Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Mazie, a retired widow, lived on a country lane which contained about 5 spaced apart homes. She had called about a high light bill and I was there to investigate. I knew her very casually as I lived in a small community and every one knew everyone else to some degree. I hadn't seen her in a long time so the sight in her front yard was new to me.

Attached to a tree tie-out cable that allowed the animal to circle the large oak with out getting tangled, was a bizarre looking dog. He was huge, thin, mostly hairless and circling the tree at a steady, determined pace. He had done the repetitive motion so long that he had sculpted a 6 inch deep trench about 10 feet from the base of the tree. Round and round he went.

Mazie was sitting in a lawn chair with some friends, drinking tea and watching the dog run in circles.

"What is that?" was about all I could manage.

"Someone gave Dorka to me but he is really nuts." Mazie laughed. " I need to get rid of him before he digs his way to China."

I thought I was seeing a dog who was only in desperate need of exercise, mange treatment and worming so I told her I would take him if she were serious. She was delighted so at lunch time I picked him up and dropped him at my veterinarian's office for evaluation.

Jim, my vet, was shaking his head when I went to collect my new dog. He said that the whole office had tried to identify the dog but were stumped till Jim's wife came in and thought he might possibly be a Giant Schnauzer. Not having hair makes dog ID difficult but that was the general consensus after consulting dog books.

Giants are fairly rare and in my small town, nonexistent--till Dorka that is. They are large, square dogs ( as tall as they are long) and can get to about 80 pounds. He had Sarcoptic mange which is an easy cure, was indeed wormy, but in other wise appeared in decent health. The main thing wrong with him would not show up till I got him home.
This is what a well put together Giant Schnauzer looks like. With a lot of care Dorka eventually resembled the breed quite closely.

When I got him home and turned him loose in the pasture, I hoped he would run joyfully till he would almost drop from exhaustion when he realized he was no longer chained to a tree. I so looked forward to bringing some normalcy into his life. Scenes like that were what made all the expense, time and energy of rescue work worth it. However, that did not happen. Nothing did. For a long time he just stared at the ground. Then he started a very strange behavior.

Dorka never responded to my voice or touch but he definitely was not deaf. As long as he was awake, he would dig dirt with his front paw and try to catch it in his mouth as the dirt or sand flew by, consistently failing every time. Dig--try to catch, dig--try to catch-- with his stub of a tail wagging furiously the whole time. Petting and attention never stopped the process only eating and sleeping did. Fortunately, he slept a lot. Rarely, he responded briefly to his name but his eyes would quickly glaze over. Most often his world contained only him.

Dorka was mentally damaged or at least that was Jim's evaluation when he observed him in a free roaming setting. Jim suspected severe autism which he had never seen in a dog but the repetitive motions sparked that diagnosis. Perhaps it was congenital or perhaps he had suffered a brain injury. We would never find out. I could only keep that shell of a dog as happy as he was capable of being and that was supplying him with and unending supply of soft dirt to attempt to catch.

He was allowed to free roam 2.5 acres with my horse and pony as I was worried about putting him with the other dogs. He never acknowledged the other dogs and would not even know if one were getting aggressive towards him. I put two of my Miss Congeniality types of dogs with him but he totally ignored them. He rarely explored the 2.5 acres, never ran, never played, he just spent his days, nose to the ground, looking for new dirt to catch. I just filled in the holes.

His hair came back and he developed into a quite handsome dog who lived in a totally different world. Dorka was most likely a victim of a puppy mill. They have no problem with brother /sister breeding or he could have suffered severe abuse. His stint tied to that tree and Lord knows what happened before that tree episode as people tried to deal with that strange dog, could not have helped his condition.

Several wanted to adopt the striking looking dog but that was out when his problem was explained. People wanted a dog they could interact with. As he was totally unadoptable, he stayed with me for about 4 years when cancer, which is inherit of the breed, finally took him.

Dorka was the poster dog for the need to spay/neuter pets and to put puppy mills out of existence. There needs to be serious laws. Just another quiet reminder. I know my readers know better as many of you are thoughtful animal lovers. Just be sure to remind your friends. Thank you.


  1. Such a sad, sad story. I will pass it on.

  2. Autism came to mind immediately when I read the part about his failure to respond and the tossing dirt. I'm glad Dorka got those peaceful last years.

