At first glance, this cute little white American Eskimo may not look like much but she truly is a miracle dog. And not only does she turn up as a character in “As the Matzo Ball Turns” but she also played a very important part in my life as well. This scrappy ”hot dog on stilts” who earned the nicknames “Perro Estupido” “Chicken Head” “Little Girl” and “Mogwai” to name a few also beat incredible odds as a puppy and went on to bring an incredible amount of joy to those whose lives she touched.
Tai’s story begins in Taiwan, a country notorious for its stray dog population. At the time Mary, who would later become my partner in life, was married to an American Engineer assigned to the Chiang Kai-shek military base in Taiwan. Mary had been mentioning her desire to rescue one of these vagrant dogs doomed for a life of hardship when and only when the right one found her. It was standard operating procedure for Mary and a few of her friends to hike through the rice patties on a nearby hillside as part of their daily exercise routine and regular chit-chat sessions. Knowing Mary’s desire to find a puppy and while also missing her presence during a hike that she rarely skipped out on, Mary’s friends could not return fast enough to break the news to her of an abandoned puppy they had seen while making their daily trek through the Taiwan countryside.
Being the caring soul that she is, Mary insisted that her sidekicks take her to the spot where they had discovered this incredibly cute yet vulnerable and neglected puppy. When they arrived back at the spot where they had first laid eyes on this lost pooch, the temperatures were soaring and there was not a living thing in site. After some discussion amongst the group as to whether or not they were even in the right spot, Mary decided to take matters into her own hands and began calling out ”Here puppy, puppy.” Then a miracle. Crawling out from under a pile of wood where local inhabitants had been dumping their housing scraps came a tiny white fur ball who desperately needed a helping hand. As Tai struggled to make her way to the voice rescuing her from these unbearable conditions, Mary quickly rushed over and swooped her up so Tai could conserve what little energy she had left. On their way down the hillside, Mary kept reassuring Tai that she would never have to worry again and that she would take good care of her.
The next few weeks for Tai would be a struggle of life and death. She was diagnosed with babesia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babesia and it was learned that because this parasite implodes the hosts red blood cells her chances of survival, especially at the stage she was in, were slim to none. Mary not only refused to give up on her, she nursed Tai for weeks at a time until Tai made a full recovery. At one point during this ordeal Tai actually puked up a giant worm. After Mary’s love and care saved Tai from the clutches of death, it was also time to return to the US. Things would still not be easy for Tai.
When Mary returned to the states she reunited with her aggressive and temperamental Chow Chow http://www.akc.org/breeds/chow_chow/ named Asia. Asia had been staying with some friends but because Asia was not properly socialized as a young dog and had been abused by one of Mary’s boyfriends at that same time, Asia was very inappropriate. Tai was still very young when she was introduced to Asia. Asia was not only older than Tai she was also much larger and would attack Tai for no reason at all. During one of these skirmishes Asia took such a large chunk out of Tai that Tai had to be rushed to the vet. Tai was bleeding profusely and was very shaken but she quickly learned how to stand up for herself. Tai turned out to be one of the toughest and most loyal dogs I had ever met. Her bark was chilling enough to wake the dead and any animal (or human for that matter) within a mile radius knew to steer clear of Tai when she was upset because it was obvious that she meant business.
Having Tai warm up to me was no easy feat. When I first met Mary, Tai was now about 8 and Asia was about 12. It literally took months for me to even get my hand close enough to pet her. She had this funny little game of lowering you in with her cuteness and just when you thought it would be okay to stroke her fur she would snap at you. Not that this happened to me, but I’d seen it with so many others that I just knew her game. Mary had given me very specific instructions to let Tai warm up to me. At that point in time I had been alone for a very long time and not only was it strange to be in the company of a woman but in the presence of a couple of volatile dogs as well. Until this day I still don’t know which of the three had the bigger bark. Not only did I obey Mary’s instructions but I waited for Tai to make all of the moves. Tai and I soon became very close.
Tai made me laugh constantly but a few of her antics immediately come to mind. Like any dog Tai loved food. Not only did she love food but whenever you were doing something strenuous or tedious Tai always seemed to be in the wrong place at the right time. For instance if you were attempting to bring a heavy load of groceries in from the store, Tai would be standing right in the way smiling and doing her usual puppy laugh. Every time she did this I’d either say “Move” or “Are you helping?’ Not always in that order. And of course she’d stand there until you pressed on her with your leg to move or just plain old tripped over her. The day Mary was cooking chicken on the grill was no different. Tai was helping by standing under the grill hoping to catch a piece of fallen bird. Instead of catching some grilled rotisserie, Tai was on the receiving end of some dripping grease. When Tai emerged from under the BBQ she looked like Lucille Ball. The hair on top of her head was bright orange. This is where she picked up the nickname Chicken Head. Another Tai classic was when you were playing catch with her and she would fetch the ball. When she brought it back to you she would pretend to be giving it back to you but when you went to grab it she would quickly turn and trot away. Not unlike the old Lucy and Charlie Brown skits where Charlie would try to kick the football and Lucy would pull it out from under him. Tai did this every time. It was hilarious. Then if you tried to grab the ball from her mouth she would snarl and clutch onto it forcing you into a tug of war with her. If you could wrestle the ball away from her and then toss it so she could retrieve it, she would repeat the process all over again.
There are also a few great stories of Tai in the book which you will hopefully all get to read very soon but for those of you who have lost a pet I wanted to recapture my last three days with “Little Girl.” Not to depress you or bumm you out but to share the common experience of being around your animal when they have completely left their guard down and allow you to bond with them in a way you never could before. This was especially unique for Tai who could be a tad anti-social to say the least.
To Be Continued…