We have a new member of the family.
The addition seems sudden to us, although it feels really right, and only the last couple hours of the process took place in a hurry. We went to meet a dog. Within minutes, we knew she would fit into our family (although we spent more time with her before we said that out loud), and she ended up coming home with us directly from the first meeting.
Here's the slow part: Over the past nine months, since we lost our Border collie-ish Ariel to old age, I have on a handful of occasions tempted fate by browsing our region's Australian shepherd and Border collie rescue pages. Dogs of both breeds tend to end up in rescue situations when they are between one and five years old, most often between one and three—that's when people who thought they were SO cute as puppies or had a
romantic idea of what living with a herding dog would be like hit the
wall of reality and acknowledge that they don't have time to make sure
the dogs have WORK to do.
Early this summer, I noticed that the Aussies were being adopted out pretty quickly but there were a whole lot of Border collies needing homes. I downloaded an application from Western Border Collie Rescue, but didn't do anything with it. I just contemplated the possibilities, while acknowledging the relatively irrational choice to take on responsibility for another being right now.
Then I started filling it out, just to see what kinds of questions were asked and how we might answer them. I talked over the possibility of a new dog with my daughter. We both think Tussah needs a canine companion, although, of course, primary responsibility will be ours. My daughter added her perspective to the forms.
Eleven single-spaced pages later, we thought we just might mail the application. I'd put on the form that we wouldn't be able to consider taking a dog until the fall, because of my travel commitments. I knew the approval process would take time. Sent first class, the application took a month to travel from Colorado to Wyoming. I wasn't thinking about it, because of all those work and travel engagements.
Our packet did finally arrive at the rescue organization. They started checking our personal references; that took a couple of weeks. Just over a week ago we enjoyed the required home visit—a Border collie aficionado and one of her lovely dogs came over to talk about pups! The various checks include people and animals in the family, type of household (physical set-up and routines), and (very important) state of yard and fences. The goal is to have the placements for these dogs be their permanent, perfect homes. Our home visit coordinator told us not to expect final approval in less than a week to ten days, because the (all-volunteer) people doing the rescues had two big events to attend. (One was the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials.) So far, this whole endeavor had been progressing very deliberately (aided by the postal service) for about three months.
Following the home visit, though, our approval came through almost instantly and we found ourselves on the phone talking things over with a "matcher" (a person works on figuring out which specific dogs might be the best matches for a family). One of our top criteria was that the new dog must not bully or otherwise make life difficult for Tussah, our established dog (also a rescue), who is now, as far as we can tell, roughly 12 years old. Any addition to the family must enhance Tussah's life at least as much as ours. Tussah is kind of alarmed by puppies, so we have assured her all along we would not get her a puppy. Plus an older dog needs us more than the puppies do.
After a flurry of phone calls and e-mails, we set out on Sunday morning to meet a dog whose shelter name has been Pebbles. (The page in that link will probably move once her status changes from "available" to "success stories." [ADDED Thursday, 9/15: her page has moved to "adoption pending." It will move again later.] She's one year old and unusually mellow for a young Border collie. We
were told that she got along well with other dogs and with cats (we
might have a cat again in the foreseeable future).
We drove about 2.5 hours to the meeting. Mapquest and Yahoo seriously underestimated the time to drive to the meeting location, an error that I should have picked up on before we were actually driving but didn't. My daughter practiced texting on her phone to keep the rescue folks updated on our whereabouts as we got off the freeway to avoid miles-long traffic jams and accidents. We finally met Pebbles and her foster mom at a school yard.
And we took the little dog for a walk (and a ramble through the play equipment and along some stone walls), with Tussah nearby.
This young dog is spicy, but she's also wise and she and Tussah seemed to feel like they already knew each other. So we decided (gulp) to take this particular rescue home with us, and her foster mom went off to get some of the food she'd been eating and an adoption contract for us to sign. We hung out in the only shade around and got to know each other more.
The only trick in getting photos was that initially every time I wanted to take a
picture, the little dog started running toward me.
Then she began getting used to us.
So we returned to her foster mom the flexi-lead the pup had arrived on (we always have extra leashes in the car), packed up her food, signed the contract, and headed toward home.
All this took longer than we'd predicted, so I had to give up the idea of using the ticket I had for a special musical presentation that afternoon. Instead, we stopped off in Denver and got some lunch at Whole Foods, where our new addition charmed passersby, and my daughter took a side trip to the independent store Twist and Shout to get a couple of CDs that were on her wish list; I stayed in the car with the dogs and knitted.
When we got home, we introduced the new pup to her new spaces, inside and out, and we took both dogs for the evening walk. Then we did what we do on many Sunday evenings: went, with dogs, to visit friends, have supper, and watch a DVD (the final episode of "Firefly," in this case . . . my second time, my daughter's third, and our friends' first). The young dog acted as if she'd always done this.
In a number of the new dog's behaviors, it is quite apparent that she's part of the same family tree as our Ariel, although in both looks and personality she's quite different.
For one thing, she's tiny: roughly 35–37 pounds. (Tussah is 43–45 pounds, and Ariel was about the same.)
We got home and I washed down one of our crates for her (while I was doing it, she settled herself into Tussah's crate a couple of times), put in a pad, and showed her where she could sleep. She seemed ready. It had been a big day for all of us.
She'll get a crate like Tussah's for regular use in the house and this one will go back into the car, but for now we all know where we belong. It seems like she's always been here.
We just don't know what her "real" name is yet.
"Pebbles" is too soft to be a good call name, and Border collies need good call names: one or two syllables, not something that sounds like a command you'll want to be teaching, with some crisp-enough consonants to get attention. We're listing possibilities on a piece of paper on the bathroom mirror and are open to suggestions.
Our previous dogs have been:
- Farley (big, goofy dog; borrowed—the people who owned a house we rented left him with the house)
- Daisy (a miniature poodle, adopted at age 10 when our neighbors decided she had become senile; she was just lonely)
- Heather (Aslan's Mountain Heather, adopted at age 6 after her retirement from producing show puppies)
- Ariel (Tempest's Ariel Miranda, adopted at 7 weeks after being abandoned in December, with two siblings, in a field near Greeley, Colorado)
- Tussah (Tempest's Tussah Redfurr, adopted at about the age of 5 after having been abandoned at a reservoir in South Dakota, adopted out of our local humane society, and then re-homed to us after being picked up running loose in traffic quite a few times; her name in her previous home was "Red," which wasn't feminine enough for her)
"Tempest" is the "kennel" name for our rescues. (It became official with Ariel's AKC ILP registration.) We might like to incorporate the "pebbles" aspect of her history into the name, although we haven't set that as a requirement.
We also don't know what her "real" work is yet. She looks like a great candidate to be a therapy dog, and I suspect she'd like recreational (though perhaps not competitive) agility and rally. She doesn't have the drive to be a real competitor, but she obviously likes to work her brain and she's pleasantly bouncy without being hyperactive. We'll start with basic obedience, which she's already got the hang of.
So we'll all be getting to know each other for a while, although it feels like we've already been together for a long time.