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Thursday, June 12 2014

     I saw a little face on my Facebook feed yesterday that gave me pause. It was a little blue heeler dog, bright eyes shining, hoping to be adopted. I get lots and lots of pictures of homeless dogs on my feed. I try to share most of them in hopes that a pair of hopeful eyes will connect with someone who can help. Some of them stay on my mind, others don't. This little dog stayed on my mind because of this little dog:

     He was my first blue heeler, and he is crazier than a bed bug so I swore he would be my last blue heeler. I've changed my mind though. Don't get me wrong, he's still crazier than a bed bug, but now his good points outshine his . . . eccentricities.

     When I got him, I didn't want another dog. I didn't need one, I had three perfectly good dogs of my own, but I was dating Other Half and he used to raise these crazy little dogs, so when he announced that a friend of his had a litter and he'd like to pick up another cow dog, I thought,

"Oh cute, he's getting a puppy."

Wrong. First of all, it was not cute. He didn't have time or space for another dog. Second, it was not a puppy, it was a wild animal. There were several pups in the pen, Other Half chit-chatted with his buddy, peeked over the fence, pointed out a victim, and said,

"I'll take THAT ONE."

I was aghast. That is NOT how one chooses a family member for the next twelve years. No puppy testing. No interaction at all. That's not even how you choose a working dog.

But that's how he did it.

     His friend leaned over the fence, grabbed the little fellow by the front leg and hoisted him over. As soon as his little feet touched the ground, the pup was gone. He spent the next hour peering at us from behind corners. Eventually, he was captured and he rode back in my lap. He was shaking like a leaf and convinced that we had kidnapped him. I had serious doubts about the dog and Other Half's ability to care for the little beast. At the time Other Half had a patrol dog and a crazy hunting dog. His yard was not fenced, so both bounced between outside kennels and inside crates. That was no kind of place for a psychotic puppy. Thus I agreed to take the little beast home with me, to my fenced-in quiet farm at the end of a dead-end street. The agreement was that I would housetrain him and get him started until he was old enough to move back in with Other Half. On paper he belonged to Other Half, but no one explained that to the little blue dog.

     At first the dog was convinced that I was his evil kidnapper, but in time, the Stockholm Syndrome took effect and he began to identify with his captors. Actually, just me. No one else. Just me. I tried to get him to glom (Is that a real word? Well, I'll be darned. According to Webster's so it is!) to Other Half, but the little conehead would have none of it. Ranger was super-sensitive and Other Half's loud voice and short temper were more than he could handle. He needed calm consistency. So he stayed with me. But I still insisted that he belonged to Other Half. Because quite frankly, I would NEVER have picked out a dog like that. The dog was a nut job. (And still is.)

      But in time I began to see his attributes. Despite the fact that he is convinced the world is out to get him, he is fiercely loyal and will stay with me through thick and thin. He is deeply empathetic and makes the very best nurse maid you could find. Ranger is good with all things small and helpless: puppies, babies, lambs, sick calves, sick humans. Ranger is a regular canine Florence Nightingale.

    Over time I saw that Ranger bloomed under patient consistency. I continued to call him Other Half's dog, because even though I was fond of the little warped creature, I still wasn't ready to publicly acknowledge that this mistake of breeding belonged to me. Until... until one day Other Half was joking around and mentioned selling the dog.

Do what?

Do WHAT?! He reckoned some other rancher would give him $50 for Ranger as a cow dog. Sell Ranger!?  Since he'd sold the crazy hunting dog to a narcotics trainer for $500, and I knew he had no emotional attachment to Ranger, as ludicrous as the idea was, I was putting a stop to it immediately. 

Ranger would simply implode if he was sold. I stormed off and came back with the money to purchase Ranger. Other Half laughed at me and explained that he was just joking. He pointed out that no rancher in his right mind would pay $50 for Ranger. But I was insistent. NO! I demanded ownership of the crazy little conehead who was so deeply devoted to me. I would not have his fate in anyone else's hands. So Other Half gave me the dog. I surely didn't need another dog, but the little dog needed me. He had already come so far. He trusted me. In the end, the joke was on Other Half, because he married me and ended up with the dog anyway. 

     Over the years I've really come to appreciate the warped mind of that little blue dog. I finally see what people see in these weird little dogs. Ranger is loyal to a fault. He cannot be bribed with food or a scratch behind the ears. As I've told Other Half many times when Ranger has seen right through his impatient falsetto voice,

"Ranger knows what's in your heart."

So while his voice speaks nice words, Ranger knows when Other Half is angry and impatient with him. Sensitive dogs like Ranger cannot be fooled, and they cannot be rushed. But they can bloom. Ranger has bloomed into the perfect little ranch dog.

     Oh, he doesn't work cows as well as the Border Collies, but he's that dog that I take out in the dark with me. Because he already believes the world is trying to kill him, Ranger is least likely to be bitten by snake, gored by a wild hog, sprayed by a skunk, or attacked by a raccoon. And yet, because he is so loyal, he would never fail to come to my aid if I was threatened. He is my little blue buddy.

     So remember Ranger's story the next time you are peeking through the bars at a little face that needs to be adopted. Everyone wants the bold one. Everyone wants the cute one. Everyone wants the happy puppy. The dog that shrinks to the back of the kennel is ignored. He is probably not the boldest, but it doesn't mean that little terrified face cannot become your best of friends.

    Think about it.  As I look back over Ranger's time with me I realize this warped little dog has taught me more about life and love than most of my 'temperment tested perfectly selected" dogs. With time, patience, and consistency, your next best friend may be hiding in the back of kennel, or peeking through the bars, fearful, yet hopeful, that someone will give him a chance. 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:49 am   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
So true. I have a psychotic BC mix. Immediately after I brought her home from the pound I thought - what have I done?! She was so skittish - I thought I would never be able to trust her off leash. It took a long time and she still has her faults, but she has come a long ways and I love her, especially when she cuddles up to me in the mornings. Right now she is lying on the floor next to me, on her back with four feet in the air.. what a goof.
Posted by Pam Morrill on 06/13/2014 - 11:11 PM
Exactly, Pam! For the first part of Ranger's life I didn't CARE if Ranger ran away, now I cannot imagine living without the little guy. He's my little blue buddy.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 06/14/2014 - 06:15 PM
i have a little freak dog that i call psycho bitch. that use to be in a not so good way, but now it is said with affection. my husband would get rid of her in a heartbeat but she is here for the duration.
Posted by kris (lower case) on 06/18/2014 - 11:33 PM
I completely understand! Other Half would have given Ranger away a long time ago if I he thought he could, but I made it clear that he selected the little psycho so he had to live with the dog for the next twelve or more years.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 06/19/2014 - 05:52 PM
I've got a red cattle dog through a rescue situation. She is JUST like you describe Ranger. The world IS out to get them don't ya know. She also has very set ideas of what is right and allowed. Kids playing is allowed but only with adult supervision. However swings are not allowed at all! People should not fly in the air, its just not right! But She's taken on raccoons and coyotes to keep me and safe, I now cant' imagine ever living without one.
Posted by Nicole on 06/24/2014 - 03:32 PM
Oooh! I love the red ones!
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 06/24/2014 - 07:57 PM

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