20090506 Introducing: Charlie!

Between work, play, plans, school, clinical rotation, guiding, studying, Eureka, Lake Tahoe, Bishop, Bend, Seattle, climbing, skiing, running, training, writing, moving, traveling, and standing still, Patsy and I decided we didn't have enough to do.  So we went to San Leandro (just south of Oakland, California), and met Charlie.

Getting a second dog has been a consideration since last fall, when we thought Montana might have played with a friend.  But then he became ill, and we realized that any new dog would need to be excercised more than Montana could keep up with, and jealousy would immediately ensue.  So we put those thoughts on the back burner.

Then February came, and we moved up to the Lake, lost friends and family, and Montana passed away.

While we had stopped seriously considering getting another dog, it didn't stop us from looking.  Kind of like reading the personal adds more for the curiousity than any real intent of replacing your significant other.  Except Patsy found an Australian cattle dog rescue group, and a dog there she was interested in.  She called me up a few days later, pissed that the lady - Jen - refused her.  Jen didn't think that the dog Patsy was interested in would be a good fit for us, and Patsy doesn't like being told no.

But for the next two weeks Jen would send Patsy photos and links of dogs she thought would be a good fit.  Nothing really caught our attention until...

Patsy forwarded this, and a couple other, photos with the comment, "What do you think?  Oh my god Chris - do you think this could be him?"  Several phone calls and email conversations with Jen had warmed Patsy considerably, and we made plans to meet Charlie.  But just to meet.  Right.

So last Wednesday we piled into Patsy's Subaru and took the crow's line down Hwy 101 to the Bay and San Leandro.  Jen greated us warmly, had us sit on the back porch, and the let Charlie out.  I have to admit - for me it was over because he came running out and immediately shoved his face into my lap.  We still spent another three hours there, taking Charlie out for a walk to see how he dealt in the world, getting his history, and signing all the paperwork.

Charlie's originally from the Modesto area.  He was a stray 4-month old puppy delived to the county animal shelter and adopted out for the past 2 1/2 years.  But the family returned him in April to the shelter, saying that he was escaping too much from the back yard.  The shelter farmed him out to the rescue group Cattle Dog Dreams, where we met him.

charlie wouldn't hang out in the water
until we waded in too

There's more to Charlie's history than this.  Despite being 3 years old everything seems new to him - masses of people, animals, stair cases.  He chases cats obsessvely but doesn't know what to do about the squirrels, ducks and turkeys he's encountered while trail running with me and Patsy.  He has a healing wound on his left rear leg that is similar to a scar already healed on his right - and he immediately sits and cringes whenever a leash gets tangled in his legs - leading us to suspect that he's been tangled up in a tied rope used to keep him from "escaping."  He definetely enjoys running but also can't decide to be in front, along-side, or behind - a sure sign that he's never been run before.  He also has an obsessive desire to charge through opening doors - any opening doors - and refuses to descend into basement.  He had never seen the ocean or possible even water deep enough to swim in until we took him to Mickey's beach on the 10th.

Oh yeah, we took him home that day.  Jen said she usually did a site visit first but was reassured by our lifestyle and repeated offer of references.  She's been in touch ever since too.

Assessment?  We believe Charlie had been locked up in a backyard, garage, and basement.  Anytime the door was opened was only to let him out or feed him, so he learned that the door was something to escape through.  He was never given any toys - evident by how he is completely unaware of what to do with the stuffed animals and balls we've shown him.  Since he evidently wasn't worked in any way - though he is a working breed who needs mental and physical excercise - he started excercising himself by figuring out how to get out of his enclosures.  Eventually his owners resorted to tieing him up, which led to the rope abrasions healed and healing on his hind legs.

Despite all the negative in the last paragraph, Charlie is amazingly well-adjusted.  He gets on well with other dogs, and is currently living with Patsy in a house in Arcata with three competition-trained Shelties, who are teaching him all sorts of things.  He quickly became attached to Patsy and I, refusing to leave the room - even following us into the bathroom.  He often looks up for a voice or hand for reassurance.  One of my favorites is his habit of leaning into my legs when we're standing still.

So our plan has been to take him everywhere - leaving him in the car when we can't - and keep coming back to him.  We're taking him for runs and to the beach - his first experience with waves was a riot!  He reportedly is half ACD and haf Husky, and he has a thick, dense coat - even on his belly where ACD's are nomally pretty bare. He's going to be an awesome snow dog next winter!

So, that's the deal.  We're suckers.  Almost daily we notice that he's not Montana - and we don't expect or want him to be or somehow replace Montana.  But having Charlie with us suddenly makes our life feel more normal, more complete.

Special thanks to Jen and Cattle Dog Dreams - their website is here.