“Right! That’s it! I’ve had enough!!!” I choked, tears running down my face. Matt, who was lying on the couch, sat up. “What’s wrong?!” He asked. I stood, crying, my face in my hands. “I can’t handle the dogs – these poor wreched animals! I cant stand it! Muddles is at the gate again, and it kills me that I have to tell him to clear off. He’s the gentlest animal I’ve ever met. Emmeline was pulling on his ear through the fence, and he just sat there, and then he licked her!” I sobbed. (Read the post about Camp Dogs to get the low-down, but muddles is a tail-less camp dog) Matt looked at me evenly; “do you really feel such a connection to that dog?” “Yes! He’s just a pup! He doesn’t deserve this. None of them do but I can’t help them all – but this one has chosen us!” He looked me in the eye: “alright, go and give him something to eat.”
And so Muddles joined our family.
It was a rough start – he was dangerously thin, thinner than I even thought was possible. He’d been eating from rubbish and had diarrhoea. Most of the dog poo around here has plastic wrap in it. I fought the temptation to give him copious amounts of food, because I knew he’d guts it and make himself sick. I started with a cup of dry food, I figured the fibre content would be better for his poor little gut. The other thing we needed to get past was the fear. Because Matt had been yelling at him (“Paya” – which is reserved for dogs only, means “clear off” basically) for the past few weeks – and rightly so, because the camp dogs can be very dangerous – he was petrified of Matt. Even when I’d coax him in, as soon as Matt came out he’d bolt – squeezing under the gate and down the street. Eventually, with Matt throwing food at him, he is now at the point where he’s no longer afraid of Matt, and will even go up and say hello. I took the extra piece of fence that Matt had cable-tied to the gate off so that he could come and go. But even when he wasn’t in the yard, he was sitting accross the road, waiting and watching. I decided to bath him; but first I needed to take care of the scraggly bits hanging from his tail. He doesn’t actually have a tail – many of the dogs up here are born without tails; I guess because of inbreeding. So I put my gloves on because I wasn’t sure exactly what was encrusted on that tail, I’m hoping just mud, but I don’t want to think about it too carefully. I went to lift his tail, expecting it to be a stump, but it was just a tuft of hair! I snipped the scraggly bits off, leaving him with a precision cut, straight line. My friend and neighbour calls it his “ass mullet ” and has offered to buy him a strap on tail! After I snipped his ass-mullet, I tried to bath him with a flea and tick treatment, but he’s petrified of water! So I, in my infinite wisdom decided to pop a rope around his neck to spray him down a bit. In a slip knot. Well he panicked and started screaming, pulling away. The more he pulled the tighter it got and the more he panicked. My other dogs were chasing him and barking; what a racket! I finally got the rope off and decided to leave the bath idea alone. Somehow he came back and still trusts me! Then we found the ticks. First on Matt, and then on Min… I pulled them out with tweezers and bought some front-line. Now the household is happily tick-free but it was a tense few days while we waited for the post to come with the front-line. This dog is very connected to me. Follows me everywhere. He’s gentle and quiet for the most part, unless its when he chases the other camp dogs away. I like to think it’s to protect us, but really he’s probably just protecting his interests. When our other dog Spencer was hit by a car, Muddles was with me and stood between me and the driver of the car, growling at him. He’s beautiful with the kids, I’ve never seen him so much as growl at them. He does have some puppy-isms, like jumping and play-biting; I’m hoping that some discipline and growing will sort that out. Matt maintains that he doesn’t think he should be here. He has said that he takes no responsibility and that if something goes wrong, it’s 100% on me. I accept that. I can’t say why, and I can’t quantify it, but I know that he’s not going to hurt anyone. I know that I can take the dog out of the camp, but not the camp out of the dog, but I’m certain that he chose our family. He comes and goes, but for now that’s okay. He follows me around community and if I take too long in the school, or the shop or wherever I am, he heads home to wait for me. Whenever I come outside, if he’s been down the street, he comes bounding back. His whole demeanor has changed – he smiles now, and trots next to me. He has become playful; his life now has become less about survival and more about play and affection. He and Lottie (our other dog, who Is beautiful but as dumb as box of rocks) are best friends. Spencer and Lottie were inseparable. Without Muddles, Lottie would have struggled far more after Spencer’s death. I know that Matt will never be on board, and I’m so grateful that he’s begrudgingly allowed this dog to stay. And I know he’s absolutely right that it’s a big risk; but gosh I love this dog.