Part I. Thursday, December 10, 2020
We have adopted a new dog, and her name is Peasy (and we are arguing about which of us had the idea for the perfect name first.) We'll pick her up from the vet clinic in Thatcher, up in Graham County, where she will be taken this afternoon from the Graham County Animal Control facility, for shots and (if necessary) spaying. She is a very shy little Aussie-border collie mix, which is to say, Sarah’s breed hybrid with Nikki’s temperament, which is to say further, a pretty girl but “a dog with issues.”
Peasy was picked up as a stray in August and has been in the shelter since then (last night her last night “in prison,” as I think of it), so skittish that personnel were afraid (at least one guy was) to let anyone near her, for fear she might bite — which of course meant no one was ever going to adopt her, and the first time I saw her, which is to say got a brief glimpse of her, she immediately retreated and exited the door to the outside, repeating that escape maneuver several times. She wouldn’t come near the front of the cell. I squatted on the floor but sideways to her, making eye contact with and talking to only the dog in the next cell (a very friendly, sweet one who looked to be a recently nursing mother), but she was still not brave enough to approach.
In other words, “a dog with issues.” “You don’t need a dog with issues,” said Ron at the Double-R Ranch, shaking his head when I told him about her. “Thank you, Ron!” was the Artist’s response when I told him what Ron’s advice had been. David’s point of view then was that suitability for bookstore life should be the #1 priority. But I couldn’t get that little Aussie girl out of my mind. There since August!
Tuesday morning I looked online and saw a new dog’s photograph on the Willcox Animal Shelter Facebook page, called to ask if we could come see her, and we jumped into our clothes and sped to town. Well, she was little (6 lbs.) and cute (in a funny kind of way) but — not a dog I could see as our dog, although after David had picked her up and put her in my arms, I didn’t know how to “reject” her kindly and was near tears when finally David took her back and put her down again. Then I showed the woman in charge (Marlo, a wonderful woman with a huge heart) a photograph of our Sarah, and she assured me that the little Willcox dog I didn't want would find a good home (being little and female and young and spayed was highly in favor of her finding an adopting family quickly) and that it was perfectly fine for us (me) to keep looking to find the right dog. Sigh!
The Artist and I went for coffee and sat outdoors in the fresh air on the porch at the new coffee house in Willcox, talking. My heart was heavy. I wanted my Sarah back! Then David asked if I wanted to go up to Safford and look at the Aussie girl again, I said yes right away, and off we went.
The man with the cold manner from the week before was gone, and a different guy, a very nice, calm, friendly guy went back with me to see the little Aussie girl in her cell again. He, it turned out, had developed a relationship with her, giving her treats, and he had earned her trust, which showed me that she was not beyond redemption. For him, she not only came to the front of the cell but even licked his hand. After running outside a couple of times, she came back in and up to the front of the pen and licked my hand! Deal! David left the decision completely up to me, despite his skepticism about “a dog with issues,” so I filled out and signed the forms and gave my credit card number over the phone to the people at the vet clinic, and she was mine and had a new name, and we will pick her up from the clinic tomorrow and bring her back to the ghost town. What have I done? Am I out of my mind?
The Animal Control people thought she might be two or three years old. She has pretty coloring and brown eyes. Only a stub of a tail, sadly, not a pretty plume of a tail like Sarah, and she’s smaller, maybe 40 lbs. or less to Sarah’s 60. She is not Sarah, of course, and no dog ever will be. Sarah was “the gold standard” for us, as my neighbor Therese puts it. I didn’t even want to give this new one a “girl” name — no Sadie or Lucy or anything like Sarah. Peasy is a name that will make people smile, I think, and Peasy needs to learn to be loved and to love in return..
It’s only been three weeks and a day since Sarah died. I look at pictures of her and think, if I could have my own, old Sarah back instead of a new dog, I’d take Sarah without a moment’s hesitation. But that isn’t an option.
One good thing about taking on “a dog with issues” at this time, December 2020, is that I have all the time in the world to devote to working with her. We will be here for months, and with rising COVID numbers, staying home as much as possible is pretty much the plan of all my Arizona friends and neighbors. We are also relieved that the search for a dog is over, as it was so heartbreaking and discouraging that I can’t imagine how we would have survived had it gone on for months, hard as I was trying to act like a normal human being.
Part II. Friday, December 11
We brought Peasy home to the ghost town yesterday, and she was restless all night, pacing and exploring. I hardly slept but got up and came out to the reading corner so that David could sleep in the bedroom corner, which he appreciated. The dog shows absolutely NO sign of aggression, though, not even fear aggression. In fact, she can’t seem to get close enough to us. “Don’t stop petting me, please don’t stop petting me, and can I get up on the bed with you?” No, Peasy, you have to wait until you’ve had a bath, 2 weeks from now! There is no problem about making eye contact with her, either: she makes eye contact with us! She is skittish but not fearful. I had been envisioning days of a dog hiding under furniture while I sat on the floor at a distance, my back to her, treats on the floor beside me, waiting for the dog to get up the courage to approach. Did not have to go through anything like that!
