Is That a Dog? Guinea’s Story

Dear Ms. Saunders, I know that your page is about cats but I wanted to tell you the story of Guinea. Guinea was a puppy that I adopted from one of those homes where they put up the free puppy signs. I’ve never told anyone about this and if you put it on your website, please do not use my name.

 We adopted Guinea in 1994. My six year old son and I had taken a ride out on the dirt roads near our home. It was fall, the roads were dusty, and we had the windows down. It was just a beautiful day. My son became really excited when he saw a sign mounted on a an electrical pole that advertised “Free Puppies.” I thought, “ok” why not.”

I turned around and as we pulled up five fluffy little puppies came running out to the gate to greet us. I laughed and said well “I’m suckered.” My son picked the fluffiest puppy of them all and off we went.

I made an appointment with the vet and took Guinea for her shots. I asked the vet about her breed and he wasn’t really sure, and that she looked to be part German Shepard and maybe some kind of Terrier or maybe bull dog.

In the beginning things were going really well. My son was happy, and Guinea was happy. A few weeks later we took her to be spayed and everything was great. The only issue we had was our cat, whose name was Beast (my son named her, he thought she was a he). We discovered that Beast hated dogs. For five months I had tried to comfort her, but she was in a perpetual state of alert. Guinea tried to make friends but was met with a swift and angry scratch across her muzzle. After that she kept her distance from the cat. Once the hierarchy had been established, Beast calmed down, and whenever Guinea would go near her with her tail wagging, Beast would slap her tail against her perch as a warning, she knew she was still head of the house.

My landlord dropped by one afternoon to tell me he would be out in the field killing armadillos. That year there was an overpopulation of them and my yard and garden had become infested with the creatures and the deep burrows that they dig. We lived on 50 acres of land, and my landlord had a rather large herd of cows. Some mornings, right before dawn, I would go out to help my landlord lay hay for the herd. The armadillos grazing in the fields seemed to greatly out number the cows.

I called my son who was out back playing hide and seek in the corn field with Guinea. I had him come in and bring the dog so that there was no danger of them being shot by the landlord. I really liked my landlord. One of the reasons I rented the place so far from civilization was because when I met him and his wife, I was really happy to hear that they did not use pesticides or poisons to get rid of rodents. They had a cat colony that took care of the vermin, and a .22 calibre rifle and a .38 revolver that took care of anything else.

The next day after what my son called “the great armadillo slaughter,” we walked out into the fields in front of the house. My landlord had covered over every burrow where he had shot one of the creatures. There were hundreds of tiny little graves near trees and fences.

You might ask why this is important to the story of Guinea. Well, Guinea began running from tiny grave to grave. Sniffing every little mound. My son and I both were chasing her trying to get her back to the house and behind our dog fence that kept her from roaming among the cows. She disappeared into the trees and at that point we figured she would be home when she got hungry, so we proceeded back to the house. I called the landlord to let him know Guinea was loose so that he did not mistake her for some other animal, and my son and I sat down for homework and our afternoon snack.

About twenty minutes later, I heard Guinea at the door. I went and opened it and there she was holding an armadillo shell in her mouth, she herself was covered in armadillo gore. I grabbed the shell from her and the stench of dead armadillo hit me. My son and I went outside, got the hose and cleaned her up so that she could come back inside. I put her dinner down but she did not eat a bite of it. She just stood at the door whimpering until I finally gave in and let her out.

We did not see Guinea again until the next morning, she had dug her way out of the fenced area that evening. We had called and called for her but she never came home. The next morning she was on the porch. The stench coming from her was incredible. I put her breakfast on the porch and after my son left for school, I went out and cleaned her up.

Guinea would no longer stay in the house, and over the course of the next few weeks and months her hair began to change. It was becaming course and wiry rather than soft and fluffy. She began looking a lot like a Brindle Bull dog rather than a German Shepard mix. Christmas was coming and Guinea was a year old. My son had pretty much stopped playing with her because she smelled so bad. No matter how often we bathed her, that stench would not go away.

She would not stay inside the fence and was constantly finding ways to out smart me and dig out of the fenced yard. The only thing she would eat was dead Armadillo. She had dug up many of the graves around the house. Our yard stunk as much as she did. I was becoming depressed and my son was very unhappy.

It was a few days before Thanksgiving and a good friend of mine came out to the house to change the oil in my truck. He brought his oil pan to catch the oil and while it was draining we stood chatting on the front porch. I saw Guinea run under the truck. My friend went out to make sure she didn’t knock over the oil pan. It was worse, she was drinking it. He got her out and I immediately called the vet. I knew anti-freeze was deadly but I had no idea about oil. I assumed the same. We took her to the vet and she was fine. Not even a stomach upset.

