Friday, June 11, 2010

Close encounters of the Border Collie kind

This was a very sweet border collie mix that showed up at the shelter and was adopted after about 2 weeks.I had one who looked pretty similar show up at my house once. I was sitting in my pottery studio throwing pots when my husband came back from town. He opened the door to my studio and the conversation went something like this;
" what's up with that one?"
me "what's up with that one what?"
"that dog you brought home"
me "what dog, what are you talking about?"
"you don't have to try and hide it, that dog, sitting on the front porch"
me "what dog sitting on the front porch?"
and with that I got up, washed the clay off of my hands and went out to see what he was talking about. On my front doorstep , which is covered by part of my wraparound porch, was a very sweet, very frightened, border collie Heeler mix(she looked similar to the dog in these photos) soaking wet and trembling. I brought her in, toweled her off, offered her food and water and proceeded to try and figure out who she belonged to.
She didn't look familiar, as I walk about a 3 mile radius from my house in many directions and had a pretty good idea of who the dog owners were and what kind of dogs they had.
I called the Humane Society and asked if anyone called in missing a dog of her description and no one had, so I left my contact info in case any one called in looking for her. She was an older dog, about 9-10 years old about the same age, weight, and height, as my Blue Heeler.
I put "found dog" fliers up at the post office and the library, asked the post man and U.P.S. man if they knew who she belonged to and got no answers. No one seemed to be missing her, or knew who she belonged to, so I decided that someone must have dumped her off as she was an older dog, and people often dump off their unwanted pets in the country thinking that they'll go live on a nice farm. She was a very sweet well behaved dog, and quickly fit into our routine. My blue heeler actually seemed to like her which was unusual as he is for the most part rather indifferent to the foster dogs and shelter dogs, preferring his position as my special dog, the others are just visitors in need of training. Pascual would frolick and play with her in an older dog kind of way,and seemed pleased with her company. One day my husband and I were out planting trees, a quarter mile down the property. It was a muddy day and I didn't want the dogs getting wet and muddy so I left them in the house. After twenty minutes, I see Molly the name we gave the border collie mix, and my dog, trotting down the driveway with Molly out in front, and Pascual sheepishly following behind her. I turned to my husband and said" I knew I shut the door" sure enough she had figured out how to open it. I went back and shut the door and then let them stay with us as they seemed to want to be outside with us. I was very nice and kind to Molly and having decided that after two weeks had gone by where no one had called to claim her I would just keep her, so she was swaddled in affection and got to sleep on the rug. I have many of my handmade hooked rugs all over the house that are particularly soft for the dogs, and I also had dog beds out for her so she just fit comfortably into our household. She bonded quickly and liked to sleep on the porch and would do 5 foot guard duty shifts, rotating around the porch like clockwork. At first I was thinking "where's Molly she was laying there a minute ago?" and then she would be five feet further down the deck. So she got used to us and we got used to her habits. At first I thought she was a bit daft or had a touch of senility, but then there seemed to be some sort of guarding method to her madness. Now, I have a very smart dog, an Australian Cattle dog a.k.a a Blue Heeler but he is a tad lazy or perhaps smart enough to know that he doesn't have to work that hard to get his needs met, but this Border Collie/Heeler mix took the cake. She was the smartest dog I had ever had first hand experience with. She could open doors, and then she really spooked my husband because she started closing them behind her( they could have been blown shut, but who knows, it happened often) I watched her do it once, she looked around first to see if anyone was looking and then jumped up and opened it with her paws. She didn't know I was watching her. Then she started opening drawers in the kitchen," hey Pascual, look it's the garlic and onion drawer" and my dog would trot over. I was starting to get a little annoyed, wondering if I was going to have to padlock the fridge, and then I stopped one evening and just looked at her. She looked back at me with a "so here I am what is it you want to know about me" look on her face and I just let go of the annoyance and then marvelled at her presence, spirit, and intelligence, and had a much deeper respect and admiration for her after that. I worked in the inner city some years ago, with disadvantaged youth and recall a 14 year old girl with an exceptional level of intelligence. When I was in my early twenties and college educated, this young girl had an intellectual grasp of subjects from History to Politics to Art and seemed like more of a peer than a student. One day I was able to see her in action with her mother, and was saddened to see that her mother appeared to have no clue as to what an exceptionally intelligent daughter she had. The mother seemed exasperated,and treated her daughter with derision as if she was just an insolent smart mouthed kid who needed to be put in her place and respect adult authority. It was so sad to me that there was such a huge perception gap and that the daughter had to live with someone who put her down for her talents and didn't recognize what an intelligent gift her daughter possessed. I just feel that it's so important to try and understand pets and people for their uniqueness, and see and work with what actually is there rather than what we expect or project on our pets or fellow human beings.

