We took a long trip this weekend. A trip we could not begin to afford. It was to look at dogs.
We went to the Aftershock Kennels
. After a long tedious drive we arrived to doggie insanity. There were 30 to 40 of the dogs. It was a loud but delicate howling madness that made me smile.
We had to take the trip. We had to look at dogs. I've been miserable with constant pain in my chest that was worse than adolescent heartbreak. People kept trying to be kind but it never worked.
I've a friend who is a dog careerist - shelters, Animal Control, dog walking services and she said to me, "I've known hundreds, no, thousands of dogs and in my whole life I've never seen a dog so tightly bonded to anyone like Shelby was bonded to you. She lived her whole life for you."
But it misses the point that I loved her at least as much as others thought she loved me. I couldn't make Shelby do much of anything. She did things that would please herself and that would please us. We bickered a lot. She was smart and headstrong. But people are still stopping me on the street to tell me how wonderful Shelby was, they all wanted dogs as well trained as Shelby. They don't understand Shel and me.
For years to strangers I was the guy with "the big black dog". To which I could only respond, "You mean my little girl?" Shelby always seemed to know many more people than I did.
I've always heard how hard it is too train Belgian Sheepdogs. I've never had that problem or any of the scary issues that people describe. I think it was because they wanted an elegant show piece of a dog, one who compliments the wardrobe. (Don't smirk. Every breeder has a story about someone returning an adult dog because it clashed with the new decor.)
Belgians take advantage of anything - poor locks, ambivalent orders, weakness. Who really wouldn't? But, I think, that if you approach things as equals, as two living things who are sharing a space and that each of you has differing responsibilities and responsibilities to each other, things
seem to go fine. Just fine.
So in a car that needs 4 new tires; a car filled with 2 people and 2 dogs, all badly in search of a new home, we took off to the Aftershock Kennels. It was a mildly uneventful trip, filled mainly with my anxiety at the cost of gas and lodging and my constant barrage of thoughts about how stupid this trip was. No one and no thing could ever replace Shelby. I live with four dogs already. I have a wife who depends on me for somethings. Why did I feel the overwhelming need to fill the Belgian sized hole in my heart?
The next day we arrived at the kennel. It was rather glorious and strange.
The dogs were a fantasy. I have never seen so many gorgeous dogs all together in my life. Thy barked a great melange of warnings and welcomes.
It was a bright and sunny day. The closest I've seen of spring this year. The GPS sent us in the weird route over hilly dirt and gravel roads. I assumed we were hopelessly lost when we topped a hill and all you could see were fences and Belgian Terv's.
There was an electric gate. We watched it roll back as we sat in the car. We congratulated each other and the TomTom for finding the place. The first dog to come greet us was quiet and definitely not a Belgian. It was some sort of funny cross between a labrador and a corgi! It paddled up on its short legs and tried to lead the way to parking.
The lab-corgi was named Labby. She was a rescue that had been hit on the road. Labby showed no sign of the accident. It was funny seeing this squat bright black creature keeping the pack of Belgians in line! Funnier because Labby took her job so seriously. She easily climbed 5 foot gates and scampered around tending her herd of Belgian charges. The Belgians accepted her!
We spent four hours in the bright sun looking at Belgian Tervurens form 2 weeks old up to 15 years old. We were never offered a drink of water or a place to sit. It didn't much matter.
An 8 week old mail, bigger than the litter and the only one whose ears weren't fully erect yet, fell in love with my wife. He followed her around just like a puppy dog, through all the distractions and
play attacks he clung to her.
My wife claimed that it was because she was the only one of us to sit on the ground. While its true the other puppies and dogs took her low position as something to explore the big flop eared puppy was there before she sat and continued to follow her even when it came time for us to leave. He got stuck under the fence trying to get next to her. He took that good naturedly and was happy so long as he had my wife's attention. It was clumsy love, but it was love.
There were only two dogs that seemed potential to us. Not including the puppy. One was a two year old with a silver face and black veil and red body. She was supposed to be living in Japan as a
foundation dam but the owner fouled up the export/import paperwork so her she stayed. She was a very reserved girl, even for a Belgian. She was also very quiet and very tender. Her confirmation was impeccable and she had the sturdy bone structure with a fine elegance. She was loving without being pushy. A magnificent dog who wanted to be part of a pack that valued her and what she could bring. I thought she could do anything she dreamed of. Her name is Boudicca. Boudicca was a Celtic warrior queen. That appealed to my wife who doesn't know too many warrior queens but believes herself to be Celtic.
The other girl who caught our eye was called "The Beetle". She was beautiful and tender; mahogany red with a light black veil and deep deep eyes that carried Beetle's message that she craved to be held as a special being. Beetle had one issue she has some sort of neurological dysfunction, maybe a brain issue so she moves rather clumsily. She lived in a paddock with the primary sire of the kennel. He cared for her but never coddled her. Clearly he thought she was fine and could make do on her own. That meant a
We came home with no dogs except the two poodles we brought with us. I needed to think about it. I needed to assess the insanity of my plans. And I had to consider whether a Brown dog could ever fit into the space left by a black dog. And most importantly I had to consider whether I could give these two girls or that baby boy the love, attention they deserved and the finery and food and comforts they need.
My job might have finally ended! After several false stops it should be finally over. Unemployed due to the Supreme Court. Yow! Cool.