Adventures of the Yellow School Bus | "Little Lou: A New Tiny Addition on the Farm" | Article and 10 Photos by Candice Granger

Lena Marie opening up Biscuit, her almost real dog, last Christmas.

“Can’t you pretend a goat is a little dog? I don’t think a little goat would mind a wearing a sweater…we couldn’t leave the sweater on very long though…she would probably start nibbling on it… and then probably eat it…maybe that won’t work out…” I said to Lena Marie about a year and a half ago. “But, Mom!” she said. “I want a sweet little dog that will wear sweaters and I can pack around. I can’t do that with a goat. Dad won’t let me bring a goat in the truck either. I would love to have my own little dog. P-P-Please?”


We tried everything: fish tank, stuffed dogs, battery operated dogs, baby goats, bribes. We even bought her "Biscuit" last Christmas. "Biscuit" is one of those battery operated dogs that zips around on wheels with a leash attached, sits, barks and performs a few tricks. She’s super cute and Biscuit did fill Lena Marie’s desperate need to have a sweet little dog for a few months.

And here we are again.

About 6 months ago, Lena Marie brought up the dog topic again. We tried talking her out of it. Telling her how much responsibility a little dog would be, how she would have to take it out to use the bathroom not just when it was sunshine outside but even when it is raining, cold and dark. The dog will still have to use the potty in the winter! Her response (and she is only 6 years old): “Mom, I understand sometimes owning a dog will not be fun but I think I can handle those times because there will be a lot of times that it will be great.”

“Okay. But who is going to buy all those sweaters, leashes, dog bowls and the dog food?” I asked.

“I have my allowance and I have been saving my birthday money and Christmas money.” she responded, happily. We counted it all up. The girl had plenty. Plus, she does help out around the farm and earns an allowance. We chatted about it and she agreed that if she wanted something for the little dog that she would have to save her money and buy it herself. (When she turns 8 years old I’ll bring up the cost of veterinarian visits. I didn’t want to be a huge downer. It would also lead to a long discussion about our own healthcare system, the costs of prescription drugs and insurance plans vs. the cost of animal care, pet insurance and co-pays. Our chats usually go down long windy paths.)

Madame was my best friend for 14 years.   I hope that
Lena Marie finds a loyal friend like Madame!
It’s not that I didn’t want Lena Marie to have a dog because we don’t like dogs - that's not it at all.

I love dogs. I love dogs way too much. I knew that if I started looking for dogs that needed homes I would fall head over heels for each and every dog that we met.  No, it wasn't that we don't like dogs, we were worried that our lifestyle wouldn’t be a good match for a house dog. We travel for art shows…what would we do with the dog when we are gone? All of the farm animals get along…how would we introduce another animal to everyone without messing up the balance? Our dogs bark all night long keeping coyotes and other nocturnal creatures at bay…would a little dog yap all night and keep us up? Jim Bob and I had adult realistic worries but when we looked into Lena Marie’s little eyes they all vanished. Poof.  We groaned.  It's her youthful excitement that is contagious.  Her 6 year old way of worrying about all the details later that made us sigh.  Somewhere Jim Bob and I lost that and forgot how fun it was to have a sweet little dog that we can pack around and rub her belly.  I started remembering the dogs that I had growing up and the bond that I felt between us.  I thought for sure Lena Marie would be missing out if she didn't experience that sort of love.  So we began our “Little Dog Search."

I took this picture at the Austin Animal
Shelter.  Lou Lou look sad and scared.

We had some criteria:

· Loves kids

· Likes other dogs, cats, chickens and goats

· Weighs less than 12 lbs

· Scrappy

· Likes to wear clothes

· Loves to be held

· Not a barker

· Not a puppy

Pah! That sounded like a dream dog! But we started looking. I searched on, and probably every few days. I would also search individual cities’ Humane Societies, Pets Alive!, and whatever other organizations I could find that brought people wanting dogs and dogs needing homes together. This went on for months and months and months. We would stop in and check out the shelters, pounds and rescues whenever we had a chance. I would call or inquire about dogs that sounded like they would be a great fit into our household only to find out that they were adopted minutes before. Tears were shed and we continued to search. About a week ago, we stopped by the animal shelter in Austin and we met Lou Lou. I saw her on their website but knew that she might not be there when we arrived. She was!

Lou Lou on the ride home from the Austin Animal Shelter riding on
Lena Marie's lap.  She looks like a happy dog here!
The tricky part about adopting an animal from the shelter is you don’t know their history. We didn’t know if she met any of our criteria except for her weight and that she was scrappy! If we had adopted a dog from a rescue that had been living with a foster family, we would have known most of those things on our list. But we had Lou Lou in front of us, so we sat with her for a while and watched her interact with the other dogs walking by, we saw how she responded to our kids and loved the fact that she climbed up in Lena’s lap and sat down. So she didn’t seem to be a barker, she apparently liked being held, she was certainly scrappy looking, small enough to be packed around and she didn’t mind Zeb hopping around on the rocks in our “meet and greet” area.

We brought Lou Lou home.

