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Life and Times of a Working Cowgirl

All I Need is “Lou” ?

One of my favorite movie lines is from Seabiscuit. The rich horse owner wants to know why the old trainer would waste his time trying to heal a lame horse that will never race again. The old trainer say ” Ya know, you just don’t throw away a whole life because he’s banged up a bit”. It’s not a great quotable line like ” you’re gonna need a bigger boat” but it resonates with me. I have spent and continue to spend a tremendous amount of my time working with animals that others have given up on because they are too banged up. Some of these animals are physically banged up, some emotionally banged up and some just came into this world with a different “skill set” than most.

Right now we have three dogs. All of which were rescued and all of which were and are a little banged up when they came to live with us. Of the three dogs Liegh Lou was the most damaged. She was both physically and emotionally wrecked when I adopted her. Her leg had been broken and she had not been treated by a Vet. She had been taken back to the pound twice because she grew too big and she could climb the fence and escape. She was never socialized with other animals and didn’t have much use for people. Her one redeeming quality was that she and my over energetic nuisance of a Catahoula”Smokey” got along great. So in all honesty I adopted “Lou” so Smokey would have a dog to play with. I knew Lou was going to be a challenge but I also knew if I didn’t adopt her she would probably end up being euthanized. The other thing I knew was the best cure for a dog like Lou was a lot of exercise and Smokey would make sure she always got plenty of that.

It’s been eight years since Lou joined our family and it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. It took two years before she found her inner puppy and learned to play without becoming aggressive. She learned tricks and games to keep her mind engaged so we could override her aggressive behavior with something a little more productive. We had a basket muzzle custom made for her to ensure she could not harm any other animals. In the early years many of our friends suggested we “get rid” of her or even put her down because she required so much attention. I heard comments like “I would never keep a dog like that” or “aggressive dogs should just be put down, they’re dangerous”. Now mind you, the only one of the three dogs that has ever bitten anyone is “Smokey” the kindest, sweetest, dog around and no one has ever suggested putting him down. I do understand where these people were coming from but somebody had to be willing to take care of her. It was in no way her fault, she was a product of breeding and environment and I was committed to allowing her to be the very best dog she could be while protecting her and others from any of her misplaced aggression.

As time went on Lou and continued to learn, it became clear that she had some very amazing talents. She had an uncanny ability to sense stress and discomfort in humans. She was so attuned to myself and the girls that she was always right where you needed her when you needed her. She became our mobile security blanket that not only provided physical security but emotional support. She learned to sense Amelia’s blood sugar changes and would wake her if she went too low. What I originally thought were inconvenient requests to go outside proved to be ways of getting me to check on things. If the girls needed to go somewhere I wasn’t comfortable with they would take Lou. As long as Lou was with them and I was certain no one would bother them. We turned her “bad dog” attitude into a positive force. It was not easy and it took a lot of training but this week it all paid off.

Liegh Lou became a certified service animal this week. As of Friday Lou is enrolled at New Mexico State University with Amelia. She lives in the dorm with Amelia and attends all her classes. She wakes her up if her blood sugar is low, she reminds her to eat and encourages her to get out and get plenty of exercise. She wears her vest and her muzzle to let people know she is working, She and Amelia are making new friends every day. She has already earned her keep by waking Amelia up from a low. It appears Amelia and Lou are well on their way to a successful college experience.

Lou had a rough start in life and she still carries the physical and mental scars to prove it. She is also a shinning example of how far someone can come if they are supported, loved and encouraged along the way. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on Lou and I’m so glad she didn’t give up either. Today all of her protective behavior has been channeled to protect one of the most important people in the the world to me. What better payment could I ask for for all those years of hard work? “Good girl Lou, you’re a very good girl”

One Comment

  1. That is so awesome. Just like with horses, so many bad situations with dogs can be fixed just by channeling their energies and putting some extensive and solid work into teaching them to be better citizens. My guy was quite dog-aggressive when I got him from the pound… kind of like Lou, he didn’t seem to understand the difference between play and aggression. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s entirely manageable. It’s great to see somebody going the extra mile for a pet and seeing that pay off in such a huge way is amazing.