Kirby’s Story

Several years ago there was a tragedy at the Stone House. I had three terriers – Velcro, Squeegee, and Zipper. Terriers are like no other dogs – stubborn, brave, fiercely loyal, and affectionate. Zipper was the only male and was the sweetest of the bunch. He camped and kayaked with me and had an weird habit of picking up bricks in his mouth and running away with them. He was odd and was very high energy, but was completely gentle around other animals. Once I spotted him out in my back field laying down in the grass watching a deer graze a couple of feet away from him. One day I heard the girls wail, it wasn’t a bark – it was very different and alarming. I ran outside to see that some roaming dogs had killed my sweet boy. The girls were inconsolable. I was inconsolable.

I’m not the kind of pet owner who heads out to replace a lost pup. I don’t think you can replace one, they are unique and each hold a special place in our hearts, but as the weeks wore on I could visibly see that the girls were mourning and I missed my cuddly adventure dog. I put up a post on a local BBS asking if anyone knew of a Jack Russell Terrier rescue or breeder in the area. It was time to move on.

Someone recommended a breeder and although I have typically rescued dogs, after a talk with her on the phone I decided to go look at some puppies. The kennel was quite remote – up a series of dirt roads about 20 miles off the pavement. They had a racing and training facility there, so I knew their dogs were not vanity terriers, they were working dogs. She showed me a couple of puppies and my heart melted – that baby animal serotonin thing kicked in. As I looked the two available pups the owners pointed out a dog to me in a large ย training area. They told me his name was Cloud, and that they had bred him to compete for Confirmation. He was a gorgeous dog, I had never seen a terrier so perfectly proportioned. There was just one problem – he was terribly shy, so shy that he would bolt when touched by a judge in the ring. Worse still, his behavior was affecting the other dogs. He had been trained to race and to go to ground, but as a show dog he was useless. He needed a new home. He was 18 months old and had not been housebroken because he was a working dog. I sat with him for about a half hour, feeding him from my hand. The owners offered to let me just take him home with me. He had been adopted out once already and they were desperate to place him. They gave me his papers and I loaded him into the car for the two-hour ride home.

Cloud (Kirby's) first day at the Stone House

Cloud (Kirby’s) first day at the Stone House

Once we got back to my place I put him in a dog run that used to be on the property. My other dogs were on radio collars so they were free to run in a large circular area around the house. Cloud would have to stay in the run until he got used to me and could be trained on the fence. The run was attached to my shop building so he had an indoor outdoor area and I filled it with a new bed and lots of toys and blankets that smelled like me. The next day after work I went into the run to spend some time with my new boy and found that he was not at all open to letting me touch or even approach him. I decided that I needed him to bond with me in some way every day, so I fed him all of his meals out of my hands. He would grab a bite of kibble then bolt so that I had no chance to pet him. One day I thought I would try to walk him on a leash – after an hour of chasing him in the dog run I cornered him and he fought me so hard that I worried that he could be injured if I tried to force him to let me catch him – I needed to try something different.

I decided to put one of those old metal porch rockers in the dog run. I would sit in it each morning and evening for an hour or more feeding and talking to my new pup. Days passed, weeks passed – nothing. He seemed happy to see me, he wagged his tail each time I approached the run – but he was not going to let me touch him. This went on for 28 days. On day 29 I had an idea.

I brought Velcro into the run with me and I fed them both by hand. Each time I fed Velcro I would pet her and give her lots of affection. Cloud would watch and I could see that he was just a little jealous. After about 45 minutes of feeding both dogs he finally decided to let me touch him. I petted him under his ear and he pushed into my hands. He wanted to be petted! It was like a floodgate opened. He would not let me stop – it was like he had a skin hunger. I renamed him Kirby that night, because he was sucking up all the affection he could get. That night he moved into the house with us and the next evening I started training him on the invisible fence. He took right to it, and in a couple of days he was running with the girls.

That was in the summer of 2007. Today Kirby is very affectionate, but only when he chooses to be. He doesn’t make friends with everyone, but if he chooses you it means you must be pretty special. He protects the girls, who have reasonably become wary of any strange or unwelcome animal entering the yard. He and Velcro love to eat persimmons in the winter when they fall from the trees. He kayaks, he camps, he kills snakes – he is sweet, shy, and brave. He’s not Zipper, but he filled that hole in our hearts after we lost him – he filled it by choosing to love us on his own terms.

