This is the story of Gracie and how she came to live with us but I can’t tell Gracie’s story without first telling the story of my best gal pal Deborah. Not all of Deb’s story, just the parts that relate to dogs….
Deb runs a society called The Missy Foundation. The main purpose of the foundation is to help raise funds for animal rescue groups. The groups the foundation helps do great work but are small and lacking the funds they need. Along the way Deb started opening her home to large dogs because they are more difficult to place then small dogs. She has also taken in a few bonded pairs of dogs over the years because trying to get a pair of adult dogs adopted by one family is extremely difficult as I’m sure you can imagine. The dogs she takes in usually have other issues besides their size such as old age, illness, behaviour problems or they are running out of time in whatever shelter they are in. She takes in the abused, the frighted and the very sick….basically the ones who are literally at the end of their leash.
Sometimes these dogs come to her but more often than not she has to go hell and gone to fetch them. She brings them home, tends to their illnesses if any, fusses over them, dotes on them and treats them with amazing care, love and gentleness. Sometimes they need very expensive medical attention and she always manages to find a way to beg, borrow or steal (well maybe not steal) the medical care they need. She will do this even if the dog has a terminal illnesses and only a few weeks left. She does it because she wants the time that the dog has remaining to be comfortable and filled with loved. These dogs often reward her by surpassing the time that they were expected to survive. Sometimes by months and sometimes by years. She usually has around a dozen or more dogs running around at any given time and fortunately she has ten acres of running space. So you have to understand what a huge task it is to care for them the way she does… but she does. All of this is done on top of maintaining a large household and running a business.
As I mentioned Deb has had a few bonded pairs of dogs and one of these was a pair of toy poodles, Benji and Brandy. Benji on his own was very adoptable but Brandy was extremely difficult for a number of reasons. Deb had agreed that they would be kept together so she ended up keeping them herself. Brandy eventually passed away after a long life leaving Benji as the only little dog in the crew.
For some reason which I will never know Benji took me to heart and the adoration I received from this tiny dog was overwhelming. My husband Chris and I would regularly take Benji home with us to visit for a few days. By this time Benji was very old and had some medical problems so he couldn’t stay too long before needing to go back home but we really enjoyed his visits.
After Benji passed Chris and I talked about getting a little dog of our own. We live in a townhouse in the city and adopting a large dog wasn’t something we felt comfortable with. We had kept birds, Zebra Finches, for over twenty-five years and at times we had as many as ten of the little creatures sharing our home. One corner of our living room was dedicated to birds and cages. I wish I had a picture. Anyway after many long talks about adopting a dog we decided that the birds were enough. We even decided that when the last little bird went to that great perch in the sky we would stop keeping finches as well.
Over the years we let the finch population dwindle down to one. That last finch was named Byrd. Byrd left us on March 18, 2014 sometime between 11:00 AM and noon. He would have been 13 years old in May. We miss him.
So what has all this got to do with Gracie? I’m getting there. Deb’s home, Missy Manor, is located on Bowen Island. Bowen is a small island with a year round population of about 3500 and that number explodes in the summer. Getting to Bowen involves a very scenic trip and a 20 minute ferry ride. Chris and I make every effort to do a day trip twice a month to visit Deb and her brother Richard. We spend the day on Bowen puttering around, having a glass of wine and inevitably dealing with dogs. Chris usually runs off with Richard to do their ‘boy’ things leaving Deb and I in the main house. Quiet time is a rare commodity around Missy Manor, but occasionally Deb and I will find some. We sit, sip our wine, chat and eventually the conversation comes around to dogs. I would ask her when she was going to adopt a small dog that I could ‘borrow’ on the weekends like we did with Benji. As I mentioned Chris and I had decided that we were not going to adopt so having access to a little dog that we could share with Deb would have been ideal. After a few years it got to be a bit of a running joke.. You got another big dog Deb? what about the small one?
One evening after a glass of wine, or maybe it was three, I pestered her again about a little dog. This time she apparently decided to do something about my pestering. A couple of days later she sent me an email about a shih tzu named Romeo to see what I thought. I had always wanted a small, ‘fluffy ball of fur’ dog, Romeo fit that bill and he needed a home. Since Deb would be the primary caregiver I told her that if she liked the dog to go for it. In the events that followed it would seem that wires got crossed or maybe fate stepped in but somehow it was decided that I was going to be the primary caregiver. I suspect Deb masterminded the whole affair but she still maintains her innocence. I do know that Deb made a call or two on our behalf and greatly smoothed the way to our adopting Gracie and for that I am extremely thankful. Anyway Romeo was adopted by somebody else and that was when Gracie magically appeared on the scene.
When we were told about Gracie she was described as a two year old, eleven pound toy Dachshund. Gracie is actually a Dachshund Chihuahua cross that is commonly called a Chiweenie. I have to be honest and admit that this type of dog is not one I ever imagined owning. I don’t really like the look of Dachshunds and I always found Chihuahuas to be a bit too yappy and she wasn’t my fluffy ball of fur. However my husband and my oldest son Paul both adore Dachshunds. Then when we were told that her name was Gracie that made it a done deal for my husband because that had been his grandmother’s name. I told myself that while this dog was not my ball of fur, she still needed a home and she was a dog that my husband had always wanted. In the end I felt that Gracie was the one that the fates wanted us to have and who can argue with fate.
The whole adoption process got rolling at an incredible speed. I got a phone call on a Monday, then forms that had to be filled out arrived by email on Tuesday, then a woman was at the door wanting to inspect my home that Friday. The following Monday I was told that Gracie was going to be ours and we would be picking her up in two weeks. It was a whirlwind affair! So on November 9th, 2013 Chris and I anxiously made our way across town to pick up Gracie at a fundraising event for an animal hydrotherapy center. She was suppose to be there around 1:00 PM but she was late. We didn’t realize until we got there that Gracie was being driven up from Oregon that day and would be coming straight to the fundraiser. We spent a long two and a half hours waiting for her to arrive with periodical updates. They are at the border, they have cleared customs, they are driving up such and such street, and finally… they just pulled into the parking lot.
