Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reckless - The Dog from Hell

The Dog from Hell 

Linda Wells

I have blocked out my life the best I could until I was dumped along a busy highway, a scared pup of 6 months. Scared and alone I looked for a place to hide. When I could go no farther, I stopped by a building and rested by the front door and drifted off to sleep.

Suddenly I woke surrounded by a group of men. I growled, they laughed and said, “You are a feisty little thing, aren't you?” They opened the door and called me inside. They went to work, but left me in the hall. Later a woman came in the door and spoke to me. “Good morning, Pup. Where did you come from?” All day she kept up a running conversation with me and in time I lay at her feet. Laying there I felt the need to protect her come over me. A feeling I had never had before. When someone would come into her room, I would automatically go to full alert mode. The guys would laugh and tell her, "Boy, you got a watch dog there.”

Late in the day she asked me if I was ready to go home, picked me up, and put me in the front seat of her pickup. I didn't know what “home” was, but it had a good ring to it. After a long drive she pulled into a driveway and stopped. A big white dog, Blanco she called him, came to the fence barking. I was scared and ran under the pickup. She called and called to me...but I wouldn't come out. She reached under the pickup, taking my legs in her hands and dragged me out. I bit her, bringing blood. She didn't turn me loose, but put me in Blanco's fence. He mostly ignored me. When he did come close I showed him “I'm a baby and I don't want to fight stance.”

The woman went into the house leaving us alone. After a while she came out, telling us she had to go feed and calling Blanco to the fence for a treat. She had one for me. I took mine so aggressively I brought the blood from her hand, I didn't mean to hurt her, but I had never had anything that smelled or tasted so good. She shook her hand and told me I had better be more careful next time.

After an hour or so she came back to the house, talked to us for a minute and went in the house. About dark she came out with our dinner. She put down Blanco's pan and walked across the yard to put mine down. She stepped back, giving me room to eat. When Blanco finished his meal, he didn't come and take mine. It was the first time I remember not having to fight for my food.

The next morning she came out, gave us another treat and said she was going to work and left. Late afternoon, she came home and the evening was the same as the one before.

Soon the weekend came. In the afternoon she came out with a leash and collar. Blanco knew what was going to happen. He reared on the fence, the collar was slipped over his head, leash attached, gate opened and he was taken into the house. She came back for me. I really wanted to go with her, but I couldn't go to her and let the collar be put around my neck. I would go to her, but when she would start to catch me, I would run. This went on for 15 minutes or so. She got tired of trying to catch me, so she went into the house with Blanco. Later she came out and tried to catch me again. This time I mustered my courage, stood and let her put the collar around my neck. I had no idea what to expect when I went through the door. With great anticipation, I entered. Blanco met me at the door, wiggling with joy.

What is that smell - cats? I started after one as I had been taught and was told in a stern voice, “Pup, leave the cats alone.” Which was easy, they were gone in a flash.
She took the collar off and I had my freedom. Upon the couch, cushions flying, cleared the dining room table in a flash, kitchen cabinets came next. This was fun. I heard, “Pup, you need to settle down,” bringing my attention back to her. I ran back to her, jumping on her, licking her in the face, mouthing her arm, I was completely out of control. After a battle, she got me under semi control. She petted me for a long time. Finally I lay down.

I saw the cats peeking out from behind a couch. I had to investigate. The cats had no fear of Blanco, but they were afraid of me. The woman watched me and the cats and kept telling me, “Now don't hurt the cats. Be gentle with them." I would try to catch them, but I couldn't get behind the couch. By the time it was time for us to go back outside, I was getting used to the cats. I was told, "Pup, you are driving me crazy,” and both of us were put back outside. I had a good time in the house...I hoped I would get to come back.

What was Blanco doing? He had been fed a treat, petted and was laying on the rug. He wasn't having any fun. The next day was Sunday, it was like Saturday, I was still out of control but she seemed to think I was a bit better than the day before. Time in the house became a weekend ritual. We would spend all afternoon in the house, sometimes even coming back in after she fed the horses. She would tell me, "Pup, you are driving me crazy.” I would try, but couldn't settle down. After one visit in the house I got my name, Reckless, or Her Dog From Hell.