One thing that never sat right in my mind was the fact that Molly the dog, showed up at my door with a brand new pretty purple collar on but with no identification tags or rabies tag on the collar. I kept wondering why would someone leave a new, seemingly expensive collar on a dog that they were going to dump off, that didn't make sense. Months went by and she fit right into our routines. She was pretty low maintenance, easily trained, spent hours on the porch and then came into the house and was comfortable with my heeler. Even though she was older, she still went for 2 and a half mile walks around the neighborhood with me, Pascual, and my friend with her dog and horse. Molly got along with everyone and I had grown to love her and respect her intelligence. I often take my dogs with me in the car if the weather is good so I noticed every time I drove past a certain place about 4 miles from my house Molly would get antsy and jump around in the car. When she first showed up I had called everyone I knew in about a 3 mile radius asking them if they knew whose dog it was, and no one did. I took her to my vet to get shots and they hadn't recognized her. I also did everything possible putting up signs, asking delivery men if they knew who the dog belonged to. I knew one guy who lived in that area where the dog got excited, and he worked in town and I just so happened to be at his place of business, on a sunny afternoon while I had my dogs in the car with the windows down. I said hey J, do you know whose dog this is?, she seems to get excited around your house" Hey says no, and then "wait a minute" apparently there were some newer people who had moved in next to him and the woman had lost her dog. I asked for her name and then mulled over whether I should call her or not.The thoughts went through my mind"why didn't she call the humane society looking for her dog?" "why didn't she put signs up?" "what kind of person, what kind of scenario would make a person not look for their beloved pet?"why didn't she have Identification on her or a rabies tag?" So all these thoughts are going through my mind, and I'm wondering why I didn't think about all this before I asked the man for the womans phone number, and then sometimes things have a way of getting ahead of you and taking their own course. I asked my friend who is a good judge of human nature and an animal person what did she think about a person who didn't look for her dog, and she seemed to think that maybe it wasn't a good owner who didn't deserve their dog back so all this was going through my mind but I sort of allready started the ball rolling so I thought I should just call and talk to her and try and figure out what to do from there. I called the woman and was thinking to myself; if she's o.k and has some kind of reason for not looking for her dog, then I would return the dog. I was,however, going to ask for my $50 dollars back, that I spent getting the dog vaccinated at the vets office. I felt that it was only fair for me, the person who went through all the trouble and proper procedures trying to locate the pets owner, and then upon thinking I would adopt it, went to get the dog vet checked and vaccinated. I called the woman and explained that I had talked to the neighbor and thought that I had her dog. She was somewhat shocked, emotional and mistrustful all at the same time. I agreed to meet her at her house, which in hindsight probably wasn't a good idea and not something I would do in the future. I drove over there and the dog got out and seemed very happy, jumping and running around familiar territory and visiting with the woman. The woman was still pretty reluctant, unfriendly and dare I say, annoyed. I explained to her that the dog had shown up in the middle of a thunderstorm, and she said that the dog was always spooked by thunderstorms and that, that explained why she had run off and apparently kept running. I told her that I went to a certain veterinarian 15 miles away, for the examination and vaccinations and she was annoyed because she said that the dog allready had those shots and why did I go to that veterinarian's office, the vet in town was less expensive. At that point I was getting a little more than miffed.There I was, a good samaritan, taking your dog in for 3 months, caring for it extremely well, feeding it, taking it to the veterinarians and getting it vaccinated, going to all this trouble trying to reunite the dog with it's rightful owner and all you can say is in an annoyed tone" why did I go to that vet, it's so expensive, and the dog had allready had the shots?" Well how was I to know? what am I psychic? The dog didn't have any identification on it and no rabies tag. If she had only spent the 5 to 10 dollars to get identification on the dog she would have had it back the afternoon it showed up, at no cost. My own dog is microchipped, as well as having identification tags and a rabies tag on him. I had checked Molly for a micro chip at the Humane Society, but she wasn't chipped.

