Born To Run

I have always had a passion for rescuing animals, whether it’s taking in a homeless cat wandering a neighborhood or adopting a dog from a shelter. I adopted my first rescue (a cat) when I was 5, so that’s just what I’ve always been in support of. Oddly enough, my parents had dogs from breeders the entire time I lived at home with them, so this passion was completely my own. When we were living in Oregon when I was little, my parents bought a Golden Retriever; a great dog named Sampson. He had a wonderful temperament and loved people. The other Golden Retriever they had, who my parents named Dickens, was…how do I put it…a bit off. Sweet, but kind of a dumdum.

My parents had built a huge dog run in our backyard for the dogs to stay in while they were at work and we were at school. Sampson was really smart and had figured out how to open the latch, so we had to put a lock on it while we were away. As soon as we came home, we would undo the lock and start running across the yard, because Sam would open the latch and run out to race laps around us. Dickens wasn’t smart enough to figure that out, much less retain how to do any tricks we taught him. He was a sweet dog, but like I said, not the brightest.

As Dickens got older, he would start fights with Sam, so my parents built a divider fence in the dog run to keep them separated while we were away from home. That helped, but there will still times when we would have them out in the yard with us and Dickens would start a fight again. The fights always scared me because of the noise, but rarely were there actual injuries from it. But one time, Dickens went nuts, jumping at Sam’s face, and in his defense, Sam got him pretty good in the forehead.

Dickens spent a couple of days at the vet because as it turned out, Sampson had chomped down on his head in such a way that got Dickens in the jaw and fluid was building up in it. The only way to keep that fluid out of there was by implanting two pieces of surgical tubing on either side of his head to drain out. Dickens came home just as cheerful and clueless as he had always been, but he looked pretty scary to me. That’s when I got an idea.

Eight year old me decided something good was going to come out of this situation, so I came up with a plan to charge the neighborhood kids to “COME SEE THE DOG WITH HORNS” and make enough money to get a Slurpee for myself, and a special dog treat for Dickens. I charged everyone 50 cents and had a line at our front yard gate  to walk each person individually to the backyard dog run to see “THE DOG WITH HORNS.” It was a smashing success, and Dickens loved having all of the visitors. The kids were too afraid to get close to see that it was only surgical tubing, so no one questioned if they were actual horns. I earned $5.50 and was already making plans for which Slurpee flavors I would be mixing together later that day when my brother saw what I was doing, told my mom, and my mom made me give the money back. Darn.

We moved to California from Oregon when I was in 8th grade. The dogs, now much older, had stopped with the fighting. Dickens had started having seizures occasionally when I was in high school (we found out he had epilepsy) and was constantly getting out of the backyard during the night (no dog run at this new house). He always got picked up by animal control, and we would go get him. It started to feel like we were bailing a rebellious teenager out of jail. We would go to the dog run he was kept in to identify Dickens, who stood there, looking so proud of himself for the adventures he had just been on. The rebellion of Dickens hit an all-time high after I had moved out of my parents house. Dickens was escaping the yard every night because he had befriended a pack of coyotes. Yes. Coyotes. The coyotes would run through our neighborhood and stop by to pick up Dickens, who had been seen by our neighbors on multiple occasions, running down the streets with these coyotes. Dickens would show up at my parents front door the next morning, exhausted, but looking like he had the time of his life. He eventually stopped coming home because I’m pretty sure he found his outlaw gang family lifestyle more appealing.

Looking back on this, it makes me sad that my parents didn’t do more to protect their dog. Maybe that’s why I’m such a huge advocate for rescuing animals that need homes instead of buying from breeders. But the idea of this oddball dog living out his days with his new found rebel friends, telling them stories of the time he once had horns, as the coyotes gasp in admiration and lean in to hear more, still makes me laugh and at least provides some comfort to me.