Time went by and she got her back yard fenced. Now we could come inside anytime we wanted. She was happy telling people how much better she would sleep with us in the house at night. She hadn't counted on how excited I would get being on the bed with her. When she would start to get into bed, I would jump on the bed and start running back and forth on the bed, licking her face, grabbing her arm in my mouth...completely out of control once more. To get into the bed, she had to throw the bedspread over me and even after she was in she had to keep her head under the cover. I would be frantic to lick her. I would claw at the cover over her head. When I gave up and laid down, she would softly rub my ears. In time I learned, when I settled down I would be petted, but not before. The grabbing her arm in the mouth was the next thing I learned not to do. Over and over I would hear, "Don't bite me.” When I didn't bite, I got more petting. The hardest to hear was, “Don't lick me.” I'm better, but still try to sneak in a lick when I can.

I have been a house dog for months and learned a lot. I take treats gently, I don't mouth her arm, I only sneak a lick in from time to time. I have learned that Blanco can be petted and her loving him takes nothing from me. If I stand by him without growling, she will pet us both. The cats are fun to play with. If I move over on the bed at night, she will pet Blanco then pet me until she falls asleep. My feeling of protectiveness grows with each passing day.

I was introduced to tennis balls. How I love them. I have something I can bite to my heart's content. I lay on the couch or bed, throw them off, sneak up on them over and over. Sometime they roll under the the bed or couch and I'm too big to get them out. The first time she come into the room with the broom, I couldn't help myself, old fears die hard. I cringed running from the room. As I ran down the hall she called after me, "Hey Pup, I will never hurt you.” I stopped my flight, turned and peeked in the door to see what she was going to do with the broom. She was bending over with the broom under the bed. Out came my ball.

Soon I learned the broom meant the ball would run out from under the bed or couch. The ball had to be afraid of the broom, not me. Some nights I wake up, fearing danger, a different kind of danger than in my old life. I instinctively stand guard over her sleeping form, watching and listening, on high alert.

She never wakes, feeling no danger. I get off the bed, stand in the doorway, seeing or hearing nothing, I go back to bed. The danger is there, I know something is in the house. My resolve grows stronger, I will protect her.

Being awakened to an unknown danger begins to happen a couple times a week. Each time the feeling of danger is stronger. Now as I lay in the doorway guarding her room, I sometimes see a vague shadow. My first instinct is to run, but I can't leave her. Why doesn't she feel the danger?

One morning she is petting under my neck and puts one hand on my rump and pushes down slightly and tells me to sit. Hey, I know what she wants, so I sit. Twice more she asks me to sit and I do. I get a lot of “good dog, good boy” and “good Reckless, you are so smart.”

The next morning she asked me to sit. I sat for her, but a low growl came from my throat intended for the dark form, The Thing, just behind her. I promise I wasn't growling at her, but at the form. She asks, “Did you just growl at me?” with disbelief in her voice. She asked me to sit again. I did, but the growl came louder as The Thing's hand joined hers as she reached to touch my rump.

“Reck, don't growl at me,” she said. And I was put outside. I could feel her fear of me, but not The Thing. Why me? I would never hurt her. When The Thing is near, I growl as she pets me. Each time I growl I feel her fear of me grow.

Now most of the time when I come inside The Thing is in the house. When it is close my fear of it makes my hackles rise and I cringe in fear, but my need to protect her keeps me from running. 

Her nephew came to do some work on the well. He is laying new pipe from the well to the house. He had to get in the back yard with me and Blanco. We had fun rough housing. I got too excited and growled. He thumped me on the nose, telling me, "Dog you don't growl at me." Then he started to rough house with me again as if nothing happened. He left and I was called inside. I came through the door and The Thing was overpowering. My hackles came up, I cringed and my eyes filled with fear. I started to her as I came inside, but one look at me and she backed up, face showing fear. I ran into the living room, with The Thing all around me. As I started back though the house, she got a ball and threw to me. That broke the spell and The Thing moved away. I played with the ball, she came to me and put her arms around my neck....all was right in my world.

Poor Reckless, he is so afraid of The Thing. It takes all his courage to go into the house. Me, I'm more laid back. I'm not afraid until I need to be. I watched the Thing and saw no signs of aggression. I do like to know where it is when I'm going out or coming in. She gets so aggravated at me when I stand in the door checking out the utility room before I come inside or when I stand in the doorway and check out each room as I come though them on my way out.

I'm sure Reckless wasn't born with his fear. It was instilled in him by his treatment before he came here to live. Me, I was lucky. I never knew pain or fear. When I was dumped out, the first house I went to fed me. A few days later the woman came by and was asked if she needed a dog. She said yes and loaded me in the pickup for the drive home.

