THUMDRU—The Final Years (Part 3)

by Saralouise Anderson

I have always had a way with animals—any animal—and I can't remember a time when I was ever afraid of being bitten or scratched, but when I knelt down in that run next to Thumdru, my heart was pounding like a bass drum.

Thumdru made no move to harm me. He moved his big shaggy head from my shoulder to my knee and just sort of cuddled with me. I began scratching behind his ear. When he rolled over to expose his tummy for me to scratch, I knew I had him won over.

After a fifteen-minute visit with lots of cooing at him, "What a good boy, Thumdru," and lots and lots of hands-on loving, I stood up, turned off the water hose and began to leave the run. Thumdru was right at my side, waiting to go with me. I didn't have a lead with me, but I couldn't bring myself not to take him—those big brown eyes looking up at me, pleading to go, too.

I told Patrick to get a lead. When he came running back from the house towards the run, Thumdru began to bark and growl at him. I told Patrick to stop and wait. I knelt down and patted Thumdru's shoulder and told him it was all right. He quieted instantly but continued to keep his eyes on this small boy who was full of energy.

Patrick carefully and slowly handed me the lead through the chain-link fence. I clipped it on Thumdru's choke chain and opened the run door. I gave the command "Heel" and began to walk out of the run. Thumdru stayed right by my side and made no attempt to go after our son, who was standing just outside the run. I told Patrick to stand very still. I walked Thumdru right up to him and knelt down again. I took Patrick's hand in mine and let Thumdru smell both of us at the same time. I told him everything was all right and that Patrick was his friend. I was sure that if anyone had been listening to me talk to this dog like he was a person, they would have sent the men in the white coats to get me, but it worked.

I took Patrick's hand and put it on Thumdru's head near his ear, and told Patrick to gently scratch his ear. As he began to move his fingers through Thumdru's long thick coat, Thumdru began to wag his tail:  another victory for the three of us. This was going to be a glorious day.

I kept Thumdru with me for most of the day. Then shortly before 6 p.m., I took him back to his run and fed him along with the other dogs. Judd was due home in a few minutes, and I was anxious to show him the progress I'd made. I waited in the house for him. I knew when he had pulled into the driveway, because Thumdru again began his barking and growling. I chuckled to myself because I knew this greeting would never be the same again.

I met Judd at the back door. "Put your case down and come with me—I've got something to show you."

"What have you done now????"

I took his hand in my mine, and with my free hand grabbed a lead. We walked out the back door toward the runs. Thumdru began to bark and growl at Judd. We were within just a few feet when I called to him. "Thumdru, it's all right—it's just me." He quieted but kept his eyes on Judd. "You wait here, Honey—I've got a surprise for you."

As I reached for the run latch, I commanded, "Thumdru, sit!" His furry butt hit the ground like a rock, and he watched me open the gate. "Oh, what a good boy you are," I praised as I snapped the lead on him and patted his chest. I said, "Thumdru, heel!" and walked him out of the run.

"I've got someone for you to meet." I repeated the same procedure of introducing Thumdru to Judd as I had used with Patrick earlier. It worked:  Thumdru never barked at Judd again.

The length of memory this incredible dog had never ceased to amaze me. Once he met someone, he always remembered them, no matter how long the time between visits were. He never forgot Daniel:  each time they would meet over the next few years, Thumdru would greet him with a wagging tail and that playful KyiApso bounce.

The picture of Thumdru and I was taken the next afternoon after our first real peace was made. It's a wonderful tribute to the loyalty of this breed.

  *  *  *

In 1980, we relocated to Northern Colorado in the mountains on a 40-acre ranch. Our elevation was 7,800 feet, so it got quite cold during the winter, with lots of snow. Even in the summer at that elevation, it didn't get very hot. As a result, Thumdru's coat came in much thicker and heavier than when we lived in the warm climate of California. Even in the summer in the warmer climate, his distinct facial beard was always quite apparent.

Toward the end of our first summer in Colorado, he developed a tumor on the top of his head near his ear. It grew rapidly and was very alarming. In 60 days, it went from nothing to 1/2" in diameter and 3/4" in height. We took him to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins, where the decision was made that the tumor had to be removed and biopsied.

Due to Thumdru's past history with total strangers and because he was such a rare dog, we arranged with the Chief of Surgery to go right into the operating room with our boy. We stayed every second with him. After the surgery was completed, they laid a blanket on the floor for us and gently placed his head on my lap. I sat with him while Judd talked with the surgeon. The tumor was examined and we were told that it was benign—our Thumdru would be all right.

As he began to wake up, I slowly began to stroke the side of his face and talked softly to him, assuring him that he was safe and very much loved. He woke up completely fine, and when he stood up, he licked my face and wagged his tail.

