Cuddles and Tough Stuff
In Loving Memory of Furry Members of Our Family
Back in 2004, I was working for Head Start. I had three sons of my own at the time. Their ages were four, three, and one. We had to disinfect all the toys after work. My sons would go home where their grandma and dad would watch them. I had to stay to clean. One night, I had to do that alone without any other staff helping and I was there quite late. It was dark by the time I was done.
When I was finished and came outside, a tiny, fluffy white puppy with black & grey spots was sitting right by the front door to my classroom. She seemed too small to be away from her mother. I looked around for a mama dog as well as people nearby that may have been her owners. There were no people or other dogs around. So, I took her home. We fed her milk with a medicine dropper at first. Then it wasn't too long before she ate on her own.
As she grew, we quickly learned she was a natural guard dog. She guarded my children and home without any guard dog training. She also herded large farm animals with no fear. There were also a couple of Rottweilers that came around over the years and she would just scare the crap out of them somehow. They never hurt her. Just ran away. There was also a wild dog that came around with her pups a couple of times. She chased them off, too. There was no animal control at that time where we lived. It was getting out of hand. In town, people were often getting attacked. She was very territorial and protective, so no threats would get close to our home in the country. Coyotes never came close as long as we had her, either. We'd hear them, but never see them. She'd run after them. Then the sound of the coyotes would get quieter and quieter. She always came back fine. Never hurt.
She would do funny things, too. One time, we were trying to play a board game on the floor. She came over and laid right on the board game wanting all the attention. She also liked to curl up in boxes and get on top of chairs that you wouldn't think she could fit on top of. One time, my sons made her a bed in a box and tried to get her to sleep on the bed they made her, since she liked to sleep in boxes. "Come on Cuddles, go to your bed," they said. "Look, we made you a bed, Cuddles." Then she just ran to their room and got on one of their beds.
I had another son in 2005. I was raising four sons, working full-time, and going to college full-time as well. A relative brought his horses to the farm we were living on, but he and his sons didn't finish the fence so they would run all over the place and we had toddlers. We made the children an area for a yard, so they wouldn't go close to the horses. Cuddles kept the horses away from them. Anytime they'd get close to one of them, she'd chase them away. Some relatives didn't like that Cuddles chased the horses away and took Cuddles to town. They let her go on a gravel road that goes to a trash pile.
It just so happened that we took trash to the trash pile ourselves not too long after they did that and saw her. I said, "That dog looks just like Cuddles. Is Cuddles still at home?"
"Yes, she's home. Don't you remember? There are lots of dogs that look like her," my husband replied. However, when I got home, she wasn't there. I went back out to where I saw her, but she wasn't there anymore. I put up signs offering a reward. Then a relative found her and returned her for the money. It was a year or two that the horses were at the farm where we live. Then they moved them to the country to another family member's house.
Later on, we found we found a dog at the trash pile in town. She would've died if we hadn't found her. She was a little black puppy that was almost all bones with mange. But we helped her and took her to the vet. We named her Tough Stuff for surviving her ordeal. She was an even more fierce guard dog than Cuddles.
My sister-in-law lived next door for many years. One night, when she was gone, I saw men coming out of her house with large objects in the dark. One of the things they were carrying looked like a large television. I called where she was asking if she was expecting anyone and if they were supposed to take anything. She said no, so I yelled to them, "Put down that stuff and get out of here!" As soon as I yelled that, Tough Stuff and Cuddles took off after them. The robbers put down the stuff and sped off running from them. Once the men were on the highway, I called the dogs back. We didn't have Tough Stuff as long as Cuddles because Tough Stuff bit strangers. My husband wouldn't allow the dogs in the house, unless there was bad weather. We were asked to keep her tied up, but she would always get out of it. Even when I bought her halters, she would get out of it somehow. A police officer put her down. My husband said the officer didn't have a right to because it was private property and the people were trespassing. He wasn't home when the officer came though and I didn't know that. We don't have any pictures of her. As an adult dog, she was all black with slick, short, shiny fur. She looked part Doberman Pinscher, except smaller. She was a little shorter than Cuddles. My mother said the reason Tough Stuff was so protective of us was because we saved her life.
