“If you love something let it go free. If it doesn’t come back, you never had it. If it comes back, love it forever.” Doug Horton
This is a story that has been written in my mind for some time. Today is as good a day as any to excise it. Perhaps it is the below zero weather..or guilt..or Jen telling me that our Grand-dog Elvis hates a leash..
December 2006…The phone rang, it was Megan, a dog trainer that we had used with Chance. She had a friend who was in a pickle, she was fostering a Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) and needed someone to take over for her because she was pregnant. The dogs name was Ringo and he apparently was one of those Summer throw away dogs that the "summer people" get for their kids just for the summer and then leave behind. His Foster Mom said he was sweet and lovable, she had no problems with him, he got along with her other dogs quite well, she was sure that he would get along well with Chance. Two neutered males..no problem. I made arrangement to pick him up on January 02, 2007. Our initial meeting went well, he seemed to like me..so it was a go..I loaded him in the car and brought him home with me.
I brought him into the house, he and Chance hit it off quite well, tails wagging, and chase me games were played. Ringo ate some food and drank some water. I went to take them outdoors, I had the leash in my hand..I like a dummy just opened the door..and let them outside. As soon as Ringo hit the outside world..he ran..and ran..then he took off down the driveway…. Far Guy and I tried to catch him, and I got within three feet of him..but he was too quick. We enlisted neighborhood help in looking for him. Jen and Andy came and walked the woods at night, Jen even found another stray dog that eventually was reunited with his owner. Chance and I and Far Guy walked the woods for days, there wasn’t much snow that year…we tried to track him…eventually we discovered where he was and contacted the land owner for permission to walk his property. We found where he had been sleeping in a hole made in the ground by an uprooted tree, we saw him on several occasions..we found dog poop and pee..so I knew he was eating something and obviously getting enough water out of the snow. He was living on one section of land and feeding there on old deer carcasses. I had his previous Foster Mom come out one afternoon with her dogs in hopes that he would respond to her voice or his old friends being in the vicinity. No luck.. I was so upset by this turn of events, I did not know what I was going to do, beside eventually burying a starved dog..that I was responsible for. I cried buckets of tears over this dog, just the mention of his name would make me bawl. How could I have been such an idiot..first to say that I would take the dog and second that I would open the door and let him out without a leash..stupid ..just plain stupid.
Ringo ran out of deer meat or perhaps it was the fresh blood of a newly butchered hog that drove him to visit Jo (West Side of Straight) and her husbands farm. Hooch lives there too, Ringo was sighted mornings and evenings coming and going. We tried unsuccessfully to capture him..he was just too fast and too wild to be caught. Jo called me one day and she said "That dog is going to die, we have to do something ELSE." Then she called later and said "I borrowed a live trap, lets see if we can trap him." The first few days we baited with dog food and caught Hooch a couple of times. Hooch kind of liked the live trap. We did not want to leave the live trap set over night..because it was so cold..way below zero. If we caught Ringo early in the night, he could be froze to death by morning. So we made arrangements to bait the trap at night, I finally used some venison sausage..we set it and would go back at 11o’clock to disarm it for the night. When we went back Far Guy said "Why, I’ll be ..we got him." We loaded the live trap in the car and took him home trap and all..we carted the trap in the house and let him out. He was thin..I checked his paws and his ears..it was January 18, 2007. He had survived sixteen days out on his own. He had some sore paws..but they healed up nicely..he was hungry..very hungry. We only fed him a little at a time..but lots of feedings. He was only allowed outside on a leash, he and Chance became best friends.
This is the only photo that I can find..January 18, 2007 after we rescued him from the live trap.
Ringo settled in with us really nicely, he didn’t like to ride in the car..so we worked on that. His kennel was under my desk..if the door was going to be opened he was put in the kennel. I hung a note on the door that said "DO NOT LET RINGO OUT"…everyone cooperated..Far Guy and I inadvertently let him out twice..both times my heart was in my throat..luckily I had taught him the sit command by then…he obeyed my command and he was scooped up with a huge sigh of relief. I was getting more attached to Ringo by the day, he cuddled with me on the couch..he was the lap dog that Chance was not. He laid at my feet when I was at the computer…he followed me everywhere. We tried to socialize him the best we could..he was skittish with other people..he was going to be a shy one person Sheltie. I talked with the Humane Society..he was after all technically still their dog..I was still just fostering. I thought maybe since I lost him once, they would want him back..but no they thought it was okay that I keep him until he was adopted. I thought that they might want to have him checked by a Vet after his 16 days in the wild..but they didn’t.
Chance was like a big brother…they played tug games and ran around the house like chickens with their heads cut off..running circles..banking off of the couch. I did what some people would call a big no no. I felt so sorry for Ringo being on the leash all the time outdoors..I tethered him to Chance. Then I would take them both for a walk. Chance outweighed Ringo by about 45 pounds..if I wanted them to stop I just hollered sit. Trees were our biggest obstacle..one dog going one way around..and the other going a different way. Chance loved his new job..Ringo loved a little freedom. We also let him run around inside the Greenhouses..he was food driven..so a treat could be used to capture him. He was afraid of loud noises, and all vehicles. If a vehicle came down our driveway while I was walking him..he would refuse to go potty. If a vehicle came into our yard..he freaked out. He didn’t like men.. but he learned to love Far Guy. Obviously this puppy had a bunch of issues. I think he was about one year old.
I really didn’t know what to do. Could I possibly manage another dog? Two dogs and a business that needed me sixteen hours a day from March to July. Then we got a phone call..our daughter was moving from Nebraska to Minnesota and needed a place to live for awhile, along with her husband, three daughters, two dogs and a cat. What was a quiet existence was in our past, we now had girls to get off to school, huge dinners to cook, and a zoo full of animals to care for. The girls loved Ringo..they helped me to keep an eye on him, no one opened the outside door with out standing there first hollering "Who has Ringo?"
I finally took some darling photographs of him (they were lost in one of the computer crashes.) I took the photos into the Humane Society and I made up some posters. He was adopted by one of our long time customers. We visited him during the summer..he still remembered Chance and the girls. It was very hard for me to give him up, I felt better that he was happy and loved in his new home, he was getting the attention that he needed to be a really good dog. I kept track of him. Then the months wore on..then a year..he was fine. I felt like a bad person calling to check up on him all the time. So I let it go.
Sometimes you can let go..but you still wonder. I wondered half the summer and I left a couple of messages..but my phone calls were never returned. Then in September2009 I ran into Ringo’s Grandma..she saw me and immediately looked down after she smiled and gave me a hug..I knew he was gone. Somethings can be conveyed without words…she did confirm my worst thoughts..Emmy moved into a new house, Ringo was confused and ran into the road one day and was hit by a car. I was so sad. I am still sad. I wish I could have made the life of this little dog better for longer..if wishes were ..:)
“If wishes were fishes we’d all be throwing nets. If wishes were horses we’d all ride.” Doug Horton