It was stressful for us, and each day and week that passed became more and more odd and frightening. Out yard smelled of death, the dog would not longer eat dog food, her only meals were the dead armadillos she kept digging up. She was a terrible sight to see as her coat had become thinner. It had turned gray and was wiry like a Terrier.  Her skin color was striped brown and black like that of a Brindle Bull dog, but she had the face of a German Shepard.

The final straw came on Christmas eve. It was very cold outside and I had to bring her in the house. We put her in the laundry room sink and bathed her down. Just touching her was scary. Even the vet said she was the ugliest dog he had ever seen. He laughingly asked me if I was sure she was a dog because he was no longer certain of her species. But she always got a clean bill of health.

My son had gone to bed. I had Poinsettias all around the Christmas tree and all the gifts were wrapped. I sat down for a cup of coffee. Guinea was very calm. She did not go to the door even once. She walked up to me and wagged her tail like the happy puppy she once was. My heart melted a little and I felt a pang of guilt for not trying harder to deal with her.

I finished my coffee and headed for bed. I had been asleep about an hour when I was awakened by a loud noise in the living room. My first thought was that someone had broken in. I grabbed my gun and mimicking every police show I had ever seen , made my way down the hallway, leaning my back against the wall with my gun in the air, holding it with both hands. As I entered the living room. I dropped the gun. There was Guinea holding a partially chewed gift wrapped present in her mouth.

She looked up at me with that present in her mouth, her legs spread wide and poised to run. As I moved toward her she took off, past me, and towards my son’s bedroom. I was more concerned with the damage she had done than I was with catching her. She had chewed through several presents including her own. But what got me was that she had eaten every single poinsettia plant in the room. Every red leaf on every plant was gone and the pots were oozing soil all over my floor. So here I am again, calling the vet on call on Christmas night at 1:00 AM. The vet asked about symptoms and as far as I could tell eating the leaves did not phase her one bit, so we decided I would bring her in after Christmas but that if she got sick between then and now, I should call him back.

I spent hours during the night cleaning up the mess. I took Guinea for a quick leash walk outside to do her business. Once back in, she began demanding to be let out. I gave in and just let her out.

The sun came up and it was Christmas morning. My son asked what happened to the plants and the gifts. I just looked at him with one eye brow raised. He said “oh.” I said “huh uh.” Beast seemed quite happy about the dog being outdoors. Her life had been made much simpler lately. Beast really hated that dog, and I had begun to dislike her myself, tremendously. Not only had she became the wild armadillo killer (yes, when the graves ran dry she started killing them herself) and even with constant love and attention, she was increasingly destructive. I was worried that at some point she might become dangerous.

My landlord had expressed some concern about his chickens. He though that Guinea may have killed some of the baby chicks and asked that I keep her in the fence. Better said than done I thought. I was constantly covering up the holes she was digging under the fence to get out. My yard was beginning to look like a graveyard where she had dug more holes to bury her kills for later consumption. She apparently liked her armadillo meat aged somewhat.

The new year came and Guinea seemed calmer, so we decided to clean her up and take her to pet training. I was at my wits end. We enrolled her in doggie day care where they worked with difficult animals. My son and I took her three days per week and worked with a trainer. By the third week she had shown no improvement. The trainer felt that she may have some kind of neurological issue and that we should take her to the vet. She had stolen a candy bar from his jacket pocket, and ran with it. When he tried to get it back, she growled at him and was very threatening. She would not release it. She ate the chocolate candy bar it.

So here we are again, we called the vet on-call. He laughed when I told him what happened and that I was a bit worried because she had eaten chocolate (It was a Hershey bar). The vet asked if there were symptoms and as usual my answer was no, and again he said to call him back if symptoms developed. They never did and the trainer felt he could not help us any longer.

That was it. I just could not take it any longer. I could not bring myself to put her down. I do not believe in killing an animal simply because they are unruly. I did not know what to do, so I began calling animal rescue shelters in the two closest cities. Not one would take her because she was not a stray. I begged and even pleaded but they just would not make an exception.

In the end I did something I never thought I would ever do, and many of you may judge me, but if you had ever met Guinea you would completely understand. One of the shelters I called opened at 7:00 AM. At 6:00 AM. I put Guinea in the truck with her leash, food, bed, toys and other gear. We drove the 30 minutes to town. At the shelter, I unloaded all of her gear. I took her out of the truck and tied her with her leash to the front door of the shelter, and drove away.

This was the most unhappy thing I have ever done in my life. Guinea was a sweet puppy but there was something terribly wrong with her. I am not sure if eating the armadillo made her the way she was, or if she was already that way and it manifested itself during her early adolescence. Either way, I did what I had to do.