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 ┬átraining 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.

The Snake Dog and the Great Flood

Yesterday was a productive one. The sun came out and I had daylight hours to tackle the great basement flood. The warm sunshine warmed my mood. There was much to be optimistic about, first and most importantly, my cellar was filled with rainwater, not sewage. I had the loan of a couple of different types of sump pumps, I had some cute rain boots from Eddie Bauer that I got for Christmas, and I had a friend coming by to help in a few hours. Things were looking up.20130203-131357.jpgThese boots made my smile, I felt like the Morton Salt girl on a sunny day with a sump pump. It’s amazing to see how much the clover is greening up already. 20130203-131426.jpgAs I watched the water flow I thought about the view back to the house. I ran inside to get my fisheye lens. I noticed that I had someone watching me.20130203-131528.jpgKirby doesn’t usually like to be photographed, he typically sees a camera and hides on the other side of the house. But something about the sump pump process intrigued him. Perhaps it was that I had a giant blue snake running across the lawn.20130203-131700.jpgKirby is the boss of the yard, and it’s his job to keep everyone safe from snakes. Since we live in the woods we get a few that invade the lawn in late summer and Kirby dispatches them all. The first summer he lived here he was bitten on the tongue by a copperhead and it was scary. Copperheads are not typically lethal, but a swollen tongue could compromise his airway. You would think that this would have put the fear of snakes into the boy, but no dice.20130203-131732.jpgSince that first encounter, Kirby has taken charge of the snake population on the mountain. Over the years he has been bitten about 10 times. I keep Benadryl and baby aspirin on hand as well as some antibiotics the vet gave me. One time I heard Kirby’s distinctive “snake bark” and headed outside it make sure he was ok. He had copperhead about 4 feet long in his mouth and was running laps around the lawn, he was letting all the other snakes in the woods know who was boss. I worried that he may have been bitten so I managed to lure him over with cheese laced with Benadryl. He snapped it up and went back to the dead reptile and continued his laps. After 10 minutes he fell asleep. I disposed of his trophy and took him into the house.20130203-131854.jpgI discovered that he had not been bitten, that was two summers ago and he has not been bitten since then either. Last year he dispatched at least 10 snakes that I know of. He’s a beast.20130203-131916.jpgHe’s also a slob. I think he’s like the character Pig Pen from Peanuts. He can come home from the groomer looking all white and fluffy, a silky joy to pet. Within minutes he will have rolled in the leaves or pine tar or something slimy and he is as much fun to pet as a tumble weed.20130203-132014.jpgStill, he makes me feel safe, what other 15 pound being can do that. I know he has it handled. He would never let a snake get anywhere near me. The other dogs know he will handle the situation. He is the Snake Killer, he is Kirby.

20130203-135237.jpgYou cannot deny his majesty. He is the king of all he surveys – within the confines of the radio fence. I was glad he was standing by yesterday to keep me safe from that big blue snake.