The Oz Project





                SIX YEARS OLD 

  Sumac arrived at Oz with three younger cairns. In the beginning, it was easy to see that she didn't want anything to do with them. Why would she? She had recently had puppies, these weren't hers. Maybe they made her feel her loss even deeper. Anytime that any of the three little cairns came near her she would growl at them and that was enough to make them stay away from her. They were silly, but not that silly. After the first day I took her out alone. I thought that she would be happier that way, she wasn't. When I would take her out and put her down in the outdoor kennel she would pace back and forth in a small area, about the size of the old puppy mill cage that she had stood in for the first six years of her life. It was as though it had been permanently imprinted in her mind. If the pacing wasn't bad enough she snorted and grunted with every step she took, every move that she made. She sounded like a little pig. I've never heard any dog make these noises. She seemed so depressed. Poor little girl. They had taken everything from her. They took her puppies, shaved her beautiful coat, and then sent her down the road. She made me think of a prisoner of war. She was frightened, ashamed, and alone. My heart ached for her. I couldn't give her back her coat, but I could give her a coat, and I did. I gave her a beautiful purple fleece coat. For the first time since she arrived she seemed a little happier. Still, she was unhappy, outside she continued pacing, and grunting. In her crate she paced, grunted, and growled at the other cairns on both sides of her. She just couldn't settle, so I pulled her crate out and away from the others. I think about these kids all the time, and she had me thinking about what I could do for her, to make her happy.  I had given her a coat, and that had helped some, but it wasn't all that she needed. I started thinking about all that she had lost, her puppies! They were gone. I couldn't give them back to her, but maybe a surrogate puppy might help her deal with her loss. I remembered a little stuffed dog that my granddaughter had left behind when she went home. I ran back into the cabin and got it for Sumac. The minute that I gave it to Sumac she stopped pacing, laid down, and tucked it against her belly. For the first time since she arrived she seemed content. When I would bring her back to her crate after taking her outside, the first thing that she would do is check her stuffed puppy, growl to warn the other Ozkids to leave her puppy alone, then start washing her puppy with her tongue. I really hated to tell her that the more she washed that stuffed puppy the dirtier that it got. Then she would tuck it against her and settle right down and happily drift off to sleep. In the days that followed she would wander in the pole barn with the other Ozkids. She always kept an eye on the crate room door and the minute that any of the other cairns started towards it, she would run back to her crate to guard her puppy. She was so tender and loving towards her puppy, she was such a good mommy. It was so sweet to watch her. I started calling her "My Sweet Susie." 

   The October winds not only blew in the Autumn Leaves it also blew in a storm front. Shortly after they arrived the rain started and lasted for days. I found myself running the Ozkids outside to potty between breaks in the rain, and then returning them to the inside kennel. Once all had been brought inside I would open the indoor kennel and let them play in the pole barn. One night my timing was off, and just as I walked Susie Q to the door, and opened it to take her outside, it started raining hard. She took one look and planted her feet. She was not going out there in the rain. I closed the door, then I dropped her leash, and she ran back into her crate. I didn't know that she could move that fast! I closed her crate, and went out into the pole barn and grabbed a patio umbrella and took it out to the kennel. Then I went back in and got Susie. Once again she planted her feet at the door. This time I picked her up and tucked her under my coat and ran her outside. Once there I put her down beneath the umbrella and she quickly went potty. I picked her up and tucked her back under my coat, together we stood softly talking, while slowly swaying, and watching the rain come down. From that time on, each time it would rain, the two of us would stand beneath the umbrella. We loved our special time together. 

   Sweet Susie had come so far, she had started venturing out of her crate and exploring the pole barn with the other Ozkids. Yet, even though she tagged along with them, she didn't want to play with them. She still grunted and snorted with every move that she made, and I noticed that even though she seemed comfortable in her new environment, she walked hunched over and doubled up. I knew something was wrong with her. I started watching every move that she made. Maybe she had something wrong with her feet or legs. I watched closely as she moved around, it didn't look like there was anything wrong with them. Yet, I knew there was something wrong with her. I just didn't know what. I called Col. Potter and reported "There's something wrong with Susie." They began asking me the same questions that I had already asked myself so many times. I ended up telling them "She's not crazy, or dangerous, but there's something wrong, somewhere."

