Sometimes, when it gets quiet in the middle of the night, she thinks she can still hear him.
That’s when Debbie Ore reminds herself that Chuck, her son’s 10-pound Scottish terrier, is never coming back. She prays he won’t, anyway.
“I put him in the paper and sold him to the first person who called. I threw in $400 worth of toys from PetsMart, carriers, teddy bears out the wa-zingy, anything he wanted,” said Ore, who two weeks later is still haunted by the little dog’s bark.
“I think I hear him, and I say, ‘God, please don’t let it have run away and found its way back here.’ ”
But here we’re getting way ahead of the tale of Chuck, a pet horror story if ever there were. Ore, 41, is a veteran dog lover and bought the little black terrier as a Valentine’s Day gift for her 11-year-old son, thinking she’d gotten a lucky break when a breeder marked Chuck’s price down.
Within three weeks, she began to see why. At first, the dog simply seemed to crave attention – licking her son’s face for 20 minutes on end, playing hide-and-seek, barking and running through the house, quick as a jackrabbit.
The real trouble began the first time Ore and her son left the dog alone for several hours. Though fully house-trained, he had an accident on the carpet. Which, Ore soon learned, was no accident.
From that day forward, anytime Ore picked up the telephone, tried to attend to her home-based concrete business or even so much as took her eyes off Chuck, he would run to her feet and have an “accident.”
So Ore spent $1,200 rebuilding her deck near old Lake Jeanette to accommodate a “potty yard.” Chuck refused to use it. She tried keeping him in a carrier. She tried letting him live outside. She even took him to the vet and explained his hyperactivity and obedience problems.
“At the vet, he would just sit there and they’d say, ‘He’s so calm. He’s so good.’ And I would say, ‘You don’t understand. He heard me talking to you, telling you he was evil,” Ore recalled. “On the way home, he would look at me sort of sideways, and I would tell him, ‘That was a pretty good show you put on. But I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to make them think I’m crazy.’ ”
Fearing she might indeed lose her sanity, Ore tried one last thing. At her vet’s recommendation, she consulted several dog psychiatrists, along the lines of “The Pet Psychic,” Sonya Fitzpatrick, on “Animal Planet.”
One said Chuck was “rebelling.” Another advised her to turn him upside down whenever he threatened an “accident.” Another counseled anti-depressants. Still another blamed Chuck’s behavior on in-breeding. The last pet psychiatrist said Ore had relinquished control of her household to a bearded, short-legged terrier with Damien-like influence.
“I already knew that,” Ore said. “I wanted to know what to do about it.”
Though the psychiatrist offered to let Chuck attend behavioral boarding school, Ore decided the answer was a more permanent separation. She put an ad in the paper, and when the first person called to reply, Ore dropped the price from $850 to $450.
“I told Chuck, ‘You had better sit, you had better smile.’ It was either that or put him by the road with a sign that said, ‘Free Dog.’ ”
Ore hasn’t heard back from Chuck’s new owner, except when the woman returned four days later to get the carrier crate she had initially declined.
“When she came and bought him, she was a calm, nice lady,” Ore said. “When she came back four days later, she was shaking.”
Now, when Ore is at the vet with her Saint Bernard puppy or her old basset hound and happens to see a Scottish terrier, she backs away from it. And when driving along Pisgah Church Road, where she sometimes sees a man walking a Scottie, she crosses the center line to get as far away from them as possible.
“I think they’re little demons,” said Ore, who recently heard that a 2-year-old Scottish terrier with AKC papers and a microchip implant had been given up for adoption.
“All that money, and somebody just left it at the pound. And I know why.”