For some reason I was born timid. When company comes I try to get out of sight. Maybe my timidness was the reason I was dumped. They thought I was too timid for guard duty for a herd of sheep. It doesn't matter, I'm happy in my new home. Reckless and I will both protect the woman with our last breath. We just show it in different ways. I try to stay out of the way and he puts on this mean front.

My dog from Hell
When I came into my office, there he was, a Pit-Rhodesian Ridgeback cross. Just a half grown pup. He was scared but calm. After talking to him, he came and laid with his head on my feet. I have a soft spot for strays, so knew I would be taking him home with me. My other reject, Blanco, a German Shepherd – Giant Pyrenees cross, needed company. Blanco was lonesome since the death of his old running buddies. It had been a long time since I had only one dog living at my place.

I put the pup in the pickup and he laid watching me all the way home. I let him out of the pickup and instead of following me inside, he crawled under the pick up all hackled up. I thought he was just afraid of Blanco standing at the fence barking. I reached for him and darn, he bit me and brought the blood. What have I got myself into here I thought? I went ahead and pulled him from under the pick up and put him in with Blanco. The pup made the signs of “don't hurt me, I'm a baby” and Blanco ignored him. Blanco is a very laid back dog and I was sure he wouldn't start a fight. I went into the house to let them get acquainted.

Later I went to feed the horses, he and Blanco were halfway playing. I called Blanco to the fence and gave him his evening treat. The pup wanted one too and about took my hand with it. “Oh, he is just scared and hungry,” I thought, making excuses for him.
After feeding, I fixed their evening meal and the pup didn't seem aggressive while he ate. The rest of the week went about the same. The pup never brought blood when I fed him his treat again, but he came close. He was always so hyper and excited when it came feeding time. Or anytime I paid attention to him.

I wanted Blanco in the house at night, but my yard fence wasn't around the back of my house. Living in the country, I had let Blanco out at night a few times and instead of going out and doing his business, he had to patrol the place looking for predators, his Giant Pyrenees guard dog breeding coming to the surface. He had a perimeter he checked out anytime I let him out, taking about 10 minutes. In time I knew he would see a coyote, wild hog, bobcat or fox and give chase. I had decided it was best for him to be only let out in a yard, so I couldn't keep him inside at night. The yard gate was too far from the house to be going to it in the middle of the night to let him in or put him out. Remember snakes crawl at night. So I brought them inside on weekends and evenings in the summertime.

The first time I brought the pup inside was a disaster. He hit the house in high gear. He was so hyper. In the blink of an eye the cushions flew off the couch, everything but him from the dining room table. When the table was clear, it was onto the cabinets. I watched in amazement. I finally had the smarts to tell him to settle down. That brought his attention back to me. He jumped on me, almost knocking me down. I put my hand on his head forcing him to the floor. In time I got him settled down by petting his ears and under his neck. As he laid by the chair, I was afraid to move, knowing if I got his attention, he would be all over me again.

Before I brought him home I knew he had issues. He didn't like to be touched on his back, sides, underbelly, or legs. He would jerk away if I touched him there or sling his mouth toward my hand. He never snapped, but I got his message. I had picked up many strays and felt in time I would gain his trust and I could handle him. Talking to our dogs had always worked, but from the beginning I could tell he was going to be the hardest dog to bring under control. There was fear in his eyes most of the time.
Soon, I called him Reckless, or My Dog From Hell. Poor Reckless. He was everything I didn't like about a pup, hyper, mouthy, and oh so needy for my attention. Oh, did I mention he was also a licker. He couldn't get enough attention. He would growl and push Blanco away if he even came close.

When I would really get aggravated at him I would always fall back on: He doesn't bother the cats. Of course they stayed hid most of the time he was inside. Each time he came inside I could see a bit of improvement.

I had never had a dog act like him before, so I started asking everyone I knew about to handle him. Most of the answers involved carrying a stick and hitting him when he did wrong. I didn't think punishment was the right answer for Reckless. I could see the fear in his eyes and the way he cringed when I raised my voice to him. Rescue dogs had filled our home as long as I could remember, some very abused, and never did I have a problem with control until Reckless.

One can find all kinds of information online so I started Googling dog training sites. The SPCA site came up. I started reading about hyper dogs. I found I was re-enforcing him being hyper when I petted him to calm him down. The site said to ignore the dog until he settled down then reward him with attention. The site said it would be hard and I don't know how hard it will be to ignore Reckless.

