I first met my dog at the Animal Shelter in Southlake. She is a large black labrador with yellow eyes. She lay quietly in her kennel, staring hopefully out the gate. The workers must have had a soft-spot for her, because they pointed her out to me and made a big deal about what a great dog she would be.
I liked her quietness and how grateful she looked to be let out of the pen and played with. She was about one year old, but she seemed to have a deep sadness and fearfulness. She looked around warily, though it was clear she wanted attention. She was clearly undernourished and her ribs and hips stuck out sadly.
I took her outside and she ran around a little, but still seemed reserved and loathe to leave my side. At one point, she stood up on her hind legs, put her front paws on my shoulders, and looked deeply into my eyes with this desperate, "Please, please, take me home and take care of me," look.
I promised her I would take her home and take care of her and put meat on her bones and love her.
I filled out the paperwork and paid the fees and left. She looked sadly at me as I went. I promised her, "Hey, I'll be back after your surgery. And then I'll have a name for you and take you home and you won't be sad again."
I told my husband how sweet and calm she was and how I had decided to name her Ladybug because she was so Lady-like and because I like Ladybugs.
A week later I drove out and picked her up. She was still woozy from being sedated, but wagged her tail and licked my hand and let herself be led into my car.
That was the last day I would ever describe her as "calm" again.
Once she recovered from her surgery, put on 25 pounds, and got used to me and my husband, the crazy behaviors began. She whined incessantly when we left her in her crate. She peed everytime we introduced her to a new person. She became insistent that I should be with her at all times. When I am not with her, she whines and barks constantly. The barking begins the minute she can hear my car coming up the driveway.
I used to try to take her with me to my family's house...but she would scratch their screen doors, bark, cry, and whine, and would not leave their dog, Casey, alone, even after Casey had played with her for hours and finally wanted some time away.
Some mornings, my father-in-law shoots birds. Every bang from his shotgun sends her into a hysteric fit where she tries to climbs out of her 10 foot chain link pen and run away.
During the last thunder storm, we had to chain her in the yard outside in the pouring rain because every peal of thunder would make her climb out of her pen. It is not an easy climb. Her knees hurt her, her paws bleed, and if she gets to the top without us stopping her, she has to jump from 10 feet and land on the ground.
I once took a walk without her because she was having pain in her knees. I could hear her crying and barking hysterically as I walked away, but I ignored her (the books say if you ignore whining for long enough, the dog will stop whining-I've been ignoring it for 5 years now). Two miles down the road, she caught up with me, proud of herself to have found me.
Her yellow eyes follow me everywhere I go. My husband says its like she wants to be in my skin with me.
If I sit on a bench, she tries to crawl up in my lap. She doesn't jump on people anymore; we managed to train her out of that, but she does lick faces, glasses, small children, anything her tongue can reach. She weighs about 90 pounds and is nearly 5 feet tall when she stands on her hind legs, so no one is safe from the licking.
We have tried calming tablets, which did nothing, and prescription drugs, which made her sad and woozy and still didn't seem to calm her. The vet said that medication is the only thing they can do for these "nervous" dogs. So we walk a fine line. I spend time with her when I can, and we ignore the frantic crying and do our best to keep her in her pen or on a chain or on a leash because she will run away down to the creek if she can.
A lot of books say that once labs are over 5 years old, they will calm down. She is 6 now, and I can hear her crying right now. This is a dog who has been fed, walked, played with, and loved on a lot already today...but it is never enough for the L-bug.
For all that, I love her to pieces. She never gets tired of me and her loyalty knows no bounds. When the evil neighborhood dogs who are allowed to wander at will approach, she stands there, ready to defend me. When my neices tug her around on the leash and try to sit on her, she just looks at me mournfully with her giant yellow eyes.
Despite all her fear, I hope she is happy with us, at least as happy as a crazy, hysterical, nervous, probably over-bred dog can be.