The Pack, Part 3
A fellow rescuer emailed me about a nine-month-old female border collie. “She’s too much for the owner to handle,” Linda wrote. “If someone doesn’t take her she’ll be dropped off to a shelter in the morning.”
Normally, I would have asked more questions, spoken to the owner, and gotten more details before taking in a dog, but it was a busy time. Besides, how hard could a nine-month-old pup be to handle after all? I said I’d take her.
I think she said, “I’m Gretchen. Nice to meet you,” but who could tell while this blur of black and white jumped to and fro like a tiny little dancer?
“Get off!” Gretchen shouted, and pulled on the lead to get the dog away from me.
“Don’t worry about her exuberance,” I laughed. “Just let her say hello.” I bent down, and the little pup threw her front legs over my shoulders and offered me an unending supply of kisses. “You’re a wild child,” I said to the dog that by now had my ears good and clean. I glanced up towards Gretchen. “What’s her name?”
“Scout, just like a Girl Scout.”
“So, your name is Scout,” I said, all the while mauled by hugs and kisses and trying to reign in my emotions. It’s just a bizarre coincidence, I told myself, nothing more. I was trying to hide my tears when I realized Gretchen was wearing a look of overwhelming despair. My grief over the loss of my own beloved Scout was unimportant at this juncture. I had to give Gretchen support and reassurance,
I stood up and leaned over the counter to retrieve a box of tissues. “She’ll be OK, my family and I’ll take good care of her,” I said as reassuringly as humanly possible. I have five border collies, I’m sure she’ll fit right in.”
Gretchen pulled a tissue from the box to wipe away her tears.
“Let’s take a walk outside. Tell me about Scout,” I said. I wanted to evaluate how Scout would react to another dog, so I opened my office door and invited my border collie Mirk to join us. He trotted around her. He and Scout had one brief meet and greet. As soon as Scout raised her lip, Mirk, unimpressed, simply walked away.
“I work full time now,” Gretchen explained as we walked outside. “She needs more exercise than I can give her. I contacted the breeders, but they wouldn’t take her back. I tried leaving her at doggie daycare, but that still wasn’t enough. I’ve taken her to obedience classes where she learned basic commands. She’s spayed, she’s current on vaccines, and she has a tattoo.”
“A tattoo,” I was surprised. “I haven’t seen a tattoo on a dog in years. Most people now have their dogs’ microchipped.”
We made our way to Gretchen’s car. I could tell that Scout was nervous; she knew something was happening. Gretchen opened the back door of her car and pulled out an envelope. “Here are Scout’s medical records.” She handed me bag of food, some toys and a blanket that she pulled from a crate. “She must have this blanket to sleep with. She won’t relax if you don’t.”
“I understand. I’ll be sure that she has the blanket,” I promised. Everything suggested that Gretchen and Scout had a perfectly normal and pleasant life together. I couldn’t see why the situation wasn’t working out, especially given the doggie daycare option. I was about to ask what she meant by “doggie daycare still wasn’t enough” when Gretchen went on.
“I did give her to another woman,” she said. “It didn’t work out. Scout chased her cat.”
“Border collies will do that,” I chuckled.
“I’d like to give her a couple of treats before I leave,” Gretchen said, as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a few biscuits. It was clear she loved Scout very much, and it was a puzzlement and a shame it wasn’t working out.
Mirk heard the word “treat” and made his way over to us.
“Can Mirk have a treat as well?”
“Sure,” I said. “Just ask him for a sit.”
Gretchen asked both Mirk and Scout to sit, and they both sat politely in front of her. She offered the first treat to Scout, which she took readily. As Gretchen reached to give Mirk a treat, Scout lunged and grabbed Mirk! I grabbed Scout’s leash, pulled her away, and ordered Mirk to get back. Scout let go, and Mirk backed away.
Gretchen again gave me that look of despair.
“Don’t worry,” I said. Maybe this was the behavior that was too much for Gretchen and too much for doggie daycare, but it wasn’t too much for me. “Scout’s nervous,” I said, shaking it off. “She was just resource-guarding the treat. I’ll work on that behavior, and she’ll learn to share.”
Still visibly rattled, Gretchen bent down to say goodbye to Scout. Now she was crying. “You’re a good girl,” she whispered as she buried her face into Scout’s neck. Scout started to dance back and forth again, undoubtedly nervous. Gretchen stood up and handed me the leash.
I took the leash and offered Gretchen a hug. “She’ll be fine, I promise. We’ll keep in touch.”
Nodding and hiding her tears, Gretchen turned, ducked into her vehicle, and, blinking back tears, started to drive away. Scout pulled on the lead in an attempt to get back to Gretchen. Gretchen noticed, and the tears spilled as she approached the roadway and drove off.
“C’mon, Scout,” I said, wincing to say the painfully familiar name. “You’re a good girl. It’ll be all right.”