Somewhere in the barn, a chicken is dieing. I hope she's already dead. She probably is. Few can survive a dog attack. Although attack is not the right word. It sounds mean, and Trouper doesn't have a mean bone in his body. His tail was wagging, and I never heard a growl as he pounced on the chicken. I wonder if he liked to play with squeaky toys when he was a puppy.
When I walked into the kidding barn yesterday, Trouper and Porter were on my heels as usual. Scratching in the straw in front of the kidding pens were four New Hampshire red hens and a rooster. They're not supposed to be in there, because their poop is as slippery as a wet bar of soap on the concrete floor. My plan was to circle around behind them and shoo them out of the barn. Two hens ran into a corner, so I picked up one and let her fly out of my hands towards the door.
I looked to my left as Trouper pounced on a chicken. I screamed, "No! Stop it! Bad dog!" over and over again. His head was bouncing up and down as he tried to keep his hold on the chicken and she struggled to escape. Chicken feathers were flying in all directions. I kicked him as I continued screaming, "No! No! Bad dog!" Then he let go of the chicken, sat up, and looked at me. I was too hysterical to do anything other than continue screaming, "Bad dog!" He realized it had been a mistake for him to help me catch chickens, and he headed for the door. I ran after him, continuing to scream in case he suddenly changed his mind and decided to grab the chicken again.
After he was outside, I stared at him for a moment as he sat there looking at me so innocently. I wanted to slam the giant door dramatically in his face, but being 12-feet high, I only managed to slowly slide it closed. I ran back to where I had last seen the hen, but there was no sign of her. Another hen paced and clucked. I looked at the junk stored in the barn. It was not far from where Trouper had grabbed her, so she probably ran into a tiny space between a couple pieces of furniture or machinery. I dropped down on my hands and knees but couldn't see her in any of the spaces. It was quite dark after only a few inches though, so it is possible that she was sitting in the dark watching me. If she has already died, she won't start to stink for two or three days, which is just in time for a weekend activity -- sorting through our junk to find a dead chicken.
But the dead (or injured) chicken is the smallest half of the problem. The larger problem is that Trouper thinks most of the animals here are his play things. This is the first time he has attacked a chicken, but he killed two geese last month, and every time he is on the same side of the fence as a goat, he tries to play with it. When Pearl, the 8-month-old bottle brat, escaped from her pasture, he grabbed her by the neck and was shaking her. Amazing as it seems, she was not hurt at all, but what about next time?
When Sarah was visiting, we took Little Man out of his stall for halter training. I had forgotten that Trouper was running loose outside. As he snapped at the young llamas legs, three humans intervened to avert a tragedy. A couple days ago, Katherine got the goats out to milk, forgetting that Trouper was loose. She was able to stop him with her voice, and he went running out of the barn. That incident gave me hope. Perhaps we could teach him to be a farm dog. Now, I'm not sure. How many additional incidents can we handle?
Unless this is the first post you've read on my blog, you know how important my animals are to me. If I have to choose between a stray dog and my goats or my sheep, the answer is obvious. Sadly, I feel like I do have to choose. I emailed an all-breed rescue yesterday, and the woman responded that they can't take pit bulls or anything mixed with a pit. That's what I'd heard. It is why I had not even tried an all-breed rescue yet. Her only suggestion was to continue looking for other pit bull rescues.
If I'm honest with myself, I'm scared that he's going to hurt one of the goats. But then I go outside, and he's my buddy. He sticks to me like glue, on my heels everywhere I go. And if I notice that he's about to pounce on something, and I yell "No!" he stops. But once he lunges at an animal, he's deaf for at least a few seconds. He is very smart though and a real people pleaser. He just wants to be loved and praised.
Why did he have to be dumped here on my road? Why did we have to come along and find him? I don't really know how a human being ignores an injured animal on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I tell myself that we never should have stopped. We should have just kept driving. But how?
Yesterday, I just wanted him dead. I told myself that there are so many perfect dogs out there in rescue who need homes that there simply is not room for a dog who is incontinent. I convinced myself that he should be put down because I haven't found a rescue to take him, and he can't stay here because he could wind up hurting or killing my animals. It really is irrelevant whether he wants to eat them or just play with them -- the result is the same.
But in the light of a new day, I'm thinking that he can be trained to respect the other animals that live here. We just need to work harder on this. I keep remembering how he didn't touch a chicken until I did. As long as I was moving them with my body, that's what he was doing. As soon as I caught one, he did too. This is not the first time I've noticed that he watches me intently and follows my lead with the animals. Katherine researched pit bulls and learned that long before they were used for fighting, they were cattle dogs.
I believe that every animal that is born on this farm is a gift. It is here to feed us or provide us with income when we sell it or to teach us something. My brain keeps thinking that Trouper showed up on my road exactly when I was passing for a reason. I've already learned a lot by having him here, but does he have a permanent place on Antiquity Oaks? Or is this just a stopping point on the way to his forever home? Am I simply meant to be the matchmaker between him and his new family? I can't believe that our role in this story is simply to end his life.