But it never seemed to roll off the tongue and failed to inspire with any of those silly rhymes that dog people use. My husband suggested Tayter, with a Y. He’s good at this, my husband is, and I doubt he spent more than a minute pondering a different name. I thought it was perfect. The dog must have agreed, he seemed to respond just as well to Tayter as he did to Dierks. Now we can call him sweet Tayter, Tayter tot, Tate. . . the possibilities continue to unfold.