The Oz Project


           LASSITER OCTOBER  2007


   I had just sent the Windy City Kids off to their foster homes, and packed the car to leave for home. I stopped at a store half way home to pick up some things that I would need when I got there. While I was in the store Col. Potter's VP of Intakes called me and asked if I could work with a Cairn in trouble; he was a stray, a family had taken him in, and he had started nipping the children. If I couldn't take him he would be put to sleep. The shelter felt that he was not adoptable. I said "I would try." I paid for my purchases and turned the car around and headed back to Oz. When I got to Oz I unloaded my two Cairns and my things and headed to the laundromat in town to wash up the crate pads and towels so everything would be clean and fresh for Lassiter.

   The following day my husband met a transport driver half way to Oz, and picked up little Lassiter to bring him the rest of the way to Oz. When Mark arrived with him he told me that he was skinny, and hungry, and that he had stopped on the way and brought him a McDonald's hamburg. Mark hadn't thought about getting bitten or getting Lassiter back into his crate. All he had seen was a skinny half staved dog. Mark climbed into the back seat, closed the truck door, opened his crate, and Lassiter came right out and sat on the seat beside him, while Mark hand fed him the hamburger. After he had eaten the hamburger, he was a good boy and got right back into his crate and laid down and slept the rest of the way to Oz. Lassiter never forgot Mark's kindness and from that day on Mark was Lassiter's best buddy.  The following day Mark and I took him for walks, and played with him in the pole barn, and kennel. We wondered how anyone could think he was dangerous. He was so much fun. After play time was over he willingly went back into his crate to nap and eagerly wait for his next outing.  That night Mark left and it was time to get ready for the week ahead.



   I decided the first thing the next morning I would give him his first bath before taking him to the vet to get his first examine and shots. Once I put Lassiter in the wash tub and wet him down I could see how painfully skinny he was. Lassiter was good in his bath until I reached beneath him to wash his belly. He growled and grabbed my arm with his teeth. I was shocked by the way he had changed so quickly from a playful, loving little guy into this scary dog. I didn't jerk my arm back so he had no reason to bite down on it. I said calmly  "No bite." I said it two or three more times before he let go of my arm. I rinsed the soap off him and lifted him out of the sink in a towel, gave him a quick dry down and put him back into his crate. Then I went back into the cabin to settle my nerves, and think about what had just happened, and try to figure out why it happened. I couldn't find an answer. The next time I went into the crate room to take Lassiter outside, he crept out of his crate and offered his belly to me. I hooked his leash to his harness and we started outdoors to the kennel, he pulled towards a walking trail, and I pulled him back on the path to the outdoor kennel. We would take a walk later, but right now he needed to know that I was in charge. While he was in the kennel I loaded his crate into the car and then l loaded him from the kennel into the car and we were off to see the vet. When Lassiter was weighed at the vet's office he weighed only 12.8 pounds; with his length and height he should have weighed 20 or more pounds. He really was half starved!

   The next morning I stood Lassiter on the grooming table to check his harness and collar to make sure that they were tight  enough that he couldn't slip out of them. Lassiter's harness was loose and the buckle had slipped under his belly. When I reached under him to turn the  buckle where I could tighten it he grabbed my hand with with his teeth and started growling at me. Once again I told him "No bite" and stood waiting for him to let go of my hand. I hooked him on his leash and took him out to the kennel. I went into the cabin for a short break. I had just sat down at the table and looked out the window to see that a storm was coming in fast. The last thing that I wanted was skinny little Lassiter to get rained on. I was afraid that if he got chilled he could get sick. So I went out to bring him in before the rain started. When I got to the kennel he was laying down licking himself. I took a hold of the leash that he was dragging, and said "Come, let's go in." He jumped up and started bucking, tugging, and attacked the leash coming up the leash towards my hand. I dropped the leash and stood waiting for his tantrum to end. When he had worn himself out I said "Stop! Enough." He stopped and looked at me. I told him what a good boy he was to stop when I told him to stop. Then I picked up his leash and lead him back to his crate, praising him all the way. I bet that you're wondering why I would be telling him that he was a good boy; because he was. I always set dogs up for success. I carefully timed my command to stop, when he had worn himself out from his tantrum and it was over. That way he heard my command to stop when he was stopping. It meant something to him. By the time I got back to the cabin it was raining hard. I was glad, for I was crying. It seemed that each day Lassiter was getting harder and harder to handle, and I was afraid that maybe the shelter was right, maybe he wasn't adoptable. I had seen what a great dog he could be, but I had seen that he could be scary, too. I was heartsick and I sat down and started praying "Oh, Lord don't let us have saved Lassiter only to lose him now." I told God what a great dog he could be and asked him if he could help Lassiter be a good boy. I looked up from where I was sitting and I couldn't believe my eyes...there spread across the sky was the most beautiful double rainbow that I have ever seen. It hung over the kennel where Lassiter had been, and ended at the driveway. I knew it was a sign and my prayers had been heard. I grabbed my camera and ran out and took pictures. I knew it was the only way some would believe my story. It was almost unbelievable, from that day on Lassiter's behavior improved. Each day he trusted more and more that I would never hurt him.







