When Rick and I first moved to Gardendale in 1984 we loved so many things about our new country home. The brick fence around the backyard was one of our favorite features. It created a safe place for our dogs to enjoy the sunshine and country air. That fence has not only kept our dogs safe from wandering, it has kept them safe from predators. Last night that safety was breached for the first time in 32 years and the consequence was disastrous.
Everyone here at the sanctuary had enjoyed a quiet Saturday afternoon. We had a short rain shower and then a cool evening. The air was crisp, clean, and cool. Shortly before dark, as is my routine, I went out back and gathered everyone inside the porch and closed the door for the night. Of course our dogs have access to a doggy door to go in and out, but many of our seniors enjoy settling in on their favorite beds at dusk. They know I will be checking on each of them, straightening blankets and beds for the night, and covering up a few of the more fragile seniors. Last night that routine played out like every other night, and I began to make dinner and pass out the night time meds. Rick went about his evening chores which include putting his horses in the corral and spending some time with some of our larger dogs who live outside the perimeter of our back fence.
Around 8:00 pm the dogs all over the sanctuary began to bark. Nothing new there. Horses and their riders wander by, skunks can be detected in the breeze, and the rabbits get active in the pasture. All these things cause our pack to bark and pronounce their presence behind the safety of our fence. So we pay little attention to what has become the song of our existence around here. But something was different last night, and our dogs knew long before Rick and I did that danger was present.
When the barking didn’t calm down within a few minutes Rick and I began to check on everyone, and Rick drove the property shining his flash light into the darkness. I fussed about the front porch lights being burnt out and tried to calm my shepherds without being aware of what they were trying to tell me. Rick soon came through the front door and found me watching the dogs on the back porch barking with an unusual fervor. We both stepped out into the enclosed porch and found Max with blood on his back hip. Striker continued to raise his voice and charge at the closed back door.
So we took our flash lights out into the yard and Rick saw three large black shapes run behind our back fence. He screamed at them to scare them off and we immediately started to frantically count heads on the back porch. Everyone was there except for Ginger, Max’s mom. We checked under each blanket on the porch, and when we still could not locate Ginger we walked the yard. We found her lifeless body in the darkness of our previously safe yard.
Rick ran for his pistol and searched the area around our home and shop building while I wrapped Ginger in her blanket, and turned my attention to her son Max. I placed him in a feeding kennel and cleaned the blood off his back end. I found six puncture wounds and one tear in his hide about an inch long. He was obviously in shock and I began to administer first aid.
The next half hour or so are somewhat of a blur for us both but we managed to lock the doggie doors all over the sanctuary to insure everyone was secure within the confines of our home. We counted heads numerous times in an attempt to quell our fear. I gave Max something for pain and an antibiotic. I also sprayed his wounds with an antiseptic all the while trying to maintain a calmness that would benefit the dogs but was elusive to say the least.
Our night was long and full of grief for our sweet lady, Ginger. Max is doing as well as can be expected this morning and I have received instructions from Doc Jess on his care. Just within the last hour Rick’s brother who lives 1/2 mile from us had to fend off an attack from these dogs with a pipe. They also jumped on another dog down the road from him. Rick and his brother are tracking them now while we wait for the Sheriff and animal control. All of our sanctuary dogs are still locked safely within the walls of our home. There are actually four dogs in this roaming gang and we will not rest until they have been dealt with.
Rick and I have both spent the last sixteen hours trying to figure out how to restore the security that was shattered last night. Our dogs have all been as upset as we are, and no one got a good night’s sleep. Rick and I spent several hours on the back porch holding and loving on each of our babies. Finally around midnight they began to settle down, Rick and I did not fare as well.
In our 32 years here in this home we have NEVER had a predator get into our yard. We are now considering, very seriously, extending the height of our back fence by several feet. Money will no doubt be an issue as brick fences don’t come cheap, but the security of our fragile dogs will now take priority over everything else.
RIP sweet Ginger. You are now whole and without pain. Please know that we will care for your brave son to the best of our abilities. He, no doubt, tried to rescue you and was sadly unsuccessful. We will, however, succeed in returning our sanctuary to the fear free environment that we have worked so hard to achieve. We will miss you and we will never forget your sacrifice.