    A few days later Susie went back to the vet's to be spayed. I left her at the vet's and then spent the day in town doing my shopping, waiting for the call to pick the kids up after their surgeries. When I arrived at the vet's to pick up the kid's, I helped load the three young ones into the car. When I went to get Susie, I was told that the vet wanted to talk to me. I know the terror  showed on my face, each time I take an Ozkid in for surgery, I'm so frightened that something might go wrong. I was quickly told that she had made it though her surgery and was doing fine. I felt weak all over as relief flooded over me. I sat down to wait for the vet to come in and talk to me. I knew it was about my sweet Susie. I was so relieved to know that her surgery was behind her, but was still worried about what the vet had found. The minutes seemed like hours as I sat in that little room waiting for the vet to come in. I started praying "Please God, let it be curable." After what seemed an eternity the vet came in and sat down next to me. I knew that it was bad, because she had put her hand on my knee to comfort me. She once again told me that Sumac was doing great, that she was fine; but that wasn't always the way it was. Then she started telling me a horror story. I sat there crying, covering my mouth with my hands to cover my sobs, while I listened to the horror of what little Sumac had lived through. Sumac had already had at least three c-sections. Probably the first two had been done by a vet, the last had mostly likely been done by the miller. He had opened her belly, taken her puppies out, and then closed her belly. When he closed her belly  he had pushed her stomach to the wrong side of her body. Then, if that wasn't bad enough, he didn't first close her womb, then close the stomach incision, and then finally close her layer of skin; he sewed all three layers together in one set of stitches. It had healed that way. The vet told me that no vet would ever have done this. She said that she wondered if the miller had even put her to sleep while he operated on her. It was a miracle that she lived through the surgery and then the recovery. The miller knew Sumac would never again have puppies, and he also knew she would never again move without terrible pain. He didn't care. If she made it through nursing the puppies that would be great, he could sell the puppies and then get rid of Sumac. The vet wanted to prepare me for seeing little Sumac the first time, and let me know in advance that she was heavily sedated and was wearing a huge compression bandage. They went back and brought her out in her crate. They sat it on an examination table. I looked in and gasped, then I said "We're going to go home now, Sweetie." Sumac lifted her head and looked at me. Then she laid her little head back down and fell back to sleep. I took her home and tucked her into her  luxury suite. I padded her crate with a foam pad and then wrapped her in fleece blankets before nestling her into her crate. During the night I checked to see if she needed anything. At one point I asked her if she wanted a drink, she did, so I held the bowl at an angle that she could drink by just lifting her little head. After taking a big drink she  fell back to sleep. I didn't worry about her soiling her crate, I would clean it if she did. Right now she needed her rest. She was taken out first the following morning. I watched as she took her first wobbly steps. I was surprised at how quickly she got her little feet back under her. Soon she wasn't wobbling much at all. The real surprise came later that same afternoon. I carried her out and sat her down in the driveway, she started walking slowly at first. After she had walked about twenty feet she stopped, I told her what a good girl she was, and told her how proud I was of her, and that she didn't have to walk any further if she didn't want to. She turned her head and looked over her shoulder at me and smiled. Yes! Sumac Smiled! She smiled one of those great big open mouth, ear to ear smiles.Then she turned and started walking again. She walked to the end of the driveway, and as she did I realized that for the first time since she had arrived at Oz, she wasn't grunting and snorting with every step that she took. Less than twenty four hours after a major surgery, she was in less pain than she had been living with for months! I picked her up and carried her back to her crate. I cried every step of the way. This time they were tears of joy, for I knew in my heart that if Col. Potter hadn't rescued her, in just a few days she would have been disposed of by the miller. She would have found her way out of hell in a garbage can. 




   Sumac continued caring for her puppy right up to the day that she left Oz. The morning that I packed the Ozkids to leave, she followed me around watching everything that I did. She somehow seemed to know that her days at Oz were over. As I was packing her things and getting her travel crate ready, she ran back into the crate room and brought her puppy out to me; she wasn't going anywhere without it. I could never take it from her. Not this time, this time her puppy was going with her! Her foster mommy had already been told that Sumac was arriving with her puppy!