9 thoughts on “Born To Run

  1. I raise a glass to Dickens and to my former pal Binkie who also joined a gang of outlaws in lieu of our home. I have had many wonderful pets over the years but a special place remains for Binkie who sprung himself when I was 8. Oh the stories these guys must have. With this wet substance creeping into my eyes, I look forward to seeing him someday…

  2. You always amaze me! That is such a wonderful remembrance! You do such good work for animals who would otherwise not have a chance. You make me very proud!

  3. Love the idea of Dickens running with the coyotes! My husband and I never had dogs growing up, so we’re making up for lost time! For some reason, it never occurred to us to buy from a breeder or pet store and all of our animals have been rescues. All mixes, but the best dogs and cats you could ever hope for!

  4. What a great set of memories to cherish! I’ve always had dogs in my life that I can remember fondly. From the not so bright ones that just make you laugh and laugh to the ones that just can’t get along with each other, even shattering a plate glass window to go at each other, with this dumb kid getting in between them and quite a few teeth puncture wounds through the hand for it! I still look at those scars fondly though, even 40 yrs later. I am now on my 3rd rescue dog, a Lab/Husky that sheds year round and I swear looks at every new vacuum cleaner we have to buy as a new personal challenge. I think the best dogs I have had have been the ones we have have rescued.

    Thanks for all you do Anne to support PHS. I always challenge anyone I meet to visit their local shelter, support them in any way they can.

  5. My parents had a deaf Australian cattle dog named Willie. When he got loose he would run directly toward the dog park. Because he was deaf and had his own big yard he didn’t go to the dog park. How did he know? My theory was that he was going to Starbucks that was beyond the park. When my parents would text me that he got out I would reply… “Free Willie!” I think one disability recognized another because he loved me so much and even though I was long out of the house, I called him mine. And his ashes are on my mantle.

  6. Reminds me of the house I recently moved out of and my lab/wolf mix Sandy. She was a rescue and whoever previously had her as a pup removed two of her teeth, had her fixed, poisoned her, then dumped her up the street from us. Took a month to get her recovered and after that we fell in love with her. We later moved closer to the lake, an even more rural area a few miles down the road, and we had a large enough yard we let her run loose while we played. She almost never left the yard. The land used to be a game trail, so we often saw deer and wolves nested with their cubs in the tall grass in our backyard (the sounds of cubs learning to howl was the best). After about 2yrs we saw the wolves more often and they’d meet with my dog at the edge of the yard and do this funny dance. They stayed far from most people, but the male (it was a mating pair: a male Timberwolf and a female arctic, the female liked my dog but was aloof to me) let me pet him and walked beside me for several weeks on our long walks down the road. It was amazing! Boy you should have seen the look on one of the neighbor’s faces when their pit mix joined in our play, they were horrified lol!

    Sadly the female was killed by some jackass poacher, and the male befriended a neighbor’s daughter who later adopted him (he rescued her. She was neglected and emotionally abused by her mom, and he, now named Tomahawk, was her savior. I think he helped heal the wholefamily)

  7. I have to tell you, I am not an animal person (we never had any pets growing up so I am just not used to being around them), but your story about rescuing Lucy and all of your “Pupdates” warm my heart. I’m glad you found your way toward rescuing animals, and am sure said animals are, too.

  8. Good morning! I was so saddened to hear of Riley. Pets are members of our family. When my brother passed away 8 years ago, we registered a star in his name with the International Star Registry to mark his place in the heavens. I’m sorry if this seems silly, but I registered a star in Riley Wheaton’s name with the International Star Registry. I hope it brings a smile to your face to know that when you glance up at the sky you’ll know his furry face is shining down on you. The registry comes with a certificate and star chart so you can locate the star in the sky. If you make it to Ottawa Comicon next month I can bring it to you there. If not I’d be happy to ship it somewhere. Anyway, sorry if it’s inapprorpiate. My deepest condolences for your loss and wish you all the best. Take care,
    Laura Harris.

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