Cozy Tales: 7. Daisy

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We were a happy family with two people and one big ill-behaved dog. Having somehow convinced herself that we needed more of a good thing, Lauren started to drop hints that we needed another dog. Coincidentally, the local paper ran an article about a two year old Saint Bernard that had been hit by a car. A vet had volunteered his services and the picture of this beautiful dog that needed a home graced the front page of the section. I was in love, and since he needed a home, I put forth the idea of adopting him.

We made some calls and discovered that we were about sixteenth in line since the article had brought this poor boy’s story to light and many dog lovers had offered to adopt him. I was happy that he would get a good home, but I was sad that it wouldn’t be ours.

Meanwhile, Lauren had called Linda to ask about having a male Saint in the house with Cozy and had learned that Miss Daisy was in need of a home. It was Daisy and her sister Katie who had loved to share the crate with each other. Apparently Daisy had developed pyometra — an often fatal infection of the uterus — during what was thought to have been a successful pregnancy. Pyometra (pyo to breeders) was an emergency situation and Daisy had almost died during the operation which required her to be spayed in order to save her life. Not only that, but Daisy was found at the time to have Lyme Disease as well! The poor girl was in rough shape and she would need a loving home where she could recover.

While Linda loved all her dogs, she was limited by the town to having only five. If she wished to continue her breeding program and keep Ellie May (the elder Newf-queen), she would need to find Daisy a home and get another female. Lauren relayed all this to me, expertly building the story up to the grand finale.

“What do you think about adopting Daisy?” Lauren asked.

“I guess that would be O.K.” I said, still secretly bummed that I wouldn’t be getting my Saint Bernard boy.

“Good, because I told Linda that we would take her.”

I’m not sure I could identify the point in my life where I lost control, but looking back, I would have to say that it occurred some time before this conversation.

We made the arrangements and went to pick up Miss Daisy. Her registered name was “Zambuca’s Driving Miss Daisy” and we remembered her fondly from our first visits, though we were not prepared for what we saw. When we got to Linda’s she was waiting out front with Daisy on the lawn. Though she was meticulously well groomed, as were all of Linda’s dogs, Daisy looked like a hollowed out version of herself. She was much thinner, and the happy girl we saw when picking out puppies just wasn’t there. Instead she seemed droopy and tired. Poor Daisy had been forced into retirement by illness.

Linda was sitting with Daisy on the curb as we pulled up no doubt telling her how wonderful she was and how much she was going to be missed. Linda was not much for small talk to begin with, and she was clearly very sad that she had to let Miss Daisy go. She and Lauren talked about what had happened to Daisy and talked about what she would need going forward while I prepared the car for the ride home.

Linda said that Daisy just needed to rest and enjoy life. She had known how much we doted on Cozy, and so thought that we would be a good family for Daisy’s retirement. It was clear to us that Linda loved this special girl as she loved all her dogs, and I couldn’t imagine how hard must it have been for Linda to give her up after all they’d been through together. We all helped Daisy get into the Subaru and said our goodbyes. As we drove off I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Linda standing on the sidewalk, quietly crying with her head in her hands.

Many people think that breeding dogs is something they can do for extra money. Some people even do so, buying a couple of dogs and breeding them, then selling off the “purebred” dogs for big money. These people are referred to as backyard breeders in the breeding world because breeders don’t breed for money; they breed because they love the breed and want to help it thrive. Breeders like Linda study genetics, spend time showing their dogs and devote a considerable amount of time end energy to making them healthy and happy. I had learned that breeders like Linda don’t make a lot of money (if any) from their breeding programs. From food to the considerable vet bills to the time spent, not to mention the emotional turmoil involved when something goes wrong, reputable breeders work out of love for their dogs. I can’t imagine how much Linda had been through with Daisy, but I knew that giving her up was heartbreaking for her. I only hoped that we could give Daisy the life that she deserved.

We introduced Daisy to Cozy in the back yard where we now had a fence that allowed us to do so without leashes. Cozy was her normal obnoxious self and harassed poor Daisy to no end. Poor tired Daisy did all she could to get away from Cozy, but Cozy was relentlessly trying to get Daisy to play. Thinking that dogs love bones, Lauren had bought some nice meaty knucklebones from the butcher. Daisy wagged for the first time since she’d been separated from Linda when Lauren gave her the bone, and we thought that we had made the right choice. Cozy had her bone, Daisy had her bone, and everyone was happy. Life was good!

Then Cozy decided that she wanted Daisy’s bone.

We had not anticipated Cozy wanting both bones because of our profound ignorance concerning dog society. We were learning, and we knew that Lauren was now the alpha bitch due to her salacious pre-dinner spitting rituals, but a pack has even further complex interactions than we had imagined. Cozy dropped her bone, walked up to Daisy, bared her teeth and and snarled at Daisy. Daisy, in no mood for Cozy’s crap, growled back and suddenly we had a snarling dog fight on our hands. Being the idiot that I was, I reached in, grabbed Cozy’s collar and pulled her out of the fray. I hauled her inside and read her the riot act while she looked up at me with her overgrown puppy eyes, clearly confused as to why I was yelling at her. Actually I’m pretty sure that was a ruse on her part since she was more like a recalcitrant teen than a puppy at this stage in her life.

