THE BOLD AND THE VICIOUS
Do not for one minute think that December had finished with us, (see The Day Lulu Barked) but before I continue with our tale of woe, I need to fill in a bit more of the background of what was yet to come.
As a small puppy, Schnudie was really adorably cute, but because Wolfie was such a gentle, easy-going playmate, we had not realised the extent of her aggression.
On the first night of Lulu’s arrival, when I fed the three pups in the kitchen, Schnudl flew into the new puppy (who was then about the same size as she was) with an aggressive snarl to take her food. Lulu, as young as she was, was quite unafraid and merely stood back. There was no cowering or cringing, in fact, there was no sign of submission at all. Thereafter, I was vigilant, and did not allow Schnudl near Lulu while they were eating.
If we had not been so ignorant about dog behaviour, we would have realised that we had the makings of a bad situation on our hands.
In the garden however, they all played happily together, chasing and wrestling, even sleeping together in Gambit’s old kennel (at night Schnudie slept inside) with no sign of contention. In the early mornings, when Schnudie went out, Lulu always greeted her with a friendly sniff and wag. In fact, as Wolfie grew more obsessed with shadows, Lulu and Schnudie spent many busy and contented hours in each other’s company.
... It is now Friday, and Christmas Eve, and Lulu is either nineteen or thirteen days pregnant (depending on how well the bicarb worked) and we are all, four dogs included, off to Vaalpark for the weekend.
The cats, accustomed to fending for themselves, have been left with an open window and a supply of food and water. Unfortunately, we have no-one to rely on to feed the dogs, the village being filled with people reluctant to face Rottweilers. (Cowards, hey! I’m sure anyone of you would have helped us out willingly.)
Barry has had a special cage top made for the trailer so that we can comfortably transport a pack of large dogs. (This would also render trips to the vet less hazardous. See Shadow Chaser.) The bars are over the top as well to ensure there is no way they can escape. Schnudl is to travel inside the car with us.
We set off in fine weather, but a fair breeze is blowing. We have a tarpaulin with us, and Barry, bless his stubborn little heart, decides that we will only put it over the top of the cage if the weather changes. I am particularly concerned about Purdey because she has only just recovered from an upper respiratory and ear infection, with tonsillitis thrown in as a bonus.
However, never fear, one of Barry’s work colleagues, a man with a lot of experience with big dogs (ha!), has advised Barry to tranquillise the dogs for the trip. The three big dogs will lie in the trailer and sleep for the four hours and the wind won’t bother them at all, and Schnudie will sleep peacefully in the car.
I am sitting at the back with Schnudl, and I keep turning round to check up on the status quo in the trailer.
Wolfie stands up against the bars to look over the top of the car. He lunges at every vehicle which passes us – whether it is coming or going. The wind catches his lips and eyelids and billows them out, like sails on the ocean. Drool sprays in every direction. His eyes look like something out of hell. He steps all over Lulu and Purdey who are trying to find a comfortable spot out of the wind.
This goes on for the full forty minutes it takes to reach Ermelo. We stop. Purdey is stressed out. She seems to have had a very bad reaction to the tranquilliser. (Or maybe to being stepped on by forty kilos of idiot dog.) We put her in the car. She is semi-comatose and her breathing comes in gasps. We trust that the peace and comfort in the car will reduce the stress. We give Wolfie two more tranquillisers and continue our journey.
I monitor Purdey’s condition the rest of the way. Mercifully her breathing becomes calmer.
Fortunately, Lulu finds a place where she can safely lie down while the hound from hell continues with his lunging and leaping. It would appear the tranquillisers have energised him wonderfully. For four more hours. The whole way.
The first thing Wolfie does on our arrival in Vaalpark is to greet Rambo, my parent’s daxie, with a nip in the posterior. Thankfully, no damage is done, but Rambo takes great care to keep out of Wolf’s way.
It is now Christmas Day.
The first intimation that the dynamic between Lulu and Schnudl has changed comes while we are all sitting on the lawn in front of the house. They growl at each other in a most unfriendly way. Barry and Dieter make the fatal mistake of holding onto to them to keep them separate, and this seems to spur them on. We put it down to their being overexcited by their unfamiliar surroundings.
But eventually they calm down and we settle down to enjoy the peace of the afternoon.
My mom is in a chair with Rambo on her lap while our four are on the blankets with Barry and Dieter. Purdey lies quietly to one side, still struggling to shake off the last of the effects of the wretched tranquillisers. Dieter is wrestling with Wolf. (Not wise in the company of a pack of dogs.) Wolf growls and leaps playfully on Dieter, and Lulu joins in.
Schnudl decides that as pack leader, a position she has conferred upon herself, it is her task to put Lulu in her place. Snarling, she leaps into the fray and bites Lulu. Lulu instantly grabs Schnudl and shakes her about like a ragdoll. My mom hangs onto Rambo and keeps his muzzle shut to muffle his barking. Wolf stands back. Purdey continues to lie in drugged (or senile) stolidity.
Barry throws himself into the combat. He grabs Lulu by the head, lifts her up and prises her jaws open, thereby slicing open the tip of one finger. Schnudl, to show her everlasting gratitude, bites the top of his hand. Lulu lets go of Schnudl and Schnudl instantly sinks her teeth into Lulu’s dangling paw and will not let go. Dieter prises her loose. Barry continues to hold Lulu and Tasha grabs Schnudl.
The combatants continue to growl ferociously at each other and we decide, for safety’s sake, to put Lulu in the trailer, where we can also tend to her paw. It bleeds profusely and she limps for a few days.
