Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#9 - Can I Live in the Country Now Please?

Our Australian Shepherd is pretty awesome. This past weekend, we stayed in town and didn't go to the land because the kids were all going to be home for my birthday celebration. I have an awesome family and all of us have Australian Shepherds! So, when the company comes, my house fills up with large dogs as well. At least it's interesting! On Saturday, the group decided to make the short drive to spend the day at the beach in Galveston. Howdy was most happy because he was able to enjoy the freedom from our confined backyard in the suburbs.

Our oldest daughter is playing the "jump and catch"
game that I love to play with Howdy. Keep in mind,
Heather is nearly six foot tall. That dog CAN JUMP.
The beach is loads of fun, but Howdy truly loves going to our acreage. If we are getting ready to go to our future farm site, we start loading up the trailer with the Cub Cadet Lawn tractor (it fits in our garage) along with all of the equipment we'll need for the weekend and Howdy gets hyper because he knows it's a sign of where we are about to go.

If the backdoor of the truck is left open while we are loading up, he will jump in and we can hardly get him to jump back out, "Howdy, we aren't leaving for another two hours, get out of there!"

Howdy on our acreage during winter months...he's always got our back.
On the beach, Howdy's strong athletic abilities are evident. In the picture below, you can see his buddies are with him. Of course, our old gal Lyla is there too, but she's smart enough to sit inside her open-door kennel and enjoy the breeze. She says, "No jumping for me."

Howdy has two buddies with him in the shots below. Tux is the multi-colored Blue Merle Australian Shepherd and he is the entire reason I fell in love with this breed. He can jump, but not like Howdy - who you can see in the air. But, Tux has his specialty and it is speed. Incredible speed. That dog is faster than fast. The other little guy, the reddish Australian Shepherd is Dunk. He is actually one of Howdy's boys - literally, Dunk is a chip off the old block. He wants to jump, but he's still young and too timid.

My oldest daughter, Heather, and the three
Australian Shepherds on Galveston Beach this past Saturday.

Howdy's jaws are in business!

My future son-in-law, Henry, is tall enough to really play "jump and catch"
with Howdy because Henry is six foot five inches tall. This gives an idea
of how high Howdy jumps and NOT from a running start, this is a jump
from a sitting position. He launches himself upward to unbelievable heights.
Both of our dogs are incredible. But, Howdy is truly a fun dog. He's a gentle creature and has a natural ability to herd our chickens with sweet firmness. He is awesome with children and very intelligent; he learned at a young age exactly how to open doors. He is an indoor dog for the most part, but every now and then, when he needs to be outside for a short while, I must lock the doors to keep HIM out.

Howdy, the beach, farm, chicken herding, athletic, door opening,
kid loving, protective, loves-to-hug dog.
At our house here within Greater Houston, I had a chance to again see my Howdy in full protective mode. Just a few months ago, during daylight hours, I had a huge young man come to my front door. Of course, I did not open the stained glass door. We have solicitors every so often and I never open the door. I just look at them through the glass door, tell them politely, "I'm not Interested" and with a friendly wave, I turn around. It usually works because I am not interested.

But, on this day, I did this and the fidgety man only pressed closer against my glass door. He wasn't getting the message. The dogs at my feet had already judged his character to be sour. I told him straight up, "As you can see, I have guard dogs and cannot open the door and I'm not interested in anything you are selling."

My stained glass front door with a full side glass panel revealed this young, large man to be off his rocker. I was standing in the foyer of my home without a phone on me. Instantly, my dogs went into fierce protective mode. They sensed danger right away.

While rambling non-sensical words, the man brazenly began hitting my glass door and side panel with the back of his hand, hard enough to break it, yet it thankfully held. The front glass door was already cracked from Howdy jumping on it and my husband had put reinforcement plexy glass on the inside to protect it from breaking further.

I did not show intimidation and said, "I'm not interested in anything you're selling, you need to leave my property."

He was argumentative, and told me he wasn't selling anything. He had already been talking in an abnormal high pitched voice to my dogs, saying to them, "You guys would let me in, you'd be my buddy. You'd let me inside." To this, my dogs become highly agitated and I became very alarmed, yet I did not show it.

I was definitely creeped out. Now, I am ready to make the lunge for my gun, kept nearby. However, it was not nearby enough at that moment. Did I mention that I'm a Texan?

Well, my dogs were clearly NOT going to be his buddy. The hair along their spine was upright, their lips were rolled back and upward to completely reveal sharp teeth and their low growling, snarling and warning barks were not of a friendly nature. They were ready to do battle. Even my sweet Lyla is part boxer and she can go into ferocious mode at shocking speed, but only when she senses palpable danger.

Both dogs positioned themselves in front of me. Howdy's snarling jaw was pressed against the glass. My dogs were determined that this man would go through them before he got to me. They had no fear.