The next time I brought the dogs in, I put on my heavy winter feeding clothes. I brought the dogs in and covered my face and head. Reckless went more crazy then usual, trying to get to bare skin. Amazingly in 10 minutes or so he laid by by the chair. I reached down and petted him. That started his motor running again. Once more I ignored him. This went on all afternoon. Each calm spell lasting a few seconds longer. The bravest of my cats came of hiding. She made sure she had an escape route, slowly she would stick out a paw from behind the couch to see what would happen. Reckless was in heaven, he had something to try to lick. I was grateful Reck's attention was on her not me. The weekend ended and I could see progress, I was happy.

I got the back yard fence and the dogs became inside dogs. Now I figured Reckless would forget his abuse, settle down and not be so needy. A lot of progress had been made in his behavior on weekends, but he was far from being under control.
Winter came and something happened that made me see Reckless for the dog he had hidden under his fear. It was very cold, I was sick and went to feed. I made it to the barn, fed the first batch of horses and was so cold and tired I had to rest, leaning against the fence before I could get back to the pickup. I debated whether to go back to the house and ask for help in feeding the last of the horses. Finishing feeding by myself won and I drove to the second pen. After feeding them, once more I had to lean on the gate to gather strength to make it back to the pickup. At this point I thought I was going to have to call for help to get back in the pickup. My pride told me to just rest and I could make it to the pickup and though the gate. I made it to the pickup and rested again. At the gate I got it opened and drove though. 

I sat and rested once more until I could get the gate shut and by leaning on the pickup bed I made it to the cab. The trip home was short and at the house I sat dreading the short walk to the door. Slowly I started to the house, had a hard time getting the door unlocked, got inside and collapsed on the couch. As I lay there I thought...that Dog From Hell will be all over me. Instead later I was awakened by a paw being laid gently on my face and a small lick on my cheek. I said, "I'm okay, Reckless, just go away.” I opened my eyes and saw him laying on the rug by the couch, watching me. I slept until 10:00 pm with him waking me a couple more times always so gently. I got up and went to bed and he laid down on the bed beside me with his head on my back. I didn't know he had it in him to be so gentle and have that compassion for me. I had dreaded getting into bed. Most of the time he would bounce up and down the length of the bed trying to lick my face and grab my arm in his mouth. This time he just watched me get into bed. So no matter how aggravating Reckless is, I now knew he could be a great dog.

Weeks go by and I'm so proud of Reckless' progress. Everyday I see better and better behavior. All this progress with never a hand laid on him in anger. He still has issues, but with time they are becoming less noticeable.

Then he growled at me. I was shocked. All the stories of pits turning on their owners came to mind. I tell myself over and over Reckless would never attack me unless I pushed him into a corner, but the growls brought up the fear.

My first source of information was the SPCA site. I read and reread all their information on aggressive dogs. The more I read the more confused I got. Watching Reckless for signs of aggression made me see aggression in everything he did. After all this time I became very afraid of him.

When one lives in the country something always needs repair. This time it was my well. My nephew came up to help me....well, to do the work while I watched. My nephew needed to work in the back yard. I was going to put the dogs in the house, but he jumped the back yard fence and started to work. Soon him and Reckless started to rough house. I watched them play and Reckless growled at my nephew and got a thump on the nose with, “Don't growl at me.” I watch them continue to rough house with Reckless not growling again.

My nephew got water to my house and I worked in the yard for a bit longer. Later I went into the house to rest, calling the dogs in with me. Reckless came though the door cringing and slightly shaking. He had the wildest look in his eyes as he checked out the house. The cats took one look at him and hid. I was afraid to touch or speak to him. I went to the pantry and got a ball and bounced it to him. He grabbed the ball, started to play with it. The cats came out of hiding and my Reckless was back.
I admit, I'm afraid of Reckless and getting more afraid of him with each passing day.

My niece called and I thought I would ask her if she had any ideas about Reckless. Her first thought was my ghost was back and he wasn't growling at me, but the ghost. That was something I never thought about.

My Ghost
Several years ago my husband became very depressed because of bad health. He committed suicide. His little dog Skeeter almost died from grief. I often thought I should have taken her to the funeral home so she would have known he was dead, but at the time I didn't think of it.