  The following day I noticed that Lassiter was constantly licking his private parts. The only way that I could get him to stop was to interrupt him, and then he would growl at me. I felt that there was something wrong with him, maybe he had an infection of some kind, and it burned or itched. Later that day when I let Lassiter out of his crate he again offered his stomach to me. This time while petting him I looked carefully at his private parts. There was something wrong, he had a marble sized bulge. That was why he was constantly licking himself. I was sure now that I knew the reason that he would grab me with his teeth each time I would reach under his belly. He was afraid that I would hurt him. No wonder he was nipping children. He was starving, and most likely they had walked around with food in their hands, and he had jumped on them trying to take it, and I was sure someone had kicked him in the belly when he did this. Now not only was he starving, but he was also injured. Poor little guy. I went in and reported to Col. Potter what I had found. They told me to have the vet take care of it when he was neutered.The vet confirmed that he did have a ruptured blood vessel and it was probably the result of being kicked in that area. 

  He really was staving. His hip bones and spine stuck out and they were sharp. In a few days Lassiter would come out of his crate and roll over for me to give belly rubs, it hurt me to see him lay on the concrete floor so I put down throw rugs for him to lie on. I just about covered the entire floor with them. Lassiter loved the way that they felt. Now when he came out of his crate he would belly crawl all over them with a big smile on his face and his tail just a wagging. He was so funny.  Lassiter loved the sound of laughter. The more I laughed, the more he belly crawled.


   That weekend Mark returned and Lassiter was so happy to see him. Mark would take Lassiter and disappear for hours with him. The first time I got frightened that maybe Lassiter had slipped his harness and gotten away. Lassiter was great on the leash, in fact he was so good that many times I wouldn't feel anything on the leash and would look down and see Lassiter jogging right along next to me. Mark having long legs, and Lassiter having long legs, they were perfect walking companions. One day when Mark took Lassiter for a walk I decided to clean the crate room and get ready for a new group of kids that would be coming in the next day. They returned just as I was filling a large clear plastic container with dog food. I filled the container on the floor and then sat it on top of the feeding station. Lassiter didn't know there was that much food in the whole world! His eyes glazed over and he sat looking at it in awe. Even though it wasn't feeding time, I dumped some on the floor and promised little Lassiter that he would never be hungry again. It wasn't long and I had Lassiter sitting for treats that I offered on a fork. He quickly learned to be gentle and soon I was hand feeding him.


   The arrival of a new group of kids at Oz meant that Lassiter was moved into the cabin with me and my two cairn kids. Lassiter had been brought up to date on his shots, and was recovering from his surgery; I didn't want the new kids to perhaps give him something. He was a great house guest. When my cairns were in the outdoor kennel he had the freedom to explore the cabin. He loved crawling around on his belly on the carpeting, and playing with new toys. Never once did he potty in the cabin. When my cairns came  in, the baby gate was put up to keep them separated. Lassiter loved other dogs. The gate was put up to keep him safe from my two cairns that don't like other dogs, and sometimes even each other. One night I stood Skeeter my male cairn on a kitchen chair and started to remove his harness to bathe him. Skeeter is one of those little snots that growl, and snarl, he sounds like the devil's dog. But he has never put a tooth into anyone. Lassiter didn't know that. Lassiter thought Skeeter was going to hurt me. In a flash he was over the baby gate bringing it down with a crash. In one swift movement I lifted Skeeter into the kitchen sink at the same time shouting "No." Luckily both boys stopped in their tracks. Skeeter's harness caught on the sink facet and I was able to get a hold of Lassiter's harness and put him back behind the baby gate. I put Skeeter's harness back on him and forgot about that bath. I needed a few minutes to calm my nerves. I knew that Lassiter wasn't the kind of dog to go looking for a fight. Sometimes while we were walking as we neared the front corner of the property the neighbors dogs would start barking and I could feel Lassiter pull back. But now, I also knew that if he felt the one he loved was in danger he wouldn't hesitate to jump in and help them, even if it meant getting hurt himself. Not many people have a friend like that.


    I knew it would be hard to see Lassiter leave Oz. It's always hard when any of the Ozkids leave. Col. Potter drops them in my arms and they fall into my heart. Lassiter had done just that. He was so much fun to play with, to walk with, and he was so loving, and loyal. Not to mention that he was a little clown. It didn't take long to realize that Mark wasn't jumping into the truck and driving up to the cabin every weekend to see me, he was coming up to Oz to see Lassiter.

    Return next week for Maple's story.



                                     LASSITER'S    RAINBOW