The man was rambling like a crazy person, telling me that he'd be able to stand on my porch at night and I'd not be able to see him at all and he began this wacko dance, jumping rapidly back and forth as if to "prove" his point. I carefully took a couple of steps backward just in case he propelled himself through the glass door. It was crazy. I knew deep within my soul that someone listening would tell me to turn and run for the gun or the phone, but my deeper instinct told me to stay put and stare him down. If I turned, I felt as if this guy's predator mode would kick in fully. I knew that I should not turn my back on this guy.

With my dogs making their intention clear, I stood my ground inside my home, with only bits of glass in between us and I stared back into his crazy eyes so he'd know that I was not playing games while I repeatedly kept saying in a clear, deep voice, "Get - off - my - property."

Finally, he gave me this perplexed expression, as if he second-guessed my determination and he ran off. At the time, I didn't know where he'd ran to because I was running the opposite direction for my gun. But he'd gone across the street to my neighbor's house.

Later that day, I'd discover what happened over there after my husband went around and spoke with the neighbors. Crazy man had gone straight from my house to our neighbor's house and he began another confrontation. Perhaps he was on drugs? This was another bad decision by crazy man; he'd gone straight up to the house belonging to another Sheriff's Deputy.

My neighbor did open his door and immediately told crazy guy to leave his property. He responded, "What you gonna do about it? Call the police?" And he stepped forward into my neighbor's face.

This is when the beautiful part neighbor was wearing "normal" clothes, for goodness sake, he was at home! But, fortunately, he was prepared and pulled his duty weapon from the back of his waist band and said, "I AM the police."

Meanwhile, back over at my house, in these brief seconds of time, I now had my 357 magnum in hand. Even though my body was severely shaking, I knew I would still be able to shoot a perfect shot, if needed.

Since I didn't know that crazy man was on my neighbor's porch, I was worried he might have gone round to the back of my house. I wasn't sure if he would try to come through the backyard, but I wasn't going to sit around to wait and see. I'm not that kind of woman. I'll take my chances head on instead of hiding in a closet like I'm in a horror movie.

The police station is literally around the corner, but I wasn't going to take a chance. I stepped outside onto my porch to look for him, so he could see me waiting, if he decided to return. Plus, I didn't want to be trapped in my house if he had gone to the backyard. However, I still could not see him as he stood on my neighbor's porch because it was tucked too far inward, out of my immediate view. Nevertheless, I would NOT be taken off guard. In our house, that's hard to do anyway, we are all well-trained, down to the dogs.

I didn't see him, so I stepped back inside and locked the door. At that moment, over at my neighbor's house, a gun met crazy guy's surprised face and this caused him to miraculously find a huge dose of mental awareness, enough to encourage him to high-tail it back to his van parked down the street with out of state license plates. He tore out of the neighborhood and no one could find the guy. All of this had happened in the span of only a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity.

My neighbor, also an FBI agent, stated that the man was definitely psychologically disturbed or on drugs and he had clear aggressive tendencies, possibly violent tendencies. He seemed to be trying to get into a confrontation, but he selected the wrong block.

But, I wonder...if this man had tried to approach a house in the country, I believe there would have been more than two dogs for him to confront and he would not have had the fortunate circumstance to have a glass door protecting HIM. As a Texan knows, the bigger they are, the wider the target.

Our neighborhood drama had just started. The very next day, a nice owner of the convenience store at the corner of our neighborhood was shot. The shooter ran into our neighborhood, was seen jumping fences and we were told by the police to stay inside our homes as police cars formed a barricade at each entrance and exit. Soon, a police-search helicopter buzzed overhead. After years in our neighborhood with relative peace, there was too much happening at once.

As I sat in my tidy house with all of my creature comforts listening to the helicopter circle overhead, I couldn't help but wish to be relaxing on our acreage and not care about the lack of air conditioning in the Texas heat.

In support of our neighborhood store, after the shooting, EVERYONE was showing their love for our local commerce owners by making a point in finding some reason to stop by the store. For a few weeks, you could not even find a space to park in the spacious lot. I was one of those people making a point to go buy something little. You don't have to live in the country to give and to receive compassion; it can be right around the corner in your part of the world.

A week after the shooting, I took a cut rose from my garden and told the recovering owners at the store, "Don't let a worthless punk ruin a great place with wonderful people." I went on to say, "There's always a bad one in the bunch, anywhere you go," and I handed him the rose. He was bowled over.

Store surveillance cameras caught the cold-hearted robber concealed by an over-sized hoodie holding up the store and the footage was played on every Houston news station. I felt so bad for the two men in the strip center who were accosted and treated like animals, dragged by the cuff of their shirt into the back room where the shooting occurred. They were brave men, relatives, and they went back to work right away. The one who was shot had his arm in a sling. Now, THAT is courage...WORKING for a living instead of stealing!

After these two days of unwanted excitement, to tell the truth, my nerves were frazzled. I know the world is full of punks, but when they show up on your doorstep, the battle-front is your home-front. Those who search for trouble just might find it.