I suppose my annoyance was showing back, then she said I'll pay you your 50 dollars, which I thought was actually reasonable. The only reason I didn't go to the vet in our small town is that she is so rarely open and never seemed to have any vaccines on hand, that I stopped going to her years ago and forgot she was even there. Upon calling later, I realized that this vet was even more expensive for the vaccinations so I don't know what this woman was even talking about. The woman agreed to pay me and I told her she needed to switch the name on the rabies tag call number from ours to hers. She said her young son loved the dog and would be so happy that it was back, and she told me that the dog had run off years ago and came back to them from some 40 miles away so she thought that this time the dog, being older had just run off to die, that's why she didn't look for it. I thought that's strange that someone's projections of their worst fear would keep them from actually verifying whether it was fact or not, but whatever. So I gave the dog back, got reimbursed for the vet bill and went home feeling angry, annoyed, and unsettled but glad that at least a little boy would be reunited with his dog. Upon reflecting upon all this I remembered that I had met the woman in the summertime while riding my bike. The family was new to the neighborhood and I had remembered that the farm was for sale. I had to walk my bike past her place and saw her out with a horse. I said" hello" as I am rather friendly and most people out here are friendly and they were new to the neighborhood, but the woman seemed crabby, annoyed, and not wanting to be bothered. So I just thought the heck with you, here I go being friendly and she was just this side of rude which explained her demeanor when I returned her dog. So strange, that a young person with a kid, new to a neighborhood would be so standoffish and unappreciative of all that I had done for her dog, but whatever. It takes all kinds I guess, maybe that's why she moved to the country, to get away from people. When I drove past her house,and saw her with the dog, I waved a few times, but she would just look the other way, so I don't bother any more. This whole interaction also brought to mind a strange phenomenon I have observed where a few standoffish people I have casually known, had friendly, happy dogs. Most of the time the dog adapts to the personality of it's owner, that is a friendly person has a friendly dog, a wary, shy person has a wary dog etc.., I have run into a few people who have dogs that don't really match their personalities. I wonder if the dog in this scenario is some kind of benefactor, come to help the people with the difficult personalities. Oh well, just another theory to pursue. As for myself it is often the difficult people like this who make me turn to help the dogs as I find the dogs so much more pleasant and less complicated to deal with. I kept wondering why the dog didn't just walk back to it's home, as I had left her unattended for hours at a time on the porch while I was inside the house(I don't leave them out when I'm not there) We all easily walked close to the same distance around the neighborhood, and it would have been fairly simple for her to have walked a straight line home. I guess Molly was happy with us, she had a husband in my Blue heeler, a horse to walk with in my friend's horse. I guess her life was similar to what she had been used to, and I made it very comfortable for her. So there I was again, down to one dog who seemed to miss his special girlfriend, at least he had the pleasure of a partner bond for a little while. At times they looked like an old married couple together, where the woman was a little smarter than the man. Perhaps it's all part of pondering the imponderable, participating in a grander plan. For now I keep going, helping the dogs, trying to understand the people, trying to make sense of it all, and marvelling at how these stories unfold. People, dogs, community,non verbal communication, and time, strange ingredients in this recipe of life with dogs.


  1. All I can say is wow, I feel bad for the dog. We have on numerous occasions had a dog show up in our yard and spent the day tracking down the owner only to find out that they really could care less that the dog was missing. It really makes you wonder about people.

  2. This reminds me of a similar story that happened to us.. happy and sad at the same time.. you are a very good writer..

  3. Thanks for the encouragement Gwen, I'm a big fan of your blog and artwork