There was a second big surprise this morning. I was feeling underneath her for stitches and encountered something very different. Peasy is a boy! Of course, s/he looks and acts just the same as yesterday, but we are thrown for a loop! We would never have adopted a boy dog (David is more disturbed than I am), but now, here he is!
Wasn’t there paperwork at Animal Control? Yes, but I’m the one who filled it out, and I thought the dog was female. I swear that’s what the guys said! Had they never gotten close to — the dog? What about the clinic where the dog was taken to be “spayed”? Well, any dog from AC is neutered, so maybe the women at the clinic thought I thought “spaying” was a term for both sexes. Didn’t I get paperwork from the clinic? No. The place was crowded, and Peasy was nervous, and I didn’t get a receipt or a rabies vaccination confirmation or anything. Called today and asked them to mail the paperwork — but called before my surprising discovery! Was I charged for a spaying? Time will tell!
This dog is amazingly good on a leash, though. She hardly needs one. — Oops! We can’t help mixing up pronouns, and we keep saying “Good girl!” and then correcting to “Good boy!” Anyway, on a leash, she – I mean, he is practically stuck to the back of my left knee — moves when I move, turns when I turn, stops when I stop. When he is eating (and he is wolfs down anything offered as if starving), I can pet him and even handle his muzzle with NO sign of aggression whatsoever. No snarling or growling or even the lifting of a lip.
He is a love bug, a snuggler. And it just looks so right, having a dog cleaning out the last of a near-empty sour cream or yogurt container. For three weeks I have hardly been able to handle little things like throwing away an empty yogurt container!
Part III. Sunday, December 13
Peasy had his first off-leash run. It was astonishing and breathtaking. That little boy can RUN!!! He is faster than Sarah, and Sarah was no snail, and he was so good about not going too far and about coming back when called that I let him run free two or three more times the same day. We went down into the wash, away from the highway, so that meant I got at least a few walks, too (though I did not run). I will be getting a lot more much-needed fresh air and exercise with Peasy as part of our household.
Also, now that we’ve seen him run, we’re pretty sure, despite the Aussie-like stub of a tail, that we’re dealing with a border collie! Border collie! Such a high-energy dog, and young and male to boot! I thought border collies were only black and white, but it seems they have as much color variation as Aussies, and this one, I conclude after an online search, is clearly a black tricolor. Oh. My. God.
Part IV. Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Some, though not all, of Peasy’s paperwork came in today’s mail. Not a receipt for care given (information I’m eager to have), only a certificate of rabies vaccination, and there is so much wrong information on it that it made my head spin: (1) His age, for instance, was listed as 0 months. Well, that is not right! Clearly, he has been born! In fact, it looks to me as if he has his adult teeth, which would make him at least seven months, but he is only just starting to lift a hind leg (sometimes) when he pees, so I don’t think he’s much over a year old, but I was hoping a vet would have a more educated guess than mine. (2) Sex checked is female! Hardly! (3) Under “predominant breed,” the form says only “MIX,” which is to say absolutely nothing. Peasy may well have a mixed heritage, but it sure looks like Aussie and border collie, with border (even we can see now) clearly predominant. (4) His name is on the form as “POUND,” because that’s where he came from, but on the form from Animal Control I had put “Peasy” down as his name. (5) The vaccine given can be checked as either an “initial dose” or “booster dose,” with an initial dose good only for a year, booster for three years. Well, the form says the next vaccination is due on 12/10/21, but “initial” rather than “booster” is checked, so which was it? (6) And here’s the weirdest one of all: under “predominant colors/markings,” someone put brown. It doesn’t take a veterinarian to look at a dog and see that it’s a black dog with white paws and some brown markings!
I called and talked to a receptionist, who confirmed that Peasy was castrated (therefore, male) and was given an “initial” vaccination (not “booster,” as the form indicates), good for one year. She corrected that information, and I had her further correct information to list him as a black tricolor border collie, about one year of age.
A neighbor has an old crate she hasn’t been using that will be plenty big enough for Peasy so that we can occasionally leave him alone in the cabin, which we wouldn’t dare otherwise, as he might decide to have my library for a snack. Or the Artist’s cowboy boots! Or – who knows? He is a darling little boy, very affectionate, very responsive and obedient, as long as he can figure out what it is we want him to do. If he’s annoying me with nonstop kisses, I just say “Go!” and he backs off. He comes right away to a call or a whistle. He doesn’t understand “Sit” or “Wait” (for dinner) yet, but we’ll get there.
As to his future in Michigan, I don’t know if he is cut out for bookstore life. Right now we're just taking one day at a time. And dreaming perhaps of sheep, although not the electric kind. Have you ever heard of Baxter Black, the cowboy poet? One of his pieces is called "Border Collie Soliloquy." My favorite line is "Makes coyotes cringe!" Peasy could do that, I'm sure, but it isn't the kind of thing that happens in a bookstore. To be continued.