THE DOG THAT CAME WITH THE HOUSE

Our dog came with our house. The previous owners had recently been talked into taking the four year old abused dog from the SPCA, even though they already had two of their own. Their new place barely had room for two dogs, let alone three. We gleaned this information during our initial tour of the house and pulled it out like a trump card when we learned someone else was making a bid. We named our highest price and then I impulsively said, ?And we?ll take the dog too.? So under the list of fixtures that would remain with the house the real estate agent added ?the dog named Cheyenne.?

I?m not sure if it was the price or the relief in the unloading of Cheyenne that made them accept our offer, but within 24 hours the agent phoned to say the house ? and the dog ? was ours. We later found out that three black chickens, a cat and a volunteer position to clean the community park also came with the house, but this story is about Cheyenne.

When we arrived at the house on our possession date there was Cheyenne chained to her dog house looking frightened and confused. Her neck hair bristled and she growled at me with her throat but pleaded with her eyes. I tossed her dog biscuits and talked softly until she slowly wagged her tail. It took a bit of courage on both our parts to allow me to unhook the chain from her collar and set her free.

What does a dog think when her family and fellow canine companions leave her behind and strangers start moving into the house she feels bound to protect? In Cheyenne?s case she thought the strangers packed lots of dog biscuits and dog biscuits are good.

For a long time garden hoses and electrical cords sent her scrambling into her dog house shaking with fear, telling details from her life before the SPCA that made me furious to think about. She wouldn?t shake a paw or fetch sticks, but whenever she lay down she would cross her front paws one over the other which we all agreed was the cleverest thing we had ever seen a dog do.

She had incredible energy and a ferocious appetite for food. You could toss her a hamburger and she would swallow it in a single gulp, making me fear for her digestive system and wonder if it was possible to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a canine. She also had an alarming passion for racing vehicles up the driveway. Our house sits on top of a steep incline, which makes it a challenge, especially when it?s icy. Throw a dog into the mix and you can imagine the excitement of arriving home. I can?t count the times I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting Cheyenne, only to find myself sliding all the way back down the hill, while Cheyenne stood triumphantly panting out her victory at the top.

One day Cheyenne was wolfing down food and participating in heart stopping races up the driveway and the next she was refusing to eat and moping about under the deck. I was totally unprepared when the vet checked her over and said, ?We can give you some pills that might buy her a couple more weeks of happiness, but that?s all we can do for her. She?s 14 and that?s older than most German shepherd crosses get.?

It?s strange, but it never occurred to me that she was old. That our time together was going by faster than a dog doing crazy laps around the house. I bought the pills and stopped at Safeway on the way home to load my cart with soup bones, hamburger and stew beef. The pills briefly renewed Cheyenne?s interest in eating, but she would never race us up the driveway again. Only five days later she sniffed her bowl of favourite food apologetically, lay down and looked up at me with those same confused, pleading eyes I saw 10 years ago when we first moved in. This time setting her free wouldn?t be so easy.

Shannon McKinnon is a syndicated columnist from the Peace River country. You can visit her online at www.shannonmckinnon.com