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I would later learn that Cozy was simply establishing her place in the new pack’s hierarchy. Daisy was a new member to Cozy’s pack, and Cozy fancied herself the alpha between them, and as alpha, Cozy had full rights to all bones at any given time. While Daisy would later be fine with this, the combination of being sick and the stress of a new home was too much for her to bear. While the scuffle had sounded frightening, it was all just posturing. The real issue was that we had taken an already stressful situation and thrown some juicy bones into the mix, after which I then tried to get all “no, I’M the Alpha!” with Cozy like the ignorant dufus that I was.

That day we learned that each dog has a relationship to each other dog as well as to the pack as a whole. We were suddenly embroiled in a whole lot of pack politics that were completely new to us, but hey, at least I was still the alpha male. Sure, I was the only male, but by this point I had learned to accept whatever victories life threw my way.

~ ~ ~

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We quickly nicknamed Daisy Eyore in reference to the droopy donkey from Winnie the Pooh. Though Daisy would perk up compared to her first day with us, she always seemed to be looking for her tail, as it were. Through our endless research we learned that Daisy was an omega dog, and her personality was the polar opposite of Cozy’s. Where Cozy needed to be in charge, Daisy needed to be in the background, away from the messy duties of leadership. As such, she was happy to let Cozy boss her around and we soon discovered that as long as Daisy could be with Lauren, life was good for her. While Cozy had attached herself to me, Daisy had attached herself to Lauren, and wherever Lauren went, Daisy was sure to be there. I had my dog, and now Lauren had hers.

Daisy was every bit the lady and so Cozy, ever the obnoxious teenage puppy brat, was often looked down upon by the elegant Miss Daisy, at least where matters of poise and grace were concerned. Because of the regal air that Daisy seemed to have we would also call her The Duchess. Lauren’s grandfather had called her grandmother by the same name, so there was some family history that appealed to us. Daisy was essentially too good for common folk, or more accurately, she was too good for their ways. While Cozy would leave a path of destruction everywhere she went, Daisy would sit on the couch and look down on the impertinence of youth from her lofty throne.

We had a rule remember; no dogs on the furniture. Apparently the ways of people were also beneath the regal Miss Daisy, and she cared not for our rules. Daisy was very much like Lauren in that she would never outwardly raise a fuss but she would also quietly disobey as she pleased. They were a perfect pair.

Since we didn’t have any children and thus lived in a nice clean house, one of the three bedrooms was a guest room. We had decided to buy a double bed for the room, and when it was delivered we set about making the room look nice. The dogs watched with interest, though Cozy quickly got bored and wandered off looking for trouble. Daisy stayed and watched as Lauren put the finishing touches on the bed by making it and topping it with decorative pillows arranged just so.

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The very moment that the bed was complete, The Duchess quietly got up, climbed onto the bed and lay down. She stayed there, no doubt convinced that we had made this room just for her, and she even waited contentedly for me in the comfortable new bed while I went to get the camera. We were in attendance of royalty it seemed, and it appeared that she tolerated my slowness while I retrieved the tools with which I could document her reign.

Daisy was a jumper, but she only seemed interested in jumping on Lauren. Actually it wasn’t jumping in the manner of most dogs, but rather more of a “stand on her hind legs and ask for a hug” kind of thing, and she only seemed to do this when she was stressed. Lauren thought it was cute, and it really did look like Daisy just wanted to hug her.  Sometimes poor Miss Daisy needed some comfort, and Lauren was apparently her rock. Dogs that are re-homed usually go through a few months of stress since their entire world has been turned upside-down and they often attach themselves to someone in the house; at least that’s what the books said. We learned that dogs do that this are affectionately referred to as velcro-dogs, which was a pretty fitting description for Miss Daisy, though that’s mostly because there was no pithy term that described our “big furry girl that needs hugs all the time and jumps up to get them but only from Lauren”-dog.

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The first week that Daisy was with us, she jumped up and inadvertently punched Lauren right in the eye. Lauren sported a nice shiner for a week or so and had some fun telling the people she worked with that I had done it. Luckily the people she worked with all knew me pretty well and knew I would never do such a thing so there were no subsequent police reports. I’m sure that Miss Daisy felt terrible about the whole ordeal.

While Daisy quickly attached herself to Lauren, I think think the reverse happened even more quickly. Daisy quickly learned that it’s far easier to ignore a rule like “no dogs on the couch” when the Alpha Bitch is on your side. Looking back now, it’s clear to me that Daisy understood more about pack politics than I ever did.

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