THUMDRU—The Final Years (Part 2)

by Saralouise Anderson

With the decision made between the two of us, the next step was to call the Taylor-Ides.

They agreed to send Thumdru to us, and plans were made for his shipment from West Virginia to Northern California. Daniel and Jennifer wanted to make very sure we understood what we were getting into. Over the next two months, the four of us shared several long and detailed phone conversations. Letters were exchanged, and finally the date for Thumdru's arrival was set.

The closest airport to us was San Francisco—three hours' drive away. December 5, 1980 seemed to take forever to arrive. We were anxious to greet our new furry family member and could hardly wait until his plane touched down. We arrived at the airport nearly an hour and a half early. Once the flight arrived, we were told we couldn't get Thumdru off the plane for an hour. I hit the ceiling.

Judd, being the calm, cool and collected member of our family, kept his composure and asked to see the supervisor. He carefully and calmly explained that the dog waiting to be unloaded from this flight was the only one of his kind outside of Tibet and then informed the gentleman that he should check his roster to find the insurance amount on this animal, which was $30,000. He also explained that if anything were to happen to Thumdru, we would hold him personally responsible for every hair on the dog's body. Needless to say, after checking the manifest and verifying the truth in Judd's statement, Thumdru was first off the plane.

His crate was carried to our location via forklift. We didn't understand this until the crate was on the ground in front of us and I looked excitedly into it. It was 5 p.m. and very dark. The lights of the cargo terminal didn't help much. As I knelt down to look into the crate, all I could see were a set of very large, very white teeth biting at the gate, and some furious-sounding growls backed up by a very large black dog.

The supervisor asked if we'd like to take the crate into a nearby room and make sure the dog was all right. We looked at each other and, with a single glance, decided jointly that would not be wise at this point: Thumdru seemed just fine.

The gentleman driving the forklift loaded Thumdru onto the bed of our pickup truck, and we began the long drive home. We left the sliding window open between the cab and the bed, and for three hours we listened to Thumdru's low warning growl the whole way home.

We didn't know until many years later the reason for this behavior:  the very last thing he saw in West Virginia as they loaded his crate onto the plane was his beloved Daniel and Jennifer, tears running down their faces. With hearts broken, they were saying goodbye to the dog that meant the world to them. They both knew this was best for him, as his sense of protectiveness had grown beyond what their personal and professional lives could endure. They always had students, guests from other countries, and even dignitaries staying at their home, and the constant stress of possibly another bite—under any conditions—could simply not be allowed to happen. This was the only alternative—short of putting him to sleep—and the thought of that was unbearable and completely out of the question.

Thumdru didn't understand. All he knew was that his family was in pain, and he wanted to protect them from whatever was causing it. He simply didn't understand why he was being taken away from the man who had literally saved his life in Tibet. He could feel their pain and stress, and for the first time since arriving in the U.S., he could do nothing about it.

Needless to say, at the time of his arrival, without this knowledge, we talked nearly the whole way home about the decision we had made. Was it the right one? Had we taken on more than we were prepared to deal with? What if we couldn't calm him down? All the questions were there, and not a single answer came.

We arrived home extremely late. Together we lifted Thumdru's crate from the bed of our pickup, all the while being very careful not to get our hands close enough for him to bite one of us. He seemed calm during this part of the move, but we weren't going to be careless. We set the crate into the dog run located closest to the house. It was six feet wide, eighteen feet long and six feet tall. We had it set on a concrete slab with a solid roof covering. The run area totaled five runs—all the same size sitting next to each other. Across the front of the runs was a security yard, six feet deep, enclosed with six-foot-tall chain link.

Once the crate was on the ground, Judd unlatched just the bottom of the wire gate, came out of the run and locked the run gate. Once he was out of the security area, I used a cast stainless steel spoon to pop the top latch on the crate.

Thumdru hit the gate with full force and came charging out into the run. It seemed like his entire body was involved in barking, growling and snapping at the wire of the run. He was determined to bite us through the chain link. When we saw that he wasn't going to calm down while we stood there, we decided to go into the house and let him get settled for the night. It didn't take long for him to find a corner of the run and curl up for the night, but not before he destroyed the metal water bucket snap-clipped to his run.

The next morning wasn't any better, and over the next two days, the dog's aggression continued without wavering. Even when we would put raw meat through the wire, he would growl continuously while he ate. He also made it very clear that if our fingers were to come through the wire, he wouldn't hesitate to eat them along with the meat.

I spent an hour four times a day over the next few days just sitting outside the dog run with him. I read him stories from our children's books to let him get used to the sound of my voice. I hoped that he would come to realize that we meant him no harm and that he didn't need to be afraid of us. The closest compromise he would give me was to lie in the corner of the run farthest from me all curled up in a tight ball. The constant sound of his low warning growl was always there, but the barking and snapping was gone.

I had refrained from trying to hose out Thumdru's run. With each attempt to scoop through the chain link, he would attack the pooper scooper, trying to tear it from my hands. I did the best I could to keep his run clean. Finally, after five days, I could take the dirty run no longer—I was determined to make sure this special dog had a clean run. Cleanliness of our dog runs was something I was meticulous about, and I took great pride in keeping them that way.

I waited for Judd to leave for work, because I knew he would not approve of what I was planning. I got the garden hose and went in the front compound gate. I had the spray nozzle on the hose turned off. I told our son, Patrick, that if I got into the run and Thumdru wouldn't let me back out, that he was to go over to our neighbor's house and have them call the Sheriff for help.

Poor Patrick!  He was just a little guy, and even he knew this probably wasn't one of Mom's better ideas. He tried to talk me out of it, but no—I had to do this.

I turned the nozzle on and began cleaning the concrete floor of the kennel farthest away from Thumdru's run. As I worked from one run to the next, I soon realized that one of our dogs was crying. I looked around and saw Thumdru huddled in the corner of his run trying to squeeze himself out through the wire. He was shaking like a leaf—he was deathly afraid of water.

I remembered what Judd had taught me about using a known fear to build confidence with an animal—it was a trick they used at Gentle Jungle. I walked over to Thumdru's run and slowly began to hose the front of the run out, making sure I kept the water aimed well away from him—all the while talking to him, saying his name over and over—telling him it would be all right, that I wasn't going to hurt him.

I opened the gate to his run and slowly stepped inside, closing the gate behind me. I made sure I was between Thumdru and the water. He kept crying and shaking. I eased my way up the run:  no sudden moves—just slow easy baby steps with a constant conversation of reassurance. When I was within three feet of him, I knelt down on one knee with my back towards him, and kept the water aimed away from him. "It's okay, Thumdru—I won't let the water hurt you," I kept repeating. "It's okay, guy. No one's going to hurt you—not while I'm with you." My heart was pounding.

Then I felt a wet nose on my right cheek. I thought to myself:  good Lord, he's going to tear my face off! I didn't move. Then Thumdru began to nuzzle my cheek and my ear. He was whimpering, lonely, frightened and confused. He missed Daniel and Jennifer and wanted to be loved.

I turned the nozzle off and began to gently pat the side of his head and slowly turned my face to his. We were nose to nose as I looked for the first time into those warm brown eyes. In those few seconds, we touched each other's spirits. It was a bond that would last the rest of his life in this world and that would change my life forever.

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THUMDRU—The Long-Haired Immigre
THUMDRU&—The Final Years (Part 1)
THUMDRU—The Final Years (Part 3)
THUMDRU—The Final Years (Part 4)

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