I've always loved dogs. I blame it on books, because I really had little to no interaction with dogs until I was in my teens.
But I grew up reading books by Jim Kjelgaard and Albert Payson Terhune, and I dreamed of someday having an Irish Setter of my own, just like Big Red...or a Collie like Lad of Sunnybank.
When I was probably around 13 years old, my parents let me get a puppy from the shelter. I named her Jewel, but called her Jewlie. She was a Husky/German Shepherd mix. Sadly, fictional books don't really prepare one for training a high energy puppy, and I returned Jewlie to the shelter within a couple months because she had begun to grow aggressive. Looking back on it, I think that her aggression was probably due to boredom - we did take her on long daily walks, but I don't recall interacting much with her beyond that. I still feel sad when I think of what a poor start I gave that little dog, but I've come to see the experience as a lesson - namely, that I need to have some idea of what I'm getting myself into when I take charge of an animal's life!
I still wanted a dog. Each of us kids was allotted a half hour of internet time a day back then, and if I recall correctly, I spent a lot of that time sighing dreamily over the available dogs in an Irish Setter rescue group.
I think I was fourteen when I got into contact with a rescue coordinator in Maine who had three available dogs - an older male and female, and a male who was only 3 years old...perfect. Dad and Mom graciously allowed me to give dog ownership another try.
This time it clicked.
He came with the name "Wrinkles," and he weighed around 100 pounds - and he wasn't chubby! He was a huge, goofy dog who produced long strings of drool and would steal food off the countertops...but I loved him.
I still didn't know much about training, but his easygoing, bumbling manner worked out okay in our family, and we did all right for four years. He had a few behavior problems, but nothing I couldn't handle...the only problem was that I was the only one who really could handle those problems - and the time came for me to go to college.
I didn't mind having a 100-pound dog that pulled on the leash - it gave me great biceps! - but it would be too dangerous for my Mom to walk him with her bad knees.
I didn't mind giving Wrinkles a bath and clipping the fluffy fur on his back - but no one else wanted to do that job.
I didn't mind taking Wrinkles on walks in the woods and letting him run off leash - but I hated to dump that responsibility onto my young siblings.
So, with a heavy heart, I contacted the rescue organization that had placed Wrinkles with me and told them that I believed it was in everyone's best interest to find him a new home that could give him the time and attention he deserved.
I don't feel guilty about rehoming Wrinkles - I believe that it was God's will, because all the details fell into place wonderfully. For example, there was a lady in our area - with whom I was acquainted - who was looking for an Irish Setter. She had another Setter to be Wrinkles' friend, she had long experience with the breed, and she had a fenced-in back yard. She had the time and money to take good care of Wrinkles and really give him the wonderful senior years that he deserved.
So I didn't feel guilty...but I do admit to feeling more than a bit empty inside when Wrinkles climbed willingly into the back seat of Nancy's SUV and I watched the vehicle drive away.
That was over ten years ago.
I still live at home (working on that!!), and the deal was no more dogs until I had my own place...but then this past summer I talked to Dad and Mom (and other family members still at home) and told them that I'd found an amazing breed...smart...great with kids...loyal...eager to learn - the Old Time Scotch Collie. These were the kinds of dogs Albert Payson Terhune wrote about!
And guess what?
There was a breeder just a few hours away with a litter of puppies!
The end result of that conversation: on September 17, 2016, this little furball came into my life.
And wow, I am so glad I didn't get this puppy when I was younger! As I've worked with Thane, I've needed every bit (and more!!) of canine experience and knowledge that I've accumulated the past fifteen years.
Actually, when I started this post, I intended for it to be all about Thane, but I think I'll save his story for another post.
We'll let this post stand as it is, a memorial to a long-ago puppy who I hope went on to be a great dog despite my shortcomings, and to a Big, Goofy, Red Dog who was my friend.