Meet the Critters: Calvin




Calvin would like you to get off his lawn.

Really, he would prefer it if you could remove yourself from his reality entirely, but I think he knows that’s unrealistic and so he’ll settle for you getting off his lawn or, if you must, a quick pet. A quick pet will at least make him stop yelling about the lawn and his preference that you vacate it.

A disclaimer: I’m having a hard time telling Calvin’s story in entertaining fashion. It’s really just not entertaining or funny, which is possibly why it’s taken me so long to get around to it. And yet, I think it’s important to tell it, primarily because someone(s) made an earnest effort to make sure he never had a story in the first place. He was discarded. This is his (and my) “Fuck you” to the people who discarded him and countless others like him. So it’s really long, and possibly ragey.

Calvin moved out of the woods and into the suburban hellscape of our former neighborhood a little over two years ago, shortly before Halloween. I took Karmann out for morning walkies and we were quickly joined–if by “joined” you infer “followed”–by a yodeling hound with an enormous set of testicles and absolutely no identification. Every day of the ensuing week we would repeat the pattern, morning and evening: walk to the back of the neighborhood, hear yodeling from the woods, pick up our extra party, take our walk with the trailing hound, go home, watch the hound run off back to the woods. It was sort of like having a furry little secret service escort, albeit a crazy one, and every day he got a little closer to Karmann. For her part, Karmie seemed to enjoy having a minion.

We talked to a couple neighbors, all of whom had put out food that the hound had refused to eat, and discovered that he spent most of his non-walkies time playing happily with the neighborhood kids and running away from the grownups. On that last account, I didn’t blame him. The county dog catcher had been called but apparently they don’t do woods, and so the little hound evaded them by taking to the wilderness.

He showed up on a Sunday. By the following Saturday he’d gotten close enough to me that I noticed an open wound behind his left foreleg. By Sunday, one week after his arrival, the neighbors thought he was getting comfortable enough with people that the dog catchers might be able to get him on Monday.

To take stock of the situation: I was happy with one dog and two cats and emphatically did not want another critter at the moment–a sentiment with which Schmoopie vehemently agreed; a shouty, unsocialized hound had found his way into our neighborhood; said hound was wounded and emaciated. Although our county shelter was low-kill and put forth a very good effort to rehome the dogs brought to them, it did not take a clairvoyant to see that no such effort would be made on behalf of this particular dog. So I did the only logical thing. I asked Schmoop if we could take him in, get him to the vet, have him neutered and chipped and then placed with a shelter. When he said no, I fell dramatically to the ground and began weeping.

He relented.

It was not necessarily my finest moment, as a partner or a female.

We went out looking for him and found him baby-sitting a group of kids outside playing while their parents had a prayer meeting. After the meeting, the pup followed the kids inside and, as nobody who had put out food and water for a week wanted to actually do anything useful or proactive, the parents were only too pleased to hear we’d come for the dog. So we used two little brothers, and some cheese, to lure him into my car. And, at 9:30 on a Sunday night, off we went to the emergency vet.

The vet took one look at his wound and said he’d been shot. There was an entrance wound in his chest, and the corresponding exit wound that I’d seen the day before, behind his left foreleg. He further surmised that the pup had been lying down, and that the bullet had ricocheted, because he had a corresponding burn mark on his left left leg that, from a polite down position, lined up exactly with the entrance wound. That had probably slowed down the bullet enough that it rode around his chest wall and blew out his side, rather than penetrating his chest and killing him.

One of the only photos I have of his bullet hole, because really, who wants a reminder.

One of the only photos I have of his bullet hole, because really, who wants a reminder.

I was confused. So the vet explained that he was a common sort of dog, backyard bred locally to run deer, despite it being illegal to run deer with dogs in Georgia. They were cheaply acquired and, as such, received basically no initial training for the hunt. The dogs that run get to come home; the dogs that don’t are either shot, or left in the woods to form unruly, starving packs that are eventually shot by farmers or other hunters as a form of euthanasia. The guys who came to clean our carpets about a month later immediately recognized him as a “lawwwwng legged baygle” and confirmed the vet’s story.

photo 2I named the shouty hound Calvin, after Calvin Broadus (Snoop Dog), and I fostered him for a month because brick and mortar shelters are not really a thing in the south, on account they fill up pretty much instantly with the canine and feline offal that the locals would otherwise drive out to the country and abandon. He had major anxiety issues–separation anxiety, and just a general suspiciousness and fear about the world at large. Not that I blame him. He and Karmann immediately took a shine to one another, though, and he seemed most comfortable when she was around

And then he was adopted during a PetCo adoption event. Because I was fostering him for a rescue, I was in the awkward position of kind-of-but-not-really being able to play by my own rules, so I allowed him to be adopted despite having some misgivings about the adopter. I should have listened to my gut, though, because he was returned a month later, worse for the disruption.

I kept taking him to adoption events, even though his tolerance for PetCo was reduced to zero after his first adoption. He would just bark, and incite people to remark that he was clearly mean which, it should be vehemently stated, has NEVER been a problem of his. Say what you will about his issues–and he’s got plenty–but he’s a sweet, sweet dog. So finally, one year after his failed adoption attempt, and two instances in which I yelled at little kids for pulling his tail and parents for not watching their goddamned kids, I told Schmoopie that he needed more help than I could psychologically commit to without actually committing to Calvin. The market for anxiety-ridden and poorly socialized hound dogs on tranquilizers and SSRIs is apparently very small. In fact, Schmoop and I ARE the market–reluctantly at that. Schmoop agreed to keep him, and I enrolled him in a training 101 course immediately. Three months later, he was a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen.

Cal puppeh has boat loads of issues. He’s still leash reactive; he’s still shouty and subject to episodes of bloat if he eats while nervous (and he’s always nervous.) He goes on a hunger strike if anything in his environment changes, and he refuses to eat more than 1 cup of food at a time. If I give him 1 1/4 cup, he will leave the extra 1/4 cup in his bowl and slink off under the table with his tale between his legs as though anticipating the End of Days as foretold by the availability of excess food. Occasionally, he rubs the sides of his nose raw while crated, and he has to be crated, because he will nervously eat All The Things if left alone–underwear, towels, door frames, the list is long and varied and inappropriate.

But he is a Good Dog, and he is a survivor. He survived being shot, he survived being grossly underweight and covered in ticks. He survived eating sticks, which is what he threw up after the first slice of cheese I gave him to entice him into my car. He survived my neighbors, who think that kindness begins and ends at a few milkbone chunks thrown haphazardly onto the sidewalk. He survived the dog catchers. And he found his way to the one sucker on the planet who could be easily convinced that rehabbing a crazy-ass hound dog might be a worthwhile endeavor.

And it has been. Because a Good Dog is always worth it.




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