Anytime my husband, children, and I all left to go somewhere overnight, my mother would always keep Cuddles and Tough Stuff in her room. Then after we lost Tough Stuff, she'd just keep Cuddles with her. She'd been attacked and robbed when she was a young woman, so she didn't like being alone. The stray dogs that ended up being so protective were a blessing we didn't expect. We didn't train them to be guard dogs. They were just like that. I still don't know what true breeds they were.
I got my Bachelor's in elementary education and began teaching elementary school, and had another son. Five sons now. I also worked as a park ranger during the summers some years. I worked as a dance club advisor as well one year. We also got our own farm animals. A relative taught us how to train Cuddles to leave the farm animals alone. She was easily trained and we could even let the chickens walk around free range without worrying about her trying to eat them. Cuddles and our two large farm ducks, that we called Duck Patrol, would bark and quack at strangers. When we got goats, the Billy Goat, Gandalf, broke their barn right away. Cuddles would herd the goats away from people.
We liked to have camp fires outside of our house and our own little practice Wacipi(Pow wow) for our children to practice dancing as well as singing. We'd make S'mores and roasted hotdogs. Cuddles always got one, too. Anytime my husband and sons would go hunting or fishing, she'd get some of what they got. One time I tried a trick someone recommended of putting fish in our garden to help it grow, but she dug up the fish. So, there went that idea.
One of my nephews found two baby deer with a dead mother about two hours from where we live. Deer need goat's milk, not cow's milk. Since we had goats, we told him we'd take care of them. It didn't take much to train Cuddles to leave them alone and she was fine with the deer. We kept the deer outside and free, not caged. The deer just stayed near the house coming to the porch when they wanted their bottles, until they were six months old. A lot of other deer herds went by. They left with them when they were six months old. One of them still comes back to our tree line often.
As she got older, I thought she was getting overweight. One day, we brought her to a dam with us, where we were fishing and swimming. It was so hot that she wanted to jump in, too. When she got soaking wet, we realized she wasn't fat at all. It was all fluff. I joked, "Hey, you know that joke people say, 'I'm not fat. I'm fluffy.' Well, that's true about Cuddles! She looks fat, but she's just fluffy."
One time we had to go stay somewhere else for a few days. My sons wanted her to come with us, but I wanted her to stay at the farm. I was just played around saying, "Well, let's ask her. Cuddles, if you want to come with us, walk across the room and sit by that mop we just cleaned with." Then she actually did it! She completely understood me. So, we took her with us.
When Cuddles got to be 12 years of age, she started getting sick. I took her to the vet. They said she had arthritis really bad and that she was throwing up from the pain. They gave her pain medication. She got better with the pain medication. I took her back to the vet a few times because she wasn't eating as well as she used to. They said what she was going through was old age and there was nothing they could do.
One day, during the summer in June 2016, while I was working as a park ranger, I had a bad day at work. I felt discriminated against. I came home sad. Shortly after, my husband and one of my sons came back from working on his dad's Sundance grounds. Then Cuddles came in, laid on the kitchen floor, and would not take her eyes off of me. She was watching everything I did. She never did that before.
"What is it, girl?" I asked and went over to pet her. When I went back to what I was doing, she continued to watch me.
For dessert that day, we had ice cream. She walked over to the ice cream. "Oh, Cuddles wants some. Better give Cuddles some ice cream, too," my husband told one of my sons. After she ate that, she went to all the boys for them to pet her. Then she went and scratched on my mother's door. My mother let her in to lay on her bed. One of my sons was asking me what was wrong because he saw I'd had a bad day. I was talking to him about equality, discrimination, being strong if people try to peer pressure you or try to make you hate people over how they look or their religious beliefs. Then my mother came in.
"I think we lost Cuddles. I was just petting her. Then I looked over and she was gone. Just like that," my mother said, holding back tears. I jumped up to see and she really was gone. Cuddles looked happy though. She died with a happy look on her face in her favorite spot. I had her from the time my sons were toddlers until they were teenagers. We all miss her to this day.