Our dog Buster is the oddest old boy I have ever known. Bonnie was smart, much too smart for her own good, and was to be watched at all times. Buster, on the other hand, has always been sweet tempered and dumb, also loyal and needy.
I stole him from the next door neighbors during the fall and winter of '95 and '96. They were an awful couple with two awful children. One day, a little puppy appeared in a ramshackle "kennel" in their back yard. Part Rottweiller, part german shepherd and part wolf, the dad bragged. Mostly neglected and pitiful is how he seemed to us.
They called him Spooky because they brought him home in late October. At first, the kids would take him out every day or so for playtime, but you can guess the rest. As it got colder, they would only run out to toss some left over macaroni and cheese or some such over the fence for his supper, and then run back inside. I watched it all from my kitchen window.
He had no doghouse, no shelter except for a bale of straw, and it got cold that winter. One day it dropped to 5 degrees above, and I snatched him under cover of darkness and brought him into our house. Now, mind, Bonnie hated other dogs, hated hated hated other dogs, but for some reason, she tolerated Spooky. He was sooooo not a threat. Early the next morning, I took him back to the gulag.
It stayed cold and soon, Spooky was not just an sometimes overnight visitor, but a full time resident. Strangely, or maybe not, the neighbors didn't say a word. They were most likely glad not to have the thing to take care of anymore. Every so often, one of the kids would ask to take Spooky out to play and I obliged, but eventually, they didn't even bother with that.
I renamed him Buster, and he was not part Rottweiller/shepherd/wolf after all. Imagine that. A small shepherd/collie/whatever mutt was more like it. Bonnie taught him about table manners (no begging!) and potty manners (outside!) His one little flaw was food and toy greed (no wonder) and that must have been what prompted him to devour an entire calf-length athletic sock - with two knots tied in it. It took us awhile to miss the tug toy and by then, the little guy had gone off his feed. About the same time, The Incredible God Awful Snowy yet Cold Winter descended upon us. I had never, ever driven on snow or ice and wasn't about to start now, so I doctored him the best I could. (The vet was fifty minutes away - on clear roads. We were also exceedingly broke at that time.) I spooned Gatorade into him mostly, sometimes with cooked egg. Occasionally, he would keep it down but often as not he'd immediately barf it all back up. Nice.
Each morning, I would come downstairs expecting to see his cold, little corpse in his crate, but he survived my ministrations. His coat was pathetic, his eyes so dark and sad. For an entire month, I nursed him while the snow and wind raged outside. He seemed to feel better after awhile, well enough to go outside for short walks. The weather cleared and I made an appointment with the vet for later in the week. On our third or so walk, he scrunched down and strained to poop, and lo and behold, I saw part of a sock emerge. He struggled and struggled so I finally grabbed aholt of the nasty thing and gently pulled the sock from his behind. He only "Yiked!" at the knots.
Went to the vet next day, sort of after the fact. He got some shots and all turned out well. That little guy ate and ate and ate! His coat got its sheen back, his eyes brightened, his energy returned. And we never ever played tug of war with a sock again - never ever.
Buster is almost twelve now, and Bonnie is gone. He gets all of our attention, dog-wise, but has to share us with two cats, two house bunnies and the barn, porch, and yard bunnies, too.
Over this past winter, when all the baby bunnies were inside, Buster became their Special Protector. I've never seen anything like it. He acted as if those little fur balls were his own, whining over them and trying to run off the cats. He would groom them, oh so gently! When they were moved outside, Buster was there with them - as often as I'd let him. He'd bark warnings to the town dogs ("Go Away!") and sometimes, he'd even get between them and me. He would pick them up at times, by the nape of the neck like a momma dog, and move them away from perceived harm. However, once they got to a certain size, he backed off and let them be. As if his job were done.
Now we have the new litter and I've noticed all the previous behavior. Today, I let the five babies out for free time - mostly under adult supervision. Knowing that Buster was minding the store, I didn't worry. After awhile, I went to collect them and one was under my car. I was on my knees, fruitlessly trying to grab the errant one. I talked to Buster, saying, "Where's the baby? Where's the baby? Buster, get the baby!" and don't you know that he did! I saw him crawl under the car and grab the baby and pull him out, ever so gently, and keep him until I could scramble around to scoop him up.
What a Good Dog!
post script: The awful neighbors moved the next May and as I saw them off in their moving van, the oldest child turned to Mom and asked, "Can we take Spooky with us? Please?" For once she had some sense and said no.