Do you want her back or shall I shoot her?

Tires crunched on the driveway leading to our ranch house. A red van drove up to the house and stopped. I came outside to greet the visitor.

I recognized the man who emerged from the van. He was the father of the young family who had purchased an Akbash pup from us nine months earlier.

“Do you want her back or shall I shoot her?”

He opened the back of the van and let out a thin, cowering dog, teats engorged with milk, head down, tail tucked between her legs.

Selling Shira into horror

Suli and pups

Suli with Shira and her litter mates around two weeks old.

The family of four had made several trips to the ranch, wanting to buy a guardian dog. We had one who was a good candidate, a gentle little female who preferred the company of humans to sheep.

We had some reservations but couldn’t quite pinpoint them. The children were calm around the pup. The parents seemed like reasonable people. So we finally sold the three-month-old female, with the proviso they have her spayed as soon as she was old enough for surgery.

They went off happily, and we hoped we had made the right decision.

Like a dog trying to be invisible

Shira and her brother

Shira and her brother shortly before she left us. Akbash are born and raised with the sheep they are bred to protect.

The dog who now stepped out of the car looked as if she were trying to make herself invisible.

I saw her full teats and spluttered, “You were supposed to spay her.”

“She got loose. I drowned her pups in a bucket. Anyway she barks. She runs away. She’s disobedient, and she bothers the neighbours.”

He climbed back in the van and drove off.

I slipped my finger into the dog’s choke collar. She followed along easily.

Wanting to give her some adjustment time, I put her in separate kennel, along with Blue, a neutered male and the only unsold sibling. He was a quiet, sweet-natured dog, and the two of them settled in easily.

Slow road back to emotional security

Suli Akbash female

Suli was Shira's mother. This is what she should have looked like, instead of a cowering, thin dog.

I began working with her, taking her along when I fed the sheep or checked fences. She never strayed from my side and responded easily to simple commands.

She and Blue returned to the stall readily, but she always looked at me as if she feared I would never return. When I did come back, she would jump on me and wind her legs around me. Her uncut nails were carving grooves on my chest and arms.

I wrote to a friend: “She has wrapped herself around my heart. She needs a family who will love her beyond reason and still the insecurity that makes her fear the love will be withdrawn.”

For weeks I didn’t name her, fearing I would become too attached, knowing we couldn’t afford to keep her. Finally, a friend suggested I call her Shira, Hebrew for poetry or song. She was making my heart sing, and the name stuck.

Finding unconditional love for a wounded dog

No matter the cost of feeding another dog, I was determined to hang onto Shira until I was 100% certain a new owner would love her unconditionally and keep her forever. A friend who worked at the SPCA, and who had purchased one of our Akbash pups, kept watch for the right person.

Shira and ewe

Shira with one of the ewes, before her ordeal began.

Then one day she sent an SPCA volunteer to see Shira. The young woman met the whole Akbash family and spent time on her own with Shira. She fell in love. So did Shira.

Shira trotted off with her new owner with tail high, ears alert. She stopped once to look back at me, then hopped into the truck.

I made the woman promise to bring Shira back if it didn’t work out.

Making it work

“We’ll make it work”, she promised, and she did. After three months of puppy freedom, nine months of hell, and two months of healing, Shira had a home where she was loved and respected, where she had space to run and livestock to protect. She became a devoted guardian dog and loving family member.

I felt lonely for Shira after she left. So did Blue, who was too bereft to accept comfort. He kept looking for her in the kennel, then running back to me. When I invited him on a walk, he pulled away and ran back to the space they had shared. He settled down in the hay and looked at me with big, sad eyes. That night he howled his loss.

So did I, though only inwardly. Shira had wrapped herself thoroughly around my heart, but she deserved what shelters always call “a forever home”. Now she had it.

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15 comments for “Do you want her back or shall I shoot her?

  1. June 28, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Cathryn, that was a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes! I am astonished at some people’s disregard for animals. I am happy that Shira was able to heal and find a loving home.
    Heidi

  2. June 28, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Hi Cathryn,

    Such a difficult and lovely story. Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad Shira’s story has a happy ending.

    Jamie

  3. Michelle
    June 28, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    That fellow shouldn’t have been allowed to have kids let alone a puppy. Where are people’s hearts?? Fortunately Cathryn, yours is big enough to make up for a few.

  4. Geraldine Bush
    June 29, 2010 at 8:28 am

    It tugged at my heart strings! So glad Shira found a loving home.

  5. Chris Bischoff
    June 29, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Thanks for all three stories today Cathryn. I found the Kangaroo one so disturbing. We humans are forever trying to second guess Mother Nature -always with negative results. When will we learn? I feel sorry for Blue, the male dog who befriended Shira. I guess “play dates” couldn’t be arranged so he could keep up his friendship. He was obviously trying to tell the humans how much he missed her.

  6. June 29, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Hard to arrange play dates on a working farm, and both Shira and Blue were livestock protection dogs. But Blue’s grief was very real and haunts me still.

  7. Robin Jarman
    June 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    A true story, beautifully told.

  8. June 29, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    What a beautiful and heart-wrenching story, Cathryn. How anyone could be cruel to such a beautiful soul is beyond me. You told the story well. You have a gift for writing that touches hearts. Thank you for sharing Shira’s story. I am so glad there is a happy ending to to this sad tale.

  9. Sharon Currie
    July 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Shira’s story is incredible. To be so happy and then so abused with these cruel people is heartbreaking. But then to have a second chance with the young woman is another example of good overcoming evil. Hope Blue found another mate to replace her.

  10. July 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Blue ended up re-attaching to Green. (I know, not very interesting names. We gave the pups different collars and called them by the colours, knowing new owners would give them new names anyway. Shira was Red when she went off with those dreadful people.) Green and Blue were still with us, though nearly grown, because their new owners wanted them to be mature enough to be able to protect sheep. Having spent nearly a year with our sheep, the two boys settled quickly and happily into their new homes. Their parents had remained top dogs so in their new homes the boys took on adult roles and thrived.

  11. October 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    This was a beautiful story. I had to go hug my dogs after I read it!

  12. October 30, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Thank you so much for reading Shira’s story, Donna. She will forever tug at my heart.

  13. Paulette Mahurin
    August 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Beautiful story, beautifully written, filled with love and what we all, all us animal lovers know, what it is to have a fury wrap themselves around our hearts. I love the name, and its translation, and the sweet photo of her with one of the ewes before her ordeal. So glad to have read this. I’ll sleep with a smile tonight that one who loves unconditionally, received same.

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