07 July 2009

Pixie and Taz: A Love/Hate Story

I got my little Chihuahua Pixie from a dog rescue in Nicholasville, Kentucky. That's her on the left in the pink linen frock. Nobody knew where she came from; a guy in Nicholasville said he tried for a week to catch her, but she was so fast and scared that he couldn't get close to her. That's all we know, except that she has a tattoo (A-1) in her ear. I swear sometimes I think about contacting that pet psychic from Animal Planet because I can't even guess what the poor little thing went through before I took her home with me.

The rescue lady suggested that a breeder probably put the tattoo in her ear. I know that she was isolated and not properly socialized. Maybe she was a lab specimen. She was clearly underweight and hungry, but she would not eat anything. After two days, I took her to the vet, who injected water under her skin because she hadn't had a drop to drink since I adopted her. I finally learned that if I put her in the bathroom with her food dish and closed the door, she would gobble the whole thing in minutes.

When I brought her home, she was so frightened of me that she jumped into the cubbyhole in the entertainment center and would not come out. I finally put her bed in there to comfort her, even though the rescue lady had warned me not to let her hide.

It broke my heart to look at her. She didn't even walk upright: she almost crawled on her belly. If anyone reached down to her, she shrank to half her size and put up her little front paw as if to say, Please don't hit me. She was afraid of feet and brooms and purses and kids. Her ears were tightened to her head like two little fur and flesh roses. Her tail was so tightly clamped into her butt crack that our neighbor argued with me that she was a male. I had to say, "That's just the end of her tail clamped under her belly." (Now, stop grabbing; you're frightening the life out of her, old woman, I wanted to say.)

I felt like I had a stuffed animal instead of a pet. She just sat in that little bed I got at the shelter with her eyes so wide I could see the whites all the way around her irises. If I tried to take her out on a leash, she hit the deck and would not move at all. I would reach in and pull her out of the entertainment center and cuddle her and coo to her, but she was not impressed. The minute I let go of her, right back into the cubbyhole she went.

This went on for months. I began to give up hoping she would come out of whatever trauma had reduced her to a fear-ridden shadow of a dog. I wondered whether I was going to be able to increase the quality of her life at all. I read dog behavior books and online articles, but none mentioned a dog as pitiful and frightened as my little girl. My own dog wouldn't even take a treat from my hand, and she cringed as though I was going to beat her every time I wanted to touch her.

I put a small set of steps beside the bed, but she only used them to affect an escape. Until one night while I was lying in bed in the dark thinking before sleep. I felt a rough little tongue in the middle of my back. Pixie was showing me as much love as she could by sneaking up behind my back when she thought I was asleep, giving me little puppy kisses in the night.

I felt like Annie Sullivan the first time Helen Keller spelled a word and knew what it meant. I felt as though I'd just triumphed over one of the biggest problems I'd been given to solve thusfar.

The Woodsman and I came up with the idea that another dog was what Pixie needed. Even if it didn't help her come out of her shell, we thought, at least she would have company. We wanted to find a dog about the same size as Pix but much more outgoing. (Any dog was going to be more outgoing, but we wanted to find her the right partner.)

Eventually we found a little grey Chihuahua mix online. He was living with a foster family just one county over from where I lived. I filled out the application and waited for an appointment to meet the little guy. The shelter sent someone to check out my place and make sure I could accommodate him.

The day we took Pixie to meet the little guy, he did not pay any attention to my little girl, even though she had learned to walk on a leash by that time and wasn't nearly as pitiful as she had been. We took her into the play yard where the little guy was running full blast from one end of the yard to the other, through tunnels and over hurdles as if they weren't even there. Pixie did not have eyes for him; she just stood under my skirt, her favorite place to hide when anyone looked her way.

Lenny didn't pay a bit of attention to Pixie either. But the moment he locked eyes with the Woodsman, his life changed. He wanted to be chased, and the Woodsman obliged him. Quite a bit of chasing was necessary before he stopped for a break. Then he just flopped on the ground at the Woodsman's feet and stayed there.

After the appropriate business transactions, we took him home. I began to doubt our choice the moment we walked into the house. He hiked his leg and tried to pee on one of only two chairs I owned back then. He only had two speeds: full out or dead asleep. He was clearly a man's dog. He didn't want anything to do with me. It was probably the fault of the weird foster mother, who said his name like "Lennnnn-ay!"

When we met him, he was wearing a tight little muscle shirt. When we took it off, we could see his ribs. Oddly, he had no interest in eating, even though he was very thin. We soon found out that the poor little thing was full of worms. I let out a little scream when I saw a white worm log instead of the dog turd I expected. He smelled funny, and he began to shed most of his fur, which was dull and as scratchy as a floor brush.

When we called him Lenny, he winced as though it hurt him. We discussed a new name. Duke? Shadow? Ghostboy? Speedy? "He's kind of like the Tasmanian Devil," I said, while the dog whipped from the front of the house to the back, disturbing anything in his way.

The Woodsman turned to the dog and said, "Would you like to be called Taz?" The little dog leaped into the Woodsman's lap and leaned against him, resting his head against the Woodsman's chest. We decided he liked the sound of that name. He came when we called him that, although every once in a while we'd say "Lennnnn-ay!" just to see him cringe.

Did Pixie like her new partner? No, she did not. Not one little bit.

Tomorrow I will tell you the rest of the story, how Pixie was cured and how Taz became Beauregard Tazwell. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


DeadpanAlley said...

i never am. disappointed, i mean.

my word this time is "eyefled".

i'm just saying. it's not random, i can FEEL it.
bless you, Angelique.


powdergirl said...

You had me at "That;s her on the left in the pink linen frock."

You are a fantastic story teller Sugar, absolutely F'en fantastic.

powdergirl said...

And he was wearing a 'wife-beater',
I'm slain.

Monique said...

can't wait to hear the second part of your story!!! :)

The Green Stone Woman said...

Those poor little dogs had had such tough lives already and now they were living with the Queen of dogs and going to have a fabulous life, but they didn't know that yet.

Great story! Can't wait to hear the rest. Is Taz going to live with the Woodsman?

gary @dimbulb52 said...

very compelling story. you're a talented writer, and they are very lucky dogs - can't wait to find out how this turns out.

Lydia said...

OMG. Now I have no eyeliner left on... What happened to Pixie??? And I completely get the Helen Keller moment... There's nothing in life more satisfying than winning the trust of a scared beast you can't speak with. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story. Poor little baby. What a good man the Woodsman is, loving the beasts so...

I'm with Gary - you're a great writer. I want to see this book!!

WV - pearcal. The coffee was pearcalating, but all I could think about was Pixie's tattoo.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

Excellent post. I'm glued!