  3. So sad...
    Everyone knows about puppy mills and yet they still exist. Breaks my heart.

  4. My housecleaner is an animal advocate and is bringing a spay and neuter clinic to Marion Co. She lives entirely on social security and what she makes housecleaning. I really admire her.

    She has organized volunteers and currently is collecting certain requirements the clinic demands.
    The clinic's first stop will be in Bull Shoals in May. I am allowing one room she cleaned in my house for storage.

    I've never understood the attitudes about spay and neuter. Men, especially dislike neutering male animals. I think it is the predominant attitude "let the female take the responsibility or prevention" or something like that.

  5. kenju,
    Yes it is Judy and too common. Thank you.

    4th sister,
    He was an example of just what should never happen.

    Jim said that and at the time autism was barely discussed and certainly not common as it is today. He fit all the symptoms.

    The laws need to be strickter and people need to report them when they learn of such an operation.

    What a super lady to do what she is doing and so neat that your are helping out. Our humane society here does sponser a spay/neuter clinic. Wish more used it, the price is certainly right. You are right about some men, they take it personally.

  6. I'd never thought of autism in animals. Sounds reasonable to me.

    Breaks your heart to think what he might have gone through before he met you, and warms the heart to think of the love and patience he received from you in his last years.

  7. You have such a wide range of interestinng stories, Patti.

  8. Such a sad story. It was almost like he was trapped in a body he couldn't understand. How nice that he had four years with you and being able to run free, even though he didn't want to. I bet he would have loved a large sand pile.

  9. That's quite a sad story, patti. Still, Dorka had a good home with you and the freedom to dig to his heart's content.

    It's simply outrageous that there are puppy mills anymore.

  10. so sad and yet Dorka has a much better life with you rather than running round and round. we have enough animald in the world to adopt without bringing more along the ranks.

  11. Linda,
    The symptoms fit. I had never heard of it before in dogs nor since. Don't know if he was aware of much but at least he was not tormented.

    I guess really do flop all over the place don't I. Certainly can't call my blog a theme blog unless it is storytelling. Random recollections.

    I guess the good thing is that my property was on a former sand bar. He could have dug 10 feet down and still found pure white beach sand. It was his isolation I wish I could have eased.

    The first politician who runs on a "wipe out puppy mills" ticket has my vote.

    Linda Starr,
    Spay/neuter is so inexpensive through clinics and would solve a ton of problems. Adoption could save countless lives.

  12. Sad Story Patti. How sad... Wonder what in the world could have happened to that dog before he was tied to a tree????? Puppy Mills are horrible...

    I'm sure that Dorka enjoyed the last years of his life with you. Nobody else could have done more than you did.


  13. You know I'm with you on the puppy mills. Awful, awful, awful!

    You get a special star in your crown for this one.

    Such a touching story, Patti. Will send this one to my friend who works in a spay/neuter clinic and sees way too many horror stories.

  14. I didn't know dogs could have autism. Dorka sounds like many of the children we treat here in our hospital. He was lucky you were able to take him.

  15. Betsy,
    You hear about them raiding puppy mills but they continue to operate somewhere else. Punishment needs to be more severe.

    Mary lee,
    Your friend is doing the one thing that will eventually stop so many animals from being abandonded and put to sleep each year.Bless her or him. Some states tax people who do not get their pets S/N. Another good effort.

    I certainly had never heard of it before. Most likely dogs like him are just destroyed by breeders. Perhaps all I did for him was to not try to force that square peg into a round hole.

  16. So nice of you to take him. Poor thing.

  17. Suzanne,
    Thank you so much but I couldn't have turned him down if I had wanted. I just can't say "no" to a creature in need.

  18. :-( My eyes welled up as I reached the end. Realized that animals are also a lot like humans..they suffer much more not being able to vocally express their feelings! Bless you Patti for being there for Dorka.

  19. lostworld,
    Thank you so much and you are so right. Their inability to vocalize complaints makes them so vulnerable to abuse and undiagnosed illness. Not fair.

  20. What a sad sad story, but that you gave him such a good home Patti, is very moving to me. Poor Dorka.....I hate these Puppy Nills and don't even understatand why they are not completely outlawed....You have the biggest warmest most loving heart of anyone I know, my dear.

  21. OOLOH,
    Thank you so much Naomi. I have just never been able to turn a blind eye.
    Pet stores are what keep the puppy mills in business. Guess if we boycott that source, it might help.