Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Dogs

The story begins with Katie.

She was alone in the kennel. I noticed the sign hanging on the kennel door. Large red letters written over her vital statistics said “CHICKEN KILLER”.

DOG: Spayed Female
NAME: Katie
AGE: 10
BREED: Border Collie
COLOR: Black, Brown, Tan and White

Katie June 2001 age 10

Her eyes were bright, yet anxious. She licked our fingers through the wire. My heart melted. When I asked the woman who escorted us back to see the dogs if we could visit with her, she sighed and said “Today is her last day here.” That startled me a bit…I asked if someone adopted her. The woman said, “No, if she isn’t adopted today she is at the end of her stay”. She was due to be euthanized the next day. Senior dogs do not stand a good chance of being adopted. Katie had already been in the shelter for over two weeks. Her time was up.

We visited with her in a small room. She loved my son and gave him a thorough face washing. Katie was absolutely beautiful and I was completely in love.

When we were filling out the paperwork I asked them her history. They said if I would like they would contact the family who surrendered her and have them call me. They did the next evening.

Katie came from a farm where she helped tend the sheep. The mother ran a day care in her home and Katie was a happy dog with a job. Then the farmer sold the sheep and the mom quit the daycare and went to work outside the home. Katie lost her job. All that was left were the chickens. Katie like any good border collie without a job, found her own work. She made it her job to kill the family dinner each night. They found chickens on the back steps, nicely plucked of most of the feathers. They tried tying her up, kenneling her, keeping her in the house. Nothing seemed to work. So they surrendered her to the humane society. As the cliche goes...their loss was my gain!

Through the years Katie had been my shadow. She never needed a leash when we walked. She was a true ‘velcro-dog’ rarely straying more than 5 feet from my side. She was my steadfast companion while my life turned upside down.

She was there through divorce, cancer, foreclosure, moving (twice), remarriage, building our new home. She was the neighborhood dog, everyone knew her and loved her. The most friendly dog in the world who would never bite, growl or jump. The dog with the ever wagging tail and smile on her face.

Katie started to slow down over the years. When she was 15, I debated over adopting another dog. Would it hurt her or help her? I knew I wanted another border collie. I understood the neurotic, seemingly insane border collie behavior, endless need for exercise and stimulation. Although she has an elderly dog Katie was still obsessive, persistently nudging a toy into your hands, even as she grew blind and her hearing began to fail.

Would Katie like to have a companion? We had lost our other dog Elmo a few years before and she seemed lonely at times. I also knew given Katie’s age that the inevitable would happen soon. For selfish reasons I wanted another dog before that point – thinking it might make the loss easier for all of us.

I stumbled onto the Pacific Northwest Border Collie Rescue site and started to read it every day. Looking for just the perfect fit. After many months of reading we found Ranger. 

Ranger and Katie Feb 2008

Ranger joined our family on Dec 26, 2007. Katie seemed to enjoy him (to a degree). He was still a bit of a puppy and perhaps to rambunctious for her. I think I was struck by border collie fever because two months later we adopted Beth.

Beth is like Katie, obsessive, neurotic, endless energy & drive, affectionate yet fiercly independent.

Beth, Ranger & Katie

We started training at Dogs World Training and Agility Center in Sumner, WA. Obedience & later moving into agility. We also started herding at Fido’s Farm in Olympia, WA. 

In August 2008 we adopted Bonnie

Bonnie @ 14 weeks Sept 2008

Bonnie has grown into a lovely dog.  While the hope was Bonnie would eventually be able to work sheep, it was not in her make up.  Bonnie is happy as a companion dog & in training as a service/therapy dog.  Sheep are just not in her future. 

Over the months Katie slowed more and more. We saw the vet countless times. Katie was 17 now. A miracle, in a sense, for her to live such a long life. I hoped that she would live forever. She was slowly becoming paralyzed due to a neurological disorder in her spine. Dr. K said it was only a matter of time. Maybe weeks. She stumbled and often fell. She was blind …but she was still so happy! 

Friday, November 7th, 2008,  at 17.5 years old Katie told me it was time. She was not able to get up, she had quit eating several days before. The light was going out of her eyes. I didn’t want to believe it, my heart was breaking. I called our vet.

I held her in my arms on my lap when she passed. My husband John and friend Vicki where there with us. I wanted to scream NO! But I needed to let my best friend be on her way…she was with me, steadfast, through all the changes in my life. I needed to let her pass surrounded by love and peace.

Shortly after she passed and her body relaxed we all heard a frog croaking outside the window. Vicki said “Whenever you hear a frog croak from you will remember Katie”. I sobbed.

John and I drove home. I walked through the door and stood in the kitchen holding locks of Katie’s hair crying quietly. Then I heard it…another frog was croaking in our back yard. John and I looked at each other. It isn’t often you hear frogs croak in November. We both smiled.

Later we decided to take the dogs for a long walk on the river, one of Katie’s favorite places. Frogs were croaking all over. Maybe it was the warmer unseasonable temperatures - then again maybe not.

I believe Katie was telling me she was still there, by my side…with legs that worked and eyes that could see clearly. Happily running after the ball with the other dogs, feeling pain no more.

It is hard to believe a house could feel empty with three dogs, but it did.  

In April 2009 we adopted a puppy.  Brynn. 

One of the things that drew me to Brynn was the expression on her face. She reminded me of Katie.  When I met her I knew for sure, she melted my heart. 

Two days after bringing Brynn home she fell ill with parvo. 

She spent several days in the vet and made a full recovery. 

She is now a healthy adult dog and securely embedded into my heart. 

Finally, we have Bea. 

Bea's Father is Riggs, the 2010 National Finals Open Champion, run by Patrick Shannahan.   Bea has made a wonderful addition to our pack and we can't wait to watch her grow up.

A big happy family.  
Two adults, five kids, four border collies + Ranger (who is in a class all by himself).
A big happy Family

1 comment:

Tucker The Crestie said...

What a wonderful group of dogs!