I am what these days they call a “rescue dog” but in the old days would have simply been referred to as a “stray”. I don’t really remember how I ended up as a stray, whether someone dropped me off in the country or if I just wandered away from home and couldn’t find my way back. I’d like to think I got lost, that I wasn’t unwanted and disposed of, but it’s more likely I was, as they say, dumped. We border collies are very clever and incredibly cute when we’re puppies (it’s hard to be humble), but we can also be sensitive and challenging (although I hate to admit it) and people don’t always do their research before taking home a puppy.
I don’t remember how I became a wanderer, but I do remember being hungry, and hurt, and frightened for a long time, long enough that I thought about giving up. And then Marie found me, when I was about a year old. Marie wasn’t part of any official rescue organization, she just had plenty of room at her goat farm west of Linden, and a big heart, so she took in dogs that ended up roaming the countryside in her area.
Sadly, there were a bunch of us, and maybe because of my months of running or my sensitive nature, some of the other rescued dogs liked to pick on me. I was grateful to have a safe place to sleep and plenty to eat, but I saw a number of my kennel mates go to new homes and I hoped and waited for someone to take me away from the noise and activity of the rescue.
When I was healthy and fixed and had had my shots, Marie advertised me in the Bargain Finder as a “Border Collie / Lab Cross, 1-year-old, $95 adoption fee”. Since I’d likely been dumped once already, I found it hard to believe someone would pay $95 for me.
One afternoon, I was curled up in the corner of my pen, staying away from the other dogs, when Marie came to get me. I was accustomed to being let out for exercise time but something was different. She picked me up and hoisted me onto her shoulder to get me through the many dogs that were running loose in the quonset. Once outside, I spotted the white truck, and the two people standing beside it, watching us make our way over to them, me bouncing along on Marie’s shoulder. Who were these people? Were they here to see me? Marie set me down and I immediately tucked my tail between my legs and bowed my head.
The people, Teresa and Nollind, spoke to me in friendly voices and gently stroked my fur. They were here to see me! …And then they released the giant white dog that had been waiting inside the truck. Oh God, not another big dog to torment me. But she just sniffed me and wagged her tail. Aspen was her name.
They took Aspen and me for a walk away from the buildings and the other dogs, I think to see if we would get along. How could anyone not get along with Aspen? She was the gentlest, most friendly dog I’d ever met. I found out later that she was also a rescue dog. She’d come from a place they referred to as “the reserve” and Teresa and Nollind found her through an organization called ARF when she was just a few months old.
It seemed I passed whatever the test was during our little walk because they put me in the back seat of the truck with Aspen and Teresa went with Marie to finalize paperwork. I’d been adopted! It felt like I could finally breathe out and when I did I realized just how tired I was. I lay down across the back seat and fell asleep, thinking later that I hadn’t left my new friend much room for her 90-pound self, and she was far too polite to let me know.
When we arrived at what was to be my new home, they let me out of the truck and led me to the back door of the house. The house? They wanted me to go in the house? I’d only been an outside dog until then. Okay, I guess the porch would be okay, but I wasn’t venturing any further inside. I’d stay close to the great outdoors, thank you.
But they grew on me quickly, my new people, and I found myself wanting to stay closer to them. After a couple of days, I ventured up the stairs into the kitchen. The floor was shiny and slippery so I kept myself low to the ground as I sniffed around. When I got to a corner that smelled of other animals I lifted my leg–and learned quickly that was not to happen again (and didn’t until Chico came along but that’s a whole other story).
After a day in the house with the smells and sounds and close proximity of my new family, I didn’t much like being put back in the porch to sleep that night. I was lonely. I wanted to be close to everyone. So I surrounded myself with their smells, building a circle of shoes around my bed, which they were quite amused by the following morning. I never slept in the porch again, graduating from a folded quilt on the floor at the foot of the bed to pretty much anywhere I wanted.
At twelve it seems a lifetime ago that I was homeless and hungry, but never so far away that I don’t feel for all of the dogs out there who are like I was. If you think you might like to add a dog to your family, adopt a rescue dog. We will pay you back with a lifetime of gratitude and love.