When I was in high school I took a job, working at a boarding kennel. We took care of dogs and cats, with the occasional bird staying with us too. I loved working at the kennel; I was a dog lover without a dog, so being surrounded by dogs, sometimes more than 200 dogs, was the perfect job for me. I loved that job so much that I worked there for ten years. I would still be working there if I hadn't come to the realization that I needed to find a career that offered other things, like benefits.
I have worked in a few different fields, until settling on a job in the health field. I have worked in my current job for 13 years now, and while I like my job, I miss working with dogs. But this post isn't about career choices, it's about how I found my dogs.
When I was a young girl, my parents divorced and my mother and I moved into the first of many apartments, to be near my grandparents. And all of those apartments did not allow dogs. So our boxer, Kelly, had to go live with my grandparents. We were able to visit her often, but after she died, there weren’t any more dogs allowed. I was the type of child who would find lost dogs, and bring them home. I would beg my mother and grandmother to let me keep them. But we always found the dogs' owners, so I sadly returned each of the dogs to their families.
My Uncle Fran was also a dog lover, but he lived out in the mid-west with his five children so I didn’t get to see him often. He did come to visit once every 12 – 18 months, and he would always have one or two collies with him and his children. I loved the old Lassie movies, but I first met real collies through my uncle. My uncle also left some books, by Albert Payson Terhune, at my grandparents’ house. One day, when I was 10 years old, and while searching for something to do, I discovered those books. And reading them, I fell in love with the wonderful, brave collies of Sunnybank. I began dreaming about having a collie of my own one day. It took over 20 years before that would happen, but Lad was worth the wait. Sadly, I only had 7 years with my boy, before we lost him. Lad was everything we could want in a collie - loving, loyal, protective, with a larger than life personality.
|Uncle Fran and his children, and their collie
But before there were collies in my life, there were two special dogs that I rescued/adopted.
When I wasn't dreaming about a life with collies, I was imagining saving the lost souls at animal shelters. I would imagine the day, when as an adult with my own home, I could adopt as many shelter dogs as I could afford. I always pictured myself surrounded by 4 or 5 shelter dogs, all saved from euthanasia. So when I moved into my first apartment, while still in college, the first thing I did was convince my landlord to let me have a dog. He finally agreed, and off to the shelter I went.
I was there to see a puppy, a mastiff/golden retriever mix. As I walked down the aisle of the kill shelter, I first spotted a little black puppy, with a little white on her chest. She was an 8 week old black lab/shep mix. She pressed herself up against the fencing of her cage, and I stopped to say hello, and pet her for a minute. When I stood up to continue down the aisle she began barking frantically, to get me to continue petting her. I gave her a little more attention and then walked down to the mastiff mix. He was a pretty pup, who looked like a mastiff, but with soft, fluffy fur. The AC officer told me that they had a couple families already interested in him. And then went on to tell me that the little black, shep mix only had a few days left, and no one wanted her. Black dogs are the first to be euthanized at shelters, as people tend to fear black dogs.
So I walked back to her cage, where she was still barking and crying for me. I bent down, looked into her eyes, and my decision was made. I say that I adopted her from the shelter, and that I chose her, but the truth is that she chose me. I paid the fee, and took her home with me that day. I named her Mojo, and she was best friend for almost 15 years.
Mojo was an incredibly smart dog; she was easy to train and grew up to be a beautiful dog. She figured out how to open the refrigerator, and would make midnight raids, stealing butter and other items. She figured out which button on the microwave to push to get the door to open, so she could steal the loaves of bread we stored in there. She was a challenge, and she taught me so much about dogs. She was protective and loving, she was perfect. Losing her was a devastating experience for me, it was the first time I had to make that decision, and it took a long time to heal from her loss.
My second dog was a golden retriever named Chloe. She joined our family when she was two years old. Her family decided they couldn’t keep her, and offered her to us. We drove to meet her, and fell in love with her sweet personality. She came home with us that day and lived with us for more than 12 years. She became Mojo’s best friend, and they were inseparable. When Mojo died, Chloe grieved for a long time. Chloe taught me patience, as she came to us with a few minor behavior issues. But she was also one of the gentlest dogs I have ever known. She would take cookies and treats with the softest mouth, you never felt teeth. She was obsessed with tennis balls, and could play fetch for hours. She liked nothing more than to have her soft fur stroked, as she leaned against your legs. She was a wonderful companion, and we miss her a lot.
Lad joined our family while we still had Mojo and Chloe, and then over the years the other collies came. Collies are my passion, and I love them. But all dogs deserve love, and any dog, no matter what the breed, can become your best friend. Someday, I know I will return to a shelter and adopt another black dog. But for now my house is full of collies, and I feel very blessed for all the dogs that have come into my life over the years. So if you are looking for a dog, and the breed doesn't matter, please consider adopting a shelter dog.