It was a very special day. I wanted to write about that day but it is all a blur now. There was a small garage sale of items that we enjoyed looking at. Some very nice people that gave me a lot, and I do mean a lot, of sample foods for Gracie. Five months later and I still have a few of those sample packs left. That really is all I remember about that day until Gracie arrived. Deb stayed with us even though it meant she would be getting home to Bowen much later then planned. Ironically now that we have Gracie, Deb has two tiny dogs. Funny how things work out.
So we have had Gracie about 5 months now and I’m madly in love with her because she is an adorable, loving and sweet little thing. She isn’t my ball of fur but given the whole grooming and shedding business that is probably a good thing. She loves to get dressed up in sweaters and gets excited if she is cold and I bring one out. She pokes her nose in the air to make it easier to get it over her head and then dutifully lifts each paw so I can put them through the sleeves. She puts up with wearing pretty necklaces even though I know they tickle and make her itch. I don’t make her wear them for very long. She loves getting wrapped up in soft fluffy blankets, the softer the better. She loves to get back in bed after breakfast and burrow down under the blankets with just her nose poking out.
About her past life we know almost nothing. Extreme negligence was the reason given for her being rescued from her previous owners. The story was that she had fallen from a bed and her back legs were paralyzed so she was brought in to a vet to be euthanized. She also had a severe skin infection and was overweight. The paperwork we received told us very little. All we got was the report made out by the vet who saw her after she was turned over to the Oregon Dachshund Rescue. Aside from the usual toe clipping, ear cleaning, routine shots information, it stated that she was approximately five years old, not two, and was being tested for whatever was causing her skin condition. There was no mention of a back injury and no mention of what the results of the tests for her skin infection were. I did find out that she was on antibiotics for three weeks for the skin infection so it must have been pretty bad.
After living with Gracie I think the only neglect she really suffered at the hands of her previous owners was their lack of money to afford a vet. She is too loving and too familiar with the comforts of life for me to believe that she was abused or severely neglected. I don’t fault them for not being able to afford a vet because Lord knows that I understand what it is like to be short on money. I guess you could argue that they should not have adopted Gracie in the first place but with the economy the way it is now and job loss being so common, things may have changed for those people during the time they had Gracie.
The biggest issue I have with her previous owners, which has had a long term effect on Gracie, is that she doesn’t appear to have been socialized. I don’t mean having doggie play dates and doggie buddies. I mean just taken out into the world so that she is familiar with what goes on out here. I don’t think that she was ever really played with either because she doesn’t play. She has no interest in toys outside of a small plush duck that made the trip with her from Oregon. She won’t even watch a ball when it is rolled past her and she has since lost interest in the duck. I have a small basket that holds a collection of little toys that were given to her by Deb and others, all of which remain untouched. I suspect that she lived much like a housecat spending most of her time indoors. She seemed unfamiliar with the concept of walking on a leash when we first got her. She is frightened by common sounds. She is afraid in areas with a lot of people to the point of being paralyzed and unable to move. Chris and I are trying our best to get her out and about. We take her out with us every chance we get even if it is only for a 10 minute car ride. We take her for regular walks around a large auto mall in our area that usually has a few people and once in a while someone else walking a dog. This is a great place because she can get accustomed to seeing strangers, seeing other dogs and being away from home without it being too much to cope with. And Chris likes looking at the cars…so win win.
She hates some men but not others. I can’t figure out what makes some men ok while other men are apparently in need of killing. It took her awhile to warm up to my younger son Stephen. She would fly down the hall in a barking rage when he came home from work which really hurt him but he was very patient with her. Taking the time to remove his hat and headphones before opening the door so he would look less imposing, talking quietly to her even though she was almost foaming at the mouth. His patience has paid off and now they are best buddies.
The only thing I would change about Gracie is her barking and we are working on that. She likes to loudly voice her dislike of strangers that come to the door. She hates Stephen’s friends and the washing machine …the vacuum cleaner …rain, she will stand in the doorway and growl at the rain …the mail lady …the paperboy …the neighbors …the neighbor’s kids …kids on bikes …kids on skateboards …kids in general …motorcycles …tall women …small fluffy white dogs …all other types of dogs …cats (really! hates cats) …large birds …small birds …squirrels ….. …. … .. .
Gracie at the one year anniversary with us.
We had to take Gracie to the Vet because she was having some issues with her skin. When she was rescued she had a sever skin infection and it turned out that her current problem was another skin infection. It would seem that skin problems might be an ongoing thing with Gracie but we all have our problems.
As it was her first visit the vet gave her a bit of a physical. He poked, squeezed and prodded and then looked at her teeth. He went over and looked at her paperwork, frowned, came back and looked at her teeth more closely. I was watching all of this and worrying about what he was looking at. I was waiting for him to tell me her teeth were a problem even though I try to brush them every night. “There is no way that this is a six year old animal. She is only two or three at the most.” was what he finally said. That would put her age back to what we were originally told when we agreed to adopt her. Chris and I are thrilled with this news.
It is hard to believe that we have had her for a whole year now. It still feels new. There is always some new little thing that she will do so we feel that we are still just getting to know her. The barking is still an issue but no where near as bad as it was. We know what sets her off now so we can better control the situation before it gets totally out of hand. Even though we can get her to stop barking, she has to have the last word …. she will stomp down the hall muttering woofs as she goes.