Sunday, May 31, 2009

Yogi's Early Morning Position

Ode to Yogi

If Yogi were here he would say, “Please excuse my torn ear.”

It was early one morning when we met. I was walking to feed my always-hungry horses.  I was still in my morning grog. My horses were nickering their usual “I’m hungry” like “I’ve never been fed”— chatter. I walked to the hay bales that were covered with tarps and randomly stacked. As I bent to lift the tarp, I thought I saw something move. There he was, a very large Pit Bull, lying on a bale of hay watching me. He slowly stood which put us face to face. I froze in my bent position scared for my life. Many thoughts flashed through my mind, mostly about death.

He stared motionless. It seemed like forever. After a while, I slowly straightened, scared to break eye contact. Do I just stand here or run for the house? Then he lowered his large head and simply stepped down off the hay bale. He just stood there.

I could tell by his bent frame that he had lived his life on a chain. He also had scars on his face and a torn ear, which could mean only one thing. But, his eyes watched me with the gentleness of a warm soul. He was skeleton thin and had labored breathing. No doubt that it had been a long time since he had eaten and I supposed that he had heartworms.

I went about my routine of feeding and watering the onlookers. He sat down and watched my every move. I walked back to the house and he lay down by the haystack. When I came back with dog food, he stood and waited until I sat the bowl on the ground before he approached. He showed no aggression. After a few days, I decided that I had to do something about the fleas that covered him. As I drew the water hose near the haystack, I slowly reached for his collar. He did his usual and simply stood still as I doused him.

Days passed and he began to feel better. He started making every step that I made in my predictable routine. He particularly enjoyed the mornings and seemed to be visibly humbled by the fact that he got two meals a day. He always waited patiently for me to place his bowl on the ground before he approached.

After a few weeks, he moved onto my porch. He learned quickly and began to jog with me around the pasture. As days passed, he became a fixture on the front porch and found a spot in the yard to just sit and watch the daily happenings. He had such a large presence.

You know that you can’t keep him, I would think.  So, I went on-line to see if there were any placement services for Pit Bulls. I knew there was a risk that he would be put down. I also knew that no one would want a Pit with heartworms. He began to put on weight but the coughing was worse. I decided that my Christmas present would be to have him treated for the heartworms. The vet said that Yogi was about three years old.

I had him only a few months. He died during the second week of the heartworm treatment. In that short time he had so easily forgiven those who had kept him chained and made him fight. In the last hours, it was as though he knew that death was close. He seemed to have a calm resolve as if to say, “It’s okay”. As if to say, “I now have dignity and pride. And best of all, I have a name.” 

Yogi - Close-up

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Billy's "I Wuv You" Eyes

Here's Billy's Story:

I came about Billy indirectly.  One day I looked in my pasture and saw a white spot in the tall grass. It appeared to be something dead, particularly since my horses were not interested in the least. As I walked toward it, a blocky head raised. I don’t believe that I have ever seen a dog so skinny and still alive. As I drew closer it sat up, crouched and crawled a little backward. I went into the house and came back out with a bowl of dry dog food. It would not let me approach so I poured the food on the ground. This seemed to work.

When my son saw what was going on, he said that the dog looked like it just needed to be put down. I had to agree. When I looked closer I noticed swelling around its belly. “I think she must have pups somewhere”. As often happens, she and her pups were put out on the side of the road. “How do you drive off from that,” I wondered.

I began to set out Ziploc bags of food at the end of my driveway near the road. Everyday she would silently appear. She would sit at the end of my drive for a moment then grab the bag and run. This was a daily routine and she appeared at the same time every day. She began to put on weight and her belly filled out becoming obvious that she was taking care of a litter. I soon doubled the amount in the bags and placed them out twice a day. She would come twice a day and retrieve the meals. People began talking, saying how they would see a dog going down the highway everyday with a bag full of food.  They eventually would say, “I saw your dog today.”

At the time I was working in Memphis and would only come to the country on the weekends. I made enough bags for a week at a time and my son would put them out daily. After a few months, I found the litter in a culvert on the side of the road. There were seven pups, all very timid as they had had no human interaction and neither had she. I called a shelter and they agreed to take the mom and litter.

The next weekend, I managed to crawl into the ditch and then the culvert and was able to retrieve the pups without much ruckus. But, the mother was upset and not to be caught. After about thirty minutes, I gathered the calmest pup to hold out to her and finally got my hands on her. I quickly put her in the crate with her pups and placed the calm pup in the cab of my truck where he fell asleep under the seat.

We made our way to the next town where I found the shelter to be very clean but overrun with dogs. They were very accommodating and readily showed me where she and her pups would be kept. Someone, a student, was already in the pen with the family cleaning them up. The plan was to then check them for heartworms. I was directed to the office to fill out the paperwork.

The office had people everywhere trying to adopt. I was handed a clipboard with the papers and I filled out the front side. When I turned it over there was a question to be checked “yes” or “no”. It asked if I wanted to be called before the family was euthanized. I was unaware that this was a possibility and wanted to run get the family and take them back home. But, I knew that my Memphis landlord would not understand. I checked “yes” for the call and decided that if they were not adopted in 7 days that I would just go get them. I left and the calm pup was still sleeping under the seat of my truck. I did not have it in me to leave him behind.

Seven days passed, I had not heard a word so I made the call. “Oh yes, that family was picked up by a no-kill shelter out of Arkansas.” So, there I was with a small pup to add to my two dogs and four horses and me working in Memphis during the week.

I must say that Billy turned out to be the best, easiest puppy that I have ever raised. He lived with me about a year traveling back and forth to Memphis. It became clear that he had a lot of Lab in him and was turning into a beautiful dog with unusual green eyes. A friend of my son’s adopted him but had to move into an apartment. So, Billy has permanently rejoined me on the farm and I wonder how I ever let him go. It’s funny how things work out.

Billy's "I Wuv You" Eyes - Close-up

Mississippi Delta - Photo Landscape

I never get tired of the local scenery. It almost always includes farm equipment, row crops and incredible skies. This was taken in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wildrose Kennels - Oxford MS

Wildrose Kennels - Oxford MS

Wildrose was recently featured in Forbes Magazine.

It actually made the cover of the April issue.

This past Thursday I had the pleasure of spending an entire day taking photos of these magnificent dogs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Billy's "I Wuv You" Eyes

I am not quite finished with this painting having a few details to add on his left foot. I have written Billy's story and will post it with the finished piece. His heritage is only a guess but I do know that his mom looked to be part Pit Bull and I think his dad was a large chocolate lab from the duck "camp" across the road. When he was little his eyes were bright blue and turned green. They are now gold. I took this picture when he was still growing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gone to the Dogs

Today I left my town of 2054 folks for the streets of Sardis, with a bit fewer folks, 2038. I snapped lots of photos of lots of critters. Small town America is a wonderful place to be. I couldn't help but notice that there must be some peanut butter in the "city" water.

Pretty Bird

I visited Sardis, Mississippi today. It is about 35 minutes from my small town. Sardis has a population of 2038 and just might be including the above resident in the count. He does talk after all.