It’s only been recently that he has allowed me to take his photo. Perhaps he is a bit jealous of the birds.

46 thoughts on “Kirby’s Story

  1. Pingback: What does the Fox Say? | the eff stop

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  3. That’s a wonderful story and it speaks volumes about the kind of person you are that you were so patient and persistent in your efforts to bond with Kirby. A lot of people, even those who love animals and have good hearts, would have given up halfway through the time you took to connect with him. Cute pictures, I especially love the “artsy” one with the red flowers…..

    • Thanks so much – I think Kirby was totally worth it. I could see early on that there was a sweetness in him, I just had to let him make the choice. I’m really the lucky one to have that fuzzy guy in my life ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Thank you so much for your blog, since I first started receiving it, it has been a wonderful blessing, you do an awesome job of relating all of its’ content to us. I love it, and look forward to receiving new posts. I especially want to thank you for todays post on zipper and Kirby. I recently lost my dwarf bunny who was my baby. She was litterbox trained, and she was my constant companion, and I treasured her. When she passed to early for her age, from illness, it devastated me, I’m nearly homebound, and she was my only friend. Your post today, comforted me, and helped heal a lot of the hurt. Thank you, God bless you. sincerely, Bernadette Jones

    • I’m glad that you enjoy my blog and thank you for commenting. It is so hard to lose one of our furry friends, they really are family. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  5. What a great ending to a very sad starting story. Kirby is so lucky to have found you. .. or was it the other way around? I always say, “who adopted who?” My 2 boys are my fur children. I can’t imagine life without them.

      • You are so right about that – who chose who. I always think it’s neat when he warms up to someone – that he has let another person into his circle. I have 4 pups right now and they are a wonderful greeting committee whenever I pull up to the house. They trapped a squirrel the other day and kept it up the tree for a few hours before I went out and helped it escape. I think it’s interesting that none of my pups show any concern about birds ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 8 years – wow! Terriers are not typically shy, they are almost always affectionate. Their one downside for me is that they can focus on something and completely forget the rest of the world – like spotting a squirrel. There is no breaking that concentration sometimes.

    • There were days that I thought I would just feed him for the rest of his life – I kinda got to a place where I was OK with that. The payoff is that he is a great dog now and I learned a bit about patience too.

  6. What a great story. Kirby looks like he’s very loveable.

    I’m not a doggie person, but we had terriers as we were children. I kinda wish my Father would get another dog since my Mother passed away as I think he is lonely during the week, but he’s content with the Patterdale terrier of my younger brother’s family (which he sees each weekend).

    • My first Jack Russell Terrier used to travel with me when I went on work trips. I went to a lot of conventions in my hometown and he would stay with my Grandpa all day while I worked. Every time I got ready to go home I debated leaving him as a companion for him. Dogs can add so much to the life of someone older.

    • I do miss Zipper (Squeegee and he were like litter mates and she still reacts to his name) but Kirby has been a great addition to our pack. He also taught me a lot about patience and trust.

    • Thanks – I rescued my first terrier in 1993. I can’t imagine not having those wonderful stubborn loving creatures in my life. Kirby is my 8th (some were just fosters) and he is definitely one of my favorites, don’t tell that to Squeegee though ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Handsome fellow. I used to raise Germans and you did everything right Lorri. You never forced him and you let him make the decisions. He’s smart so he learned that being with you was a good thing. You also had lots and lots of patience which is what shy dogs need. Bravo to both of you!

    • You know, I had been through some light obedience training many years ago and remembered a dog that would not do a hidden stay – after weeks of trying the trainers said that you can’t force a dog to break it’s bond with you – I felt strongly that the opposite was true in Kirby’s case. He still chooses when to spend time with me, it’s more and more often as he gets older.

  8. Great dog story … dogs tug at my heart. Losing one breaks my heart for a long time … I am currently without a furry companion of my own. I am not home enough (or maybe I am just protecting my heart)
    Love your unique names .. velcro, squeegee, and zipper.

    • Thanks. I was not sure about getting another dog, but watching the girls broke my heart. Squeegee still reacts when you say Zipper out loud. They were the same age and I think dogs have deeper bonds than we give them credit for. I can’t imagine not coming home to a house without a pup.

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