I've been wanting to write this story for a while, but it's a very emotional topic and I've been afraid I would tell it wrong. But my wonderful sister-in-love Brenda recently said she'd like to hear about it, so I'm going to give it a try.
For most of our married life, Chris and I have had dogs that were medium to large in size and had some watch dog tendencies. Three years ago the last of our "big" dogs, Dazzle the Standard Poodle, was nearing the end of her long and happy life. This left us with 3 small dogs, two Pugs, and one wee Toy Poodle. Nothing that would give a burglar or a coyote any pause. Chris was putting the pressure on for me to find another dog that would at least appear to be a bit fierce.
My excellent friend Marion has a pair of Cur's. Wonderful dogs, good at guarding the property, helpful with the livestock, trustworthy even with baby chicks, and all around good fun. I told her I was beginning to look for a dog that would be good at keeping an eye on things around our place. Thirty minutes later a man called me and said he had two 6 month old Cur puppies, and would happily bring them to me so we could see how they acted around my horse, goats and poultry. He did just that, and when he left he only had one dog with him. We added Ziva to the house. I loved the look of her, and wow! She was paws down the smartest dog I have ever had.
As she matured, she showed her excellent qualities. She would help mama goats clean off newborn kids, and play with those kids when they were older. She was totally gentle with the chickens and ducks. However, as she got older, she very much wanted to kill Flirt and Smooch, the small dogs in residence. And, after I opened a grooming studio here at home, she took it upon herself to want to dispatch every dog and cat that came here. Soon I had gates up and doors shut, keeping small dogs and Ziva apart. It was not a restful atmosphere. In fact, things were very tense.
This went on for three years. Then late last summer Marion and I, with her two Curs and my one, went kayaking. The dogs alternated between swimming along with us down the lovely river, and running along the bank. At one point, Marion said, "I've toyed with the idea of getting another Cur." I said, "You should take Ziva." Surprised, she said, "You LOVE Ziva." I did. I still do, but living with her, my small dogs and my grooming business was a juggling act. And let's be clear, I'm just not a very good dog trainer. I mean well. I try, but it is not my best thing. And to live with a strong willed, very smart dog, one should be a good trainer. Marion said no more.
A few days later she and her husband came over for supper. She took me aside. "I don't want to have 4 dogs," she said. "But if you take Dutchess, I'll take Ziva." Dutchess is an older Golden Retriever. Perfectly trained, and as sweet a dog as any I have ever met. Ziva had just completed a pretty good week... she hadn't attacked anyone! I was grateful for my friends offer, but giving up my beautiful, precious, smart dog and taking in an older Golden seemed an unlikely plan. I had high hopes for Ziva, and a deep love for her, too. I thanked my friend for her kindness, and told her I'd think about it. I wasn't serious. I couldn't imagine giving up my dog, really. My history shows that dogs I take on live with me until they die of old age.
The next morning I woke up with a jolt. "YOU are an IDIOT!" is the thought that ran though my brain, in bold print. Because, in reality, it was only a matter of time before a gate came down or a door was left open, and Ziva killed one of my little dogs, or, heaven forbid, a customers pet. Marion is a marvelous dog trainer and owner, and Ziva would have friends to play with at her place. She'd also have a job, because Marion has cattle and sheep and poultry to guard, and lots of land for big dogs to run and play. And Dutchess, the Golden,, would rather enjoy pleasant sessions of fetch in the meadow and a soft bed by the wood stove. It would be a sort of retirement home for her.
So, I asked Marion if we could try a weekend swap. Since she had taken care of Ziva any time we traveled over the last 3 years, it was an easy transition for my Cur to be dropped off for a fun filled visit. Dutchess, however, was rather confused at first. But she soon claimed the comfiest,squishiest beds in the house, and was overjoyed to discover I keep dog biscuits in my pockets, doling them out with little provocation. The weekend swap has extended for months.
When Marion visits, Dutch is delighted to see her. When I go there, Ziva leaps and twists and kisses me on the lips, hard. (This makes my eyes leak a little. I miss her. However, I see that she is fine and happy and well cared for and in a place more suited to her personality than our house is.) Both dogs seem perfectly contented to stay where they are. Ziva is fit and happy, running with dogs her size, being a watch dog. Dutch seems contented, going from soft bed to soft bed, and cadging cookies. She may or may not have gained a little weight. We play lively games of fetch and she happily snuggles the little dogs. It would never occur to her to bite a dog here to be groomed. On the flip side, if robbers came, she'd show them where we keep the stuff we like the most. But we have an open door policy, and no gates up. Life is peaceful.
The great American dog swap was hard on my heart, and my ego. I feel I failed Ziva. I wasn't able to train her to be the best dog she could be here. But in the end, she is fine, living a full Cur life with kind people who take good care of her. And Dutch is here, getting her belly rubbed, eating too much and soaking up the heat from the wood stove to the best of her capacity. Sometimes things don't work out as planned. But they do work out.
And every day, I am grateful to share our home with this sweet, gentle dog. And grateful that my beloved Ziva is safe and happy and cared for. I had wished for something different, but am so happy for what I have.