The first time I laid eyes on Pye – she looked a little bit like Cinderella before the Fairy Godmothers performed their magic – if Cinderella had been a dog, that is. Then – just to keep things interesting – throw in a touch of Liz Taylor – partly for the black hair but mostly because her name was spelled out in rhinestones on her collar. Yes – she was a ratty little girl in diamonds.It was the fall of 2009.
We had been mourning the loss of the two dogs that had grown up with our kids. Both had gone to cancer – one in 2006 and the other in 2007, one age 13 and one only 12 … and both of them, way too soon.
Kerry felt disloyal to even think about getting another dog – but he was really missing his old girls – and really missing his dog walks every day. He felt like a bit of a fraud – or a stalker – if he went to the dog park with no dog so it sounded like a great idea when offered to dog-sit for a friend of a friend over the Labour Day long weekend.
Our two old dogs had been a beautiful female golden retriever and her HUGE, black, half-Husky puppy. Yeah — two big dogs. So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived home to find a messy little pile of black fur sitting on my kitchen floor. This was Pye.
She was the rattiest little thing – some kind of black spaniel but really small. She had a very flat nose, buck teeth and huge expressive eyes (her best feature) …. along with extremely bad breath. Her hair was long and ragged everywhere — both ears were a different length – and she was covered in giant mats.
Worst of all was the hair on her feet. It was at least three inches long and wispy. It grew out over her toes like some weird middle-eastern slipper. She really did look like something the Grinch would have owned. The poor little thing could hardly walk. I thought it was the long hair hanging off her toes that was making her trip but when I picked her up I found that her toe nails were so long a couple of them had curled right up under her feet. No wonder the poor little thing could hardly walk — and no wonder she was so chubby!
I knew I had to do something to help this poor little ragamuffin. But we only had her for the weekend and we didn’t even know the owner. Who could have let this sweet little girl get into such bad shape? The first thing we did was trim up her nails. That was a two-man job and difficult to do because the nails were so long and we didn’t want to cause her any pain.
Then I combed/cut all of the mats out from around her ears and her bib and her tail. I wanted to trim the long hair around her ears so it would be the same length on each side, but Kerry thought we shouldn’t send her home looking like a completely different dog. I restrained my self and just trimmed some of the length off the hair on her toes. Enough so that she didn’t trip over them any more.
Then Kerry and Pye set off for his favorite dog spot – down by the Bow River. We don’t think Pye had ever been off-leash before but she really enjoyed it – and she was so well behaved. She was not very brave about other dogs so she stuck really close to Kerry. She really was the sweetest most lovable little girl. We kind of fell in love with her right away.
But it was when we took her to the off-leash paths in our neighborhood that she discovered the true joy in her life — dogs behind fences.
The off-leash paths run through a ravine area at the back of the houses – the yards are all fenced and many of the yards contain dogs. Dogs that couldn’t get at Pye no matter how fiercely she barked at them. She just loved that. She could be a noisy, aggressive, beast as long as the other dogs were safely contained behind their fences.
We baby-sat Pye often over the next few years and her favorite outing was always to go see ‘dogs behind fences’. That was until one day when she suffered a ‘near-miss’.
There was a yard that contained two dachshunds — they just loved to bark ferociously at every person or canine who walked by. The fence that hid them was about six feet tall and was made of close spaced boards that you could not see through.
Kerry had always called the two dogs – Hans and Franz – until one day their owner (an older German lady) informed him that they were in fact — Dieter and Otto.
On the day of the ‘near miss’ –Pye was thoroughly enjoying herself barking madly at the fence – with her nose about 1/4 inch from the boards — when suddenly a pointy little dachshund nose stabbed completely through a knot hole in the wood – right in front of Pye’s face.
I don’t know if it was Dieter or Otto? But which ever one it was – it almost gave Pye a heart attack. I swear I saw her gasp and clutch her chest with her paws. (Did I mention how hard I was laughing?)
So now a new phrase had entered our family lexicon – dogs behind fences. It refers to something wonderful and fun – but something that could have unintended – possibly hazardous – consequences.
I hope you enjoyed Pye’s story. If you stick around you will hear more about Pye and all our other canine friends.