Thankfully, my dogs are my faithful companions. Lyla and Howdy aren't my only protectors. There's also my little steel buddies, the bullets in my gun's chamber that I call "Hello and Goodbye." That's a bit of Texas humor, deadly serious humor. Okay, I'll stop, for now.

From now on, I go to the door Old West style, with a holster in place and a smile on my face.

Me and my oldest daughter, Heather.

Me and my youngest daughter, Stefanie.

My two protectors and empty-nest syndrome solutions!


LindaG said...

Wow. I would have been scared poo-less. :/
Great dogs you have. Lucky to have so many law enforcement types around your house, too.
Sometimes I wish I was from Texas; but then I might not have met my hubby...

My son is studying to be a police officer. He was telling me that they have to carry their guns all the time because they're basically on call 24/7, just like in the military.

We have an older Cub Cadet LT1050 that we just brought down to the farm. It's always had trouble with the transmission and it seems like it might have gone out today. But we also have a Cub Cadet Yanmar sub compact. Hubby is really enjoying it. And we have a Sears garden tractor. It has a standard transmission though because he didn't like the automatic the little Cub Cadet had.

Hope you're all doing well!

Paula said...

Hey there, Miss Lana~
WOW! What a scary story!
I must admit, I'm a little scared here during the day by myself, but luckily I have dogs to alert me when someone is coming up the driveway... and I keep my pistol handy too. I have no neighbors around to hear me if I screamed, so I figure, it's just me, the dogs and Smith & Wesson! *hehe*
Loved the pictures of Howdy... he is beautiful.
Enjoyed my visit here with you today... I'll be back when I can stay longer!

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Yikes. That's terrifying. Good dogs! Dogs are essential for scaring off predators if you have property and animals, though we've never had to count on ours for human predators. There is plenty of crime in the country (just ask my husband the public defender attorney) but it tends to be sort of . . . personal. That is, there is quite a bit of attacking family members or whatever, but the odds of a stranger accosting you are pretty low. Which is why we don't lock our doors.

That said, if someone showed up on our property and threatened me or my son, I have no doubt our dogs would be distinctly Unfriendly. If my husband and his shotgun didn't get there first, that is.

Rae said...

Holy cow! Way to keep your head! Good thing you've got the pups and a .357 no less! (I like the S&W model 686). Bet you can't wait to get out to the country! I feel safer out here than I ever did in town. We also have the added benefit of living near numerous officers (sheriff and city) out here. Can't beat it!

Lana C. said...

Linda...I was just about scared "poo-less!" Thank God he suddenly decided to leave.

And, I wish your son the best of luck with his police training. My husband has absolutely loved his job as a Deputy Sheriff; it has been a rewarding career. But, yes, they are supposed to be armed at all times, even when we're at the grocery store and he's "off duty." It just becomes a way of life in the family.

Our Cub Cadet has been good to us. We had a Murray and it didn't last long. The hills and rough terrain on our land meant we needed a tough engine that could make a steep incline, while mowing. We had bought the largest Cub Cadet they make and it hauls! One day, we will be a small tractor, but we don't have anywhere to store it for now. We don't want to leave anything on the land until we can live there full-time. Augh.

Lana C. said...

Paula...when we're on our land, no one can hear us either - that's good and bad, like you already know. But, I do think we really learn to rely on our animals when in the country...the warning signs they give us are important and may give us a head-start.

I do like having all of the emergency services so close to our house, but we also have more problems with crime. It's a trade-off. I'd rather living in peace and have my land to work on all day, but I have to be patient. Almost there!

It's good you have your buddy Smith and Wesson. Thanks for the comment about Howdy, I'm a bit partial toward him --- me and my dogs --- such ridiculous love I have for those silly creatures! They sure make life more fun with all of their antics!

Lana C. said...

Kristin, I agree about crime in the country being more on a "personal" level or in our area of country, if a piece of property looks abandoned, eventually it will be picked apart.

Since your husband is a lawman as well, as a public defender, I'm sure he sees plenty of this stuff up close. Working in the judicial system can surely open your eyes to much more than the normal person would ever want to see.

I can tell you one thing for sure, we will be glad to get out of Harris County one day. I love our area, but am just ready to live in the country. The closer it gets, the more eager I become!

Lana C. said...

Rae, I will sure find it strange to one day have no neighbors around me, but I will set up our home to have extra room for all the guests that will sure be there on a constant basis. My husband and I are always with family and friends, living on our land will simply mean they must come over and stay the night or the weekend.

It's good that your have some law enforcement around you, with our lifestyle, I don't think we'll ever be able to escape company with a badge!

Like you, I definitely feel much safer in the country. If a stranger were to approach me on my land, I'd be highly suspicious and prepared, but you don't get too much of that out there. If a sincere person must come on your land, they approach very carefully and politely. But, I am SO GREATFUL for No Solicitors!!!! YA!!!!