Zoey is our grand-daughter; our daughter Alex’s 8-year old Saint Bernard. When we got Zoey, our daughter was 19, in college, working full-time, living at home, and busy to say the least. It probably wasn’t the best time for her to get her own dog but when we saw Zoey for the first time, it was truly love at first site. She was five-months old and a big ball of fur. She also had the most intense and innocent eyes I’d ever seen.
We were told, and I had read, that Saint Bernard’s only wanted love, food, and a place to sleep (a lot). They called them “perfect apartment dogs” even with their immense size. Uh ok! We didn’t live in an apartment which was good because we definitely didn’t have a typical Saint Bernard. Nope. Not even close. We had a girl that immediately started becoming independent and a wee bit high-strung due to anxiety. She was always ready and aware, and that is the total opposite of what a Saint Bernard’s personality “should” be. Zoey was proving to be anything but typical! Instead, she was stubborn and independent. As time went on, her stubbornness aided in her nickname of “your dog.” You see, when Alex came home I’d tell her about Zoey’s bratty actions. The conversations always started with, “Your dog…” which was then followed by whatever behavior Zoey had decided to deem acceptable-no matter how UNacceptable it truly was. Since she was such a stubborn girl, she most often got called “your dog;” which I’m positive she not only knew but was quite proud of.
Zoey was anything but a typical puppy. She didn’t chew things, bite toes, or truly have any classic puppy behaviors. She was easy to potty train and actually communicated quite well without speaking! For instance, she made sure to show her distrust of the flap on the dog door by just staring out the window into the yard. No matter how many times we tried to coax her out, she was not having it until SHE was ready. What Zoey did do was become a high-strung, obsessive girl who always had a tennis ball, usually two, in her mouth. She panted loudly; that was part of her anxiety. She hacked; that was part of her anxiety. She was in and out all day and night; yes, from her anxiety. She rarely slept for a considerable amount of time like a “regular” puppy did; you guessed it, her anxiety. When she did slow down here and there, she was a big moosh ball of love and always considered herself a lap dog; another characteristic of Saint Bernards.
Zoey and I had our first BIG disagreement when she decided to get more familiar with one of my tortoises. Maybe she thought they were toys or rocks that moved, but whatever train of thought she did or didn’t have was not good. I don’t know exactly what happened because she was out in the yard but I do know she decided to play with the smaller of the two. I’m assuming she didn’t want to kill it but maybe enjoy it until it stopped moving; and that almost happened.
She was pretty big by the time but still less than a year. No matter, she was able to pick up the tortoise (which was the size of a football), and she was not nice to him but thankfully we were able to patch him up. After that first instance, we blocked in a part of the yard for the torts. She had a few more encounters like that because unfortunately, we underestimated her ability to get exactly what she wanted. Again, I’m thankful my tort was fine and my husband reinforced their area to make it Zoey-proof and as you can now imagine, that isn’t an easy thing to do. So, since she couldn’t get to the moving rocks anymore, she began to bark at them. I don’t mean a couple barks here and there; I mean incessantly barking to the point of disturbing the neighbors and ME. And telling her no, stop, or don’t bark was similar to taking a shower without water; useless.
Zoey started having seizures and her anxiety and uneasiness worsened as she got older. She was tested for many things and everything came back great. The last thing her Veterinarian tried was Prozac. Yes, you read correctly, Prozac. It helped. She was nowhere near as nervous and anxious as she had been which was wonderful. Therefore, life went on and soon thereafter, Alex moved out and Zoey moved with her. That lasted less than one day because Zoey was freaking out at the new place and chewed on the window blinds. I’m assuming, she just wanted to come home and she did. She was comfortable again once she was back at the home she was familiar with and life went on as usual. Barking, pacing, keeping watch, and being anything but a typical Saint.
Fast forward to March of this year. We had some very rare and severe rain storms the same weekend Alex moved to her first home with Zoey. With it being a house with a yard, we assumed she’d be fine. Remember, never assume. Instead of being fine, she dug out of the yard when Alex was at work. She was missing for 3 months and 3 days. It was horrible. We became familiar with every rescue and lost dog organization around. We printed and put up hundreds of flyers. We searched online ads endlessly. We got a few crank callers who said they’d found her, gave us an address which turned up nothing. I’m ok with that because those people have karma coming to them. Then Alex got an email from one of the ad sites saying, “I think I found your dog. Will you send me a picture?” We tried not to get excited but when the sender immediately sent a photo back and it was Zoey, we couldn’t contain ourselves! Then the communication was gone. We tried everything you can think of to figure out where the photo was taken, the identification of the emailer, anything. THREE VERY LONG days later, the person responded with the address. This was truly unbelievable. We’d found Zoey.
We immediately went to the address where Zoey was. We brought photos, her microchip number, and her rabies vaccine number; we were ready if the finder asked for proof of ownership. The owner of the house wasn’t home but we could see Zoey through the fence and better yet, she could see us. We had to wait three hours for them to come home and Zoey barked for at least 2 ½ of those. We didn’t leave. We made sure we stayed in her sight so that she knew she was coming home with us. Finally the home owner arrived. He said they’d found her and never saw any flyers or anything. You know, I wanted to judge the crap out of those people and ask why they didn’t get her scanned for a microchip. Or ask them how it was possible that they didn’t see one of the hundreds of flyers we hung in the area. But it wouldn’t have made a difference. Instead, we gave them money for “taking care of her,” and gave a reward to the emailer.
Zoey had been kept outside for 3 months in an 8 feet by 6 feet dirt area in 100 plus degree weather, with a small covered area and a bucket of yellowed water. Oh and another dog for company. Her fur was caked with mud and she was completely matted from her chin down her chest and belly and all over the inside of her legs. She was also extremely anxious and timid. She was 15 pounds lighter and for a thin girl like Zoey that was way too much. We were afraid to brush her because she was so boney. When Zoey was let out of that pen she knew who we were and she was so happy but reserved. It was very disconcerting to see her so quiet and it worried us. We figured that once we were home she’d perk up. It wasn’t until we brought Zoey in and she saw the other dogs that she truly came to life. We could instantly see her change back to the girl that was lost 3 months prior. Again, I so desperately wanted to spew hateful words at the people who had her but, they definitely believed they were doing what was right. And, I was and am grateful she was at least off the streets.
Zoey’s vet visit went well. She had lost the weight I mentioned and had some worm eggs in her poo (sorry for the visual) but with all she’d gone through and done without, she was well. We’ve since fattened her up. She quite enjoys having three meals a day rather than her normal two. She’s back to being in charge of the pack but subtly as always. She sleeps in her normal spots, pants loudly, hacks when she’s anxious, is independent as hell, lets you know when she wants your attention, and barks incessantly at the tortoises.