I should say that before Jim Bob and I agreed to adopt a dog with Lena Marie, Lena Marie had to contact her grandparent’s and ask them if they minded if she brought her little dog with her when she came to spend the night at their house once a month or so. They chatted with her about her responsibilities and everyone agreed. Little Lou Lou would be accompanying Lena Marie and Zeb on their “overnighters.” So we immediately sent out pictures of Lena Marie with Lou Lou to announce the newest addition to our family. The caption read: 8 lbs and 9 months old! Meet Lou Lou! A stream of congratulations rolled in!

Now we had to introduce Lou Lou to the farm. Gulp.

Briggs and Ted are our original livestock guardian dogs.  Brigg is the boy
closest to us and Ted is the shy one in the back.  Best dogs ever.
The dogs. We have three livestock guardian dogs:  two Great Pyrenees mix and one Great Pyrenees/Blue Heeler mix.  All three dogs came from the Texas Great Pyrenees Rescue.  I love those dogs so much it is ridiculous. I might do a story just on those awesome pups.  So I won't go into detail about how great they are but I will say they are guardians and without the proper introduction to their new itty bitty buddy, it could be fatal to little Lou Lou.  Big gulp.

We walk everyday with our dogs.  Here they are trotting up the driveway.
Brooklyn is the silver pup always running.
I introduced the dogs slowly and one at a time.  I held on to Lou Lou has they sniffed a bit and then we all went on our walk, me holding Lou Lou in my arms so they all new that she was alright with me.  I've learned that if it is alright with me, the alpha dog, then the dogs are good with it too. We did the walks for a few days and then Lou Lou got to walk by herself with the group.  She followed behind the big dogs, staying particularly close to Briggs, our Chief of Security on the farm.  Briggs is our social butterfly and let Lou Lou basically walk underneath him.  I could tell all would be okay with Briggsy. The other two dogs seem to be handling the addition nicely, slowly, but nicely.  I will continue to watch their body language for any signs of unhappiness.  I think just like anything, it will take a bit of time to get to know one another.  Lou Lou does not have "Little Dog Syndrome."  You can tell she knows that she is itty bitty.  She will come running towards us almost screaming, "Pick me up!  They are HUGE!"

UPDATE: This morning all dogs walked the trail like Lou Lou was a tiny member of their pack. She still has her tail between her legs but I think that will change with time! Yay!

Holly is the head goat that doesn't mind giving a little dog a good head butt
just to show that she is boss.
The goats.  I knew exactly what would happen with Lou Lou and the goats.  The goats would be very interested in her, they would walk directly to her and would probably want to head butt her.   That's exactly what happened.  Lou Lou growled a little bit when she saw them but it sounded more like confusion than aggression.  She put her tail between her legs and moved right behind us.  Smart little dog.  She has done a good job keeping a distance from the goats.  Lena Marie has done a great job keeping up with where they both are so Lou Lou is not put in a position where she feels threatened.  I think eventually the goats with lose interest and she will become just another four legged creature that lives among them.  Until then, we will be the buffer in their meet and greets.

As long as Lou Lou doesn't wake Phin up, I think he will learn to live with her.
The cat.  We have the best cat ever.  We don't want to get another cat because Phin, our cat, is so great that we don't want to mess with his awesomeness.  This might mess with his awesomeness.  Did she bark at Phin?  Yes, she did.  Did he freak out, smack her nose and hiss?  No, he didn't. (He did that to Brooklyn, our Great Pyrenees/Blue Heeler mix.)  Nope, he completely ignored Lou Lou and went on about his business.  The next time they met face to face, they walked on by without a peep.  Yay!!!!!  So far so good!  Phin can come and go as he pleases and I haven't seen Lou Lou get in the way of his daily activities:  napping, eating and stalking chickens.

When you are 8 inches of  the ground, a chicken would feel like
a T-Rex for sure.
The chickens.  The chickens will eat anything smaller than a chicken.  Lou Lou is smaller than a chicken. She better watch her back!  The chickens were giving little Lou the crazy eye.  I think they were thinking she probably tastes like chicken.  She ducks, hides her tail between her legs and gets out of the chicken crowd.  Smart little dog.  Slowly, the chickens are growing accustomed to Lou Lou prancing around and they have seemed to relax and maybe have accepted Lou Lou into their clutch.  They haven't pecked at her yet so I consider that a success.  

We feel pretty darn lucky to have Lou Lou. She really is fitting in with our lifestyle around here. Today we went to town to run some errands (find Lou Lou a sweater or two) and Lou Lou came along. It turns out that Lou Lou is crate trained, potty trained and loves riding in cars. She doesn't mind wearing sweaters and loves, loves, loves to sit in a little girl's lap. And I love to see Lena Marie's eyes light up and the huge smile on her face when she snuggles Lou in close. I think this is the best decision we have made in a long time! I'm glad we took the chance on a little scrappy dog from the shelter. She's won our hearts.

Lou Lou is wearing a Lena Marie original.  Lena Marie is planning on designing more clothes for little Lou.
Isn't she the cutest little girl?  We just love her.

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