Not long after his death strange things started to happen. I would come home to find typing paper in the floor, a book in an unexpected place and loose change by the outside door or laying in the living room. I always brushed these occurrences aside. The cats were playing with the typing paper, even with no teeth or claw marks on them. The misplaced books were just me forgetting where I had laid them when I finished reading. The change dropped from my pocket while I was pulling out my car keys, even though I never carried any cash. A ghost was the farthest thing from my mind. Later things started to happen I couldn't explain away.

One evening as I loaded hay in the back of the truck, I felt it shift as if someone sat down in it. My first thought was, “Boy, Skeet, you sure jumped in heavy.” I went to the cab and nothing was inside. Skeeter was coming though the gate, nowhere close to the pickup. I called her and she came running, jumped in the cab with me. Instead of looking out the window as usual, she lay down in the seat. At the barn instead of going with me to feed she stayed in the cab. She didn't leave the pickup for her evening swim. Strange I thought. When I got back to the house Skeeter was very reluctant to leave the pick-up. I finally got tired of waiting for her and picked her up and carried her inside. She lay by the front door, ears pricked watching or waiting until bedtime.

One night Skeeter woke me jumping off the couch. I thought she needed out. Instead of going to the door, she started for the other couch. She had her head down the same way as when she saw something on our walks she didn't know what it was. Just before she got to the couch, her ears came up and tail started to wag. She was so excited as she jumped on the couch. She made a couple of passes leaning against the back of the couch. She gave a big sigh and laid down still wagging her tail. She laid there for 30 minutes or so, happy. Then slowly she got down and came back to my couch and laid back at my feet. She watched the other couch for a bit and went back to sleep.

One evening I saw an apparition as I was getting hay. As I parked I saw a wisp of gray coming from in front of the pickup. At first I thought my pickup was on fire. Looking closer I could tell the wisp was in front of the hood. It was light gray, transparent, about a foot wide and extending about 4 foot above the hood. I just sit, looking at it. I wanted to see if I could walk to it and see if I could touch it but something held me back, fear of the unknown maybe. In time it became fainter and fainter until I could no longer see it. All the time I sat there Skeeter was watching it with pricked ears and wagging her tail. When I could no longer see it, I got out to see if it was really smoke and something was smoldering. I looked and looked but found no evidence of fire.

Meanwhile I was still finding items out of place in the house and the change laying in the floor. Overtime I decided my husband's ghost was at the house. From time to time I would tell someone about my ghost. People who didn't believe in ghosts would think I had gone crazy. People who believed in ghost loved hearing about everything out of the ordinary. Two questions I was asked over and over were, could I feel the ghost presence and was I afraid. I would have to tell them no on both accounts. No way could I be afraid of my husband's ghost. He would never hurt me in life or death.
Skeeter was old and one evening she collapsed at the barn. By the time I got her back to the house she was dead. Her death was very hard on me. She was my last connection to my husband except for his little yellow mare.

A few days later I was feeding and missing Skeeter not being with me. As I carried an arm load of hay, I was thinking what a nice warm spring day. On days like this I enjoyed feeding. Then I walked into a fast air current of very cold air, colder than air from an air conditioner on a hot day.

I dropped my hay, back tracked, running in the direction the current was moving. I was never able to find it. For the first time I was afraid.

There were no more signs from the ghost. In my mind he had came back for Skeeter and they went to the light together.

Could he really be back?
Blanco had started going into the living room and barking for no apparent reason. At

times he would not come though certain rooms unless I put him on a leash. He would bark at the door wanting in, but before he would come in he would stand and look around, down the hall, check out the washer and dryer, but mostly he would look up. Finally he would come on in. He would do the same when he went outside. Blanco no longer sleeps in the living room. He now lays on the rug by the bed. He would wake me wanting to be petted, very unusual for him.

Thinking back it was about the same time Reckless would wake me standing guard over me, watching the door, finally jumping from the bed and guarding the door. The same time he started to growl from time to time.

After talking to my niece, I decided to talk to the ghost. I told him they didn't know him like Skeeter and they were afraid of him. So would he back off? I felt pretty stupid talking to him, but I did for the dogs sake. By the dogs' actions he must have realized what he was doing and kept his distance. Reckless was more relaxed and no longer waking me up by standing guard over me. He no longer laid in the doorway on full alert looking down the hall. But best of all, he hasn't growled at him since I talked to the ghost. Blanco also began to come inside and go out much better.

Life is good on the farm once more. 

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