Mom has fetched disinfectant, water and cottonwool to tend to Schnudl’s wounds, which are, mercifully, not as bad as they might have been. Her right ear is slightly lacerated, though badly skinned inside, and she has a slight puncture wound near her right eye, as well as a red eyeball which takes weeks to clear up.
Barry goes to Casualty and gets an anti-tetanus shot, but does not need stitches.
The rest of the stay is tense. Lulu and Schnudl continue to growl menacingly whenever they see each other. Fortunately, the house and garden is set up in a way which makes it possible to keep them separate. We hope and pray that once they are home in their familiar environment, things will return to normal.
We leave on Tuesday morning. (You will not be surprised to learn that the tranquillisers stay in their packaging.) Purdey and Schnudl are on the back seat with me. The trailer is covered with the tarpaulin so that there can be no Hound from Hell antics. There is a tremendous rainstorm between Ermelo and Iswepe and, the tarpaulin notwithstanding, the Rotties are soaked.
On Wednesday all four are fed together outside with no problem, but otherwise Schnudl stays inside. Just in case.
On Thursday, now the thirtieth day of this month from hell, we test the waters. The dogs are all amicable. Lulu greets Schnudl with a friendly wag. All is peaceful and friendly.
Barry goes off to play golf and returns at noon. He parks the car in the garage. Lulu and Schnudl go in to greet him. His hands full of post, he closes the car door with his elbow. Schnudl screams in anguish. Barry drops the post to save Schnudl from Lulu, but finds that Lulu has nothing to do with it. He has trapped Schnudl’s tail in the car door!
He opens the car door and Schnudl, clearly convinced that Lulu is responsible for the excruciating pain, attacks her with intent to inflict deadly harm.
Quick as a flash, Lulu grabs Schnudl. Barry throws himself onto Lulu and she drags both him and Schnudl under the car. (She is a very powerful dog.)
He manages to separate them. I come rushing onto the scene convinced that Schnudl is dead. I am hugely relieved to find her still alive, until I see the gash on the side of her neck. The scruff is gaping open, exposing the muscle underneath. We hare off to the vet in Piet Retief and Schnudl gets nine stitches.
The die is cast...
From then on we kept them strictly apart. Although we would still walk them together, we always had Lulu on a leash. She did not once try to attack Schnudl but her body language was wary and unfriendly. For her part, Schnudl avoided her. She was even frightened of Wolfie at first but that wore off as the days passed.
In the house, where Schnudl now spent most of her time, the atmosphere became electric.
Her first meeting with Ginger, when she was a tiny puppy, had not gone well. She had approached Ginger to give her a sniff, and Ginger, not appreciating this effrontery at all, had whipped out a sheathed paw and given her a gentle, but decidedly firm, clout across the snout. Because Schnudl had until then spent most of her time at the back with the other dogs, we were unaware how this had traumatised her.
One morning we heard her shrieking from the direction of the dining room. It sounded as though she was in the process of being torn to shreds. Fearing the worst, we rushed to save her from whatever or whoever. We found her safe and sound in the doorway of the dining room, looking with terror at Katy who was sitting on the top of the piano staring in disbelief at the crazy dog.
After that Schnudie barked at them whenever she saw them. Ginger stolidly ignored her, while Katy tried her best to keep out of her way, and when she couldn’t avoid her, she scurried past her as fast as she could.
Not unnaturally, unaccustomed to being treated with such fear-driven animosity, they often hissed at her, which increased her terror and led to a few more shrieking fits.
In the second week of January Tasha and I had to go to Ermelo.
Because of the cat situation, I decided to put Schnudl in the vegetable garden. Although it was part of the backyard, it was securely fenced off and she could not get out, and Lulu could not get in. It was large and well shaded and she loved pottering in there amongst the beds and bricks while hunting lizards and mice.
I put her down inside and then turned to go out of the gate. And there was that idiot, Wolfie, waiting for a shadow in the gateway. Holding the gate, I made the mistake of yelling at him to get out, to his astonished disbelief that I could be so disobliging. Lulu, who had been hovering in the background, reacted to my yell and rushed past me. She grabbed Schnudl by the scruff of her neck and once again shook her about like a ragdoll, no doubt determined to save me from this dangerous little dog. After all, she had had personal experience of what Schnudl’s teeth could do!
I hung onto Lulu and shrieked for Tasha, but she was out of earshot. (Only years later, thanks to the Dog Whisperer, did I learn that screaming at a dog is the worst way of dealing with that kind of situation. All I was doing was confirming Lulu’s suspicions that she had to protect me.)
In utter desperation, I cried out to the Lord to help me and Lulu immediately let go. I continued to hang onto Lulu with all my might (no easy task as that dog was incredibly strong) still screeching for Tasha. She eventually arrived, but was totally bewildered because Schnudl was safely at the back door. What on earth was I going on about? She let Shnudl into the house and I was at last able to let Lulu go.
There was not a mark on Schnudl. I tell you, my gratitude to the Lord for his help and protection was unbounded.
Thereafter, we did not let Schnudl out, even into the front garden, without strict supervision. Lulu, by this time very obviously pregnant, would stand in the back garden around the corner of the house, one front paw raised, and only her snout showing, while she kept careful watch of Schnudie going about her business in the front yard.
It was quite unnerving, to say the least.
The first weekend of February was my parents’ golden wedding anniversary. If Lulu had held to her first mating, then her puppies were also due then. We took Schnudl with us to Vaalpark so that she could remain there until the pregnancy was over and the puppies were weaned and sold.
Lulu plus puppies plus Schnudl was a thought too ghastly to contemplate.
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