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  • Ryanne Harper

Tails from the Tiny House

A little background…

Five years ago, I decided to sell my house in Fort Smith and use the equity I had in it to build a tiny house on the 10 acres of land I own in Cecil, AR. Ryanne and I had lunch one day early in the planning process. After a few minutes of me rambling about all the animals I can have on 10 acres and wondering out loud how to attract the mountain bluebirds to my yard, she started laughing hysterically. “I finally get it. It’s your Disney thing. You’re moving to the woods to live out the better parts of being a Disney princess.” (You know, the parts where bluebirds help them get dressed and they frolic through the woods with incredibly docile and helpful forest animals. Bonus points if the animals can talk/do magic/clean your house.) She wasn’t entirely wrong.

I had 2 dogs when I started building. Now, I have 3 dogs, 4 cats, and 10 chickens, and the count is subject to change at any time. I haven’t managed to tame any forest animals, but I’ve named the ones who regularly visit the and the rabbits have been nice enough to leave my hostas alone.

With all of these animals, a lot of hilarious chaos happens around here. And I figured the best first step in sharing the chaos is introducing everyone. First up, the dogs.

Lucy (in the Sky with Diamonds)

American Bulldog

July 4, 2008

Lucy is the best good girl who’s ever lived. To know her is to love her. And hug her. Often. Whether you want to or not. She loves everyone and everything she encounters, unless they give her reason not to. She’s the self-appointed protector and nurturer of everyone in the house. Samson and Jude both teethed on her collar. And her ears, and any other part of her they could get in their mouths. The cats spend hours batting at her tail. Both of my nieces slept on her as babies and have led her around on a leash from the moment they could walk. She is unbelievably gentle, patient, and empathetic. Until Samson came along, the only other dogs she’d lived with were pugs. She doesn’t seem to understand how big she is, and she genuinely gets her feelings hurt when people act afraid of her. So, if you ever meet her, by all means, yes, you can pet my dog! She will immediately drop to the ground and roll onto her back. Rub her belly and tell her she’s the best good girl, because she deserves all the love.

Lucy will be 12 years old on the 4th of July and she is starting to act her age. She no longer contributes to the chaos, she ignores it. So, I probably won’t have many funny stories about her, just more examples of why she’s the best.


Olde English Bulldogge

September 8, 2011

Samson’s the only dog not named after a Beatles song. There was just no other name that fit; he was massive at 8 weeks old and he’s massive now. (A lot of people are scared of him, too. He doesn’t care even a little bit.) Fortunately for me, he minds really, really well. I only have a few pounds on him; I can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do, and he knows it.

In so many ways, Samson is the best dog you could ever have. He hasn’t had an accident in the house since he was 12 weeks old. He doesn’t care where we’re going or what we’re doing, he’s just thrilled to tag along. He’s gentle with kids and all the other animals and he is fiercely protective of me. If you’re not his Grandma, his Aunt Ryanne, or his Uncle Chris, you’re not getting past my mud room unless I tell him it’s okay, and even then, he’s going to stare, growl, and make you question your decision to stop by until he really feels like he can trust you. He’s all bark with zero bite, and he loves me more than any other breathing creature on the planet—which sometimes makes me feel guilty, because he’s not my favorite. That makes me sound like a bitch, until I explain he’s my $20,000.00 dog. As in, during his 8 years of life, he’s caused $20,000.00 worth of damage.

When he was a puppy, he destroyed some plumbing hoses and flooded the entire house. He ate his way through 2 couches, a coffee table, an end table, and several walls.

I thought he’d finally grown out of his one terrible habit; years passed without so much as a chewed up shoe. Then one day I came home to find a 2ftx2ft, heart-shaped hole in my laundry room wall. So now, he’s back to getting kenneled when I’m not here.

A lot of people have a hard time understanding why I’ve kept Samson, given that he causes structural damage if precautions aren’t taken. The answers are pretty simple. First, he’s my dog and I love him. Second, we’ve seen mountain lions, bears, coyotes, bobcats, and trespassing hunters in the woods around my house. I live alone. I spend a lot of time walking in those woods alone. I do both with the absolute confidence that, as long as Samson is with me, no one and nothing will ever get close enough to hurt me. That’s worth way more than whatever I end up spending on sheetrock and spackle.

(Hey) Jude

Olde English Bulldogge

May 26, 2017

Baby Jude is a sweet, adorable, confused monster of my own creation. To make a very long story short, her leg was injured at birth and she had to be taken away from her mom at 3 days old. The vet stapled her leg, gave her a shot of antibiotics, and warned us she wasn’t going to make it. A week later, he gave her another shot and me the same warning, and then the same again a week after that. I’m not sure what he underestimated most: her stubborn will to live, or how much we were willing to help her.

Puppies can’t maintain their own body temperature until they’re about 4 weeks old. So for Jude, there were two choices: fix her a box with a blanket and heating pad and leave her all by her tiny, injured little newborn lonesome, or strap her to my chest, kangaroo style. I went with the latter. At 4 weeks old, the vet said she’d probably live but her leg would need to be amputated as soon as she was old enough to survive the surgery. Her bone had been broken when it was still basically soft tissue; he removed a lot of shards, and there was just no way to put it back together.

If she was only going to have one back leg, I wanted it to be the strongest back leg possible. So, I started doing swim therapy with her in the bath tub. By 10 weeks old, she was able to run and play like a normal puppy. The muscles in her leg got strong enough quickly enough to hold the two pieces of her bone in place. Her bad leg is a little shorter than her good one, since part of the bone was crushed. That may cause problems in the future but, for now, most people don’t even notice anything is wrong.

Now, I have a very stubborn 55lb ball of muscle in my house who thinks my chest is her bed. Her best friend is a cat, she thinks I’m her birth mother, and she roots and wallers around the house like a pot-bellied pig. Basically, she doesn’t have any concept of who or what she is, or who or what the rest of us are, for that matter. But she’s incredibly happy to be here. And I’m incredibly happy to have her.

That’s it for the dogs! Next time I’ll introduce the cats, chickens, and anyone else who shows up between now and then.

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