  *  *  *

Seven days later, we returned to CSU for a final check-up. Thumdru weighed in at 72 pounds. He was still gaining weight and getting taller. He had many scars:  Not only mental ones from his treatment while in Tibet, but physical ones as well. The most extreme scar was on his back:  it ran down his spine approximately four inches onto his left side and it stood up about an eighth of an inch. The vet said it was caused from a severe beating and that it looked pretty old. From what we knew of the way the Nomads trained their dogs, this explained to us a lot about Thumdru's aggression.

Daniel had taken Thumdru to obedience school and worked with a professional trainer—putting in long hours working and reinforcing the obedience commands. Daniel had done a great job with Thumdru:  No matter where we were or who was present, when given the command "Down", Thumdru would drop like a rock to the ground and not move again until released by verbal command. We never had any trouble with him when someone would come over to visit, as long as we knew ahead of time that they were coming. He would be very protective at first until we told him it was okay, and then he would lie at my feet the entire time the company was in the house.

Thumdru's loyalty to me and the children was immense. Judd traveled throughout most of the U.S. for a dog food manufacturer and would be gone for extended periods of time, so it was comforting to him to know his family was so well protected.

However, there was a downside to this deep loyalty and devotedness to his training. One night, Judd returned home a day early from his travels. Thumdru was chained at the back door of our house and Jim-Pa was chained at the front door. Neither dog was going to let Judd into his own home. They kept barking and barking at him. He tried to get past them by talking to them softly, but it didn't work.

The kids were inside the house, and the dogs wouldn't let them out. Through the living room window, they told their Dad that Mom was next door helping with the delivery of a neighbor's sheep who was in distress and that she had put the dogs on the "Protect" command before leaving the kids in the house. The dogs did what they were told:  They protected the kids so well that they wouldn't let poor Judd into the house. He sat back down in his car and waited. There wasn't anything else for him to do.

I returned fifteen minutes later and found him reading his newspaper in the car. "Hi, Honey—you're home early," I said as I gently kissed him on the cheek. "What are you doing out here?"

"I'm out here because your two dogs won't let me in the house. What's the story here? Have I been traveling so long I'm not welcome home anymore?" He teased with a smile.

I apologized to him and gave the dogs the release command. They each sat down and waited. As I helped Judd carry his suitcases into the house, both dogs wagged their tails and sniffed him. I saw the hesitation in his eyes as he walked past them. Were they going to eat him? He really wasn't sure.

I told the kids to get both dogs and bring them into the house. Judd sat down in the living room and began to tell me about his trip. Patrick brought Jim-Pa in the front door and Jenny brought Thumdru in the back door. Both dogs met in the living room and immediately sat down obediently in front of Judd. He smiled at them and patted each one on the head. That was the end of his hesitation. It was also the last time he ever came home early without calling first.

  *  *  *

Each of our dogs had their own run to be fed in. One bright and unusually hot Colorado summer morning after I had put the dogs in their runs, I went into the house and prepared all the bowls.

Thumdru was always the first to be fed, simply because his run was the closest one to the house. Normally he was content to sit and wait for his food bowl to be put down. This morning, however, as I opened his run gate, he kept trying to squeeze out. I thought he was merely trying to get out to play as he quickly trotted past me and latched onto my forearm with his mouth. I started to laugh—I thought he was playing a new game. He began to get serious about this, and I was literally being pulled from the dog run by my arm. It started to hurt, and I scolded him and said, "Down". This was the only time Thumdru didn't obey that command—he kept on pulling. I raised my voice, and what I got in answer made my blood run cold:  the definite, distinctive sounds of a rattlesnake's tail. I froze—Thumdru froze. He must have known that I knew what he was doing, but I was afraid for either of us to move until I knew where the snake was. I searched the run, moving only my eyes: Wrapped ever so carefully around the bottom of the metal water bucket was a very large, very nasty-looking rattlesnake.

Thumdru released my arm as I stepped slowly backwards towards him and out of the run. He placed himself between me and the snake and kept leaning his body weight against my legs to make sure I kept going away from the danger.

After slowly making it a safe ten or so feet from the run, I hollered for our neighbor's daughter, who was in our pasture working with one of our Arabian mares. She took off over the hill behind our house to get her father. Lee was a trapper by trade and worked odd jobs here and there to make ends meet.

Thumdru and I sat in the shade by the house to keep an eye on the snake. I didn't want it wandering into any other runs. I had picked up the pooper scooper just in case this unwanted visitor decided to relocate before Lee could get there. Lee arrived within just a few minutes. He chased the snake out of the run and into the pasture with a broom and then used his handgun to kill it. I was so relieved.

Thumdru had literally saved my life.

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THUMDRU—The Long-Haired Immigre
THUMDRU—The Final Years (Part 1)
THUMDRU—The Final Years (Part 2)
THUMDRU—The Final Years (Part 4)
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