We all have our reasons for doing things. Perhaps a driving resource would be a gift of love, or an event that alters our lives and forces us to change directions. Whatever that reason may be, we make our lives better when we hoist the sails and go forward. My name is Fred, my wife’s name is Kathy, and we are from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This is a tribute to the one thing in our lives that had such a momentous effect that it stopped us in our tracks, gave Life its meaning, and changed our world.
If you can guess, my next door neighbor was 86 years old, and the one thing that should never happen to a fine lady of years of late, is for her children to decide that the very thing she would need to make her life more fulfilling would be a companion to keep her company…. of course!! …. a Border Collie!!
Soooo,,,, Dottie was to become part of our lives, there,.. across the chain-link fence,.. there,.. over there…. For two years, my wife and I would call her, feed her goodies, toss the ball, and just generally love her from beyond, and her,.. over there,.. not being our dog. A sadness would result one day when our wonderful neighbor was diagnosed with liver cancer and given just a short time to live. We were grateful when she asked us to take Dottie in as our own, “Would you please take Dottie in as your special pet?” she asked…. Before I could really say anything, I heard, “We would be glad to have her..!” from Kathy, and that was that! The little two year old would be ours,.. so begins the trek that would forever transform our lives. Each day was new, each day began a blessing,,, our first dog… we had been married for 17 years, no children, and now this, this wonderful gift had happened to us….
Do I tell of the time Dottie would suck down one of my white sport socks before we could get to her and tell “NO!”,,, or do I dare say that I asked the veterinarian for the sock back, in that it was part of a pair that I so desperately needed.. Do I tell of the time Dottie would suck down a bar of soap ( Ivory), and foam from both ends for two days… yes, our Border Collie was quite rambunctious,, just showing us that she was here, and was going to show us how much we deserved to have her.
We would have Dottie for 6 more years, then one night while letting her out for the usual 10:00pm break before bedtime, she became disoriented and fell down in the yard. I ran out, picked her up and brought her into the house. I immediately called the Louisiana State University veterinarian emergency line, scheduled a visit, and jetted off to the veterinarian that was on call that evening. Luck would have it that our very own vet would be the on-call doctor that long night. Dottie was diagnosed with AIHA, Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia, (not two weeks before she had a clean bill of health), and this sudden tragedy would take Dottie from us in two days,, then nothing…. My wife and I crashed,.. our most beautiful puppy died.
You could say that time heals the heart, maybe.. I hear the echo of my wife crying for months on end, I find myself staring out of our living room window, over to Dottie’s small grave wondering where we had gone wrong, where was our best friend… what to do, what to do….?
Some folks would call me a genius, I would not accept that. First of all, my wife and home had an emptiness that would not go away. Second, I had lost a most valued treasure, and I was not going to loose my wife to something we could not control.
“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” We do our best of what we know, we make a difference because we can, we cannot change the forces that Life brings us, we are all the same…….
I work in Information Services for a national chemical company so it was a natural that I would turn to the Internet searching for That Dog…which Dog??.. That Dog!!!… a Border Collie, yea!! You know!! B-o-r-d-e-r C-o-l-l-i-e…. We have all had one, no other replacement, no other dog like it. It is no secret that once you have partnered with this breed, you will never be satisfied with any other.
My first inclination was to comb over the Louisiana area for breeders with puppy’s for sale. Little did I know of the vastness of such a task, it was daunting, so much information began passing that my attempts at a small research project became an intense intellectual journey of the mind. This Border Collie thing was more than I could have ever imagined. Then, there it was, in full view, and interesting concept that I had not perceived… Border Collie Rescue sites… Available dogs waiting for homes all over this great nation.
I began formulating a strategy (unknown to my wife) of what dog’s were available within a reasonable range (up to 400 miles) from Baton Rouge. I would find several Rescue sites with desired dogs, print the pictures and take them home to show the wife. This was to warm her up to the idea of a new companion. I should mention that she did not want to do this, or have any desire for another pet. I would not have any of this, so, I quietly disguised a vacation as a “wandering with the wind” kinda vacation and mapped out a one week road trip that would take us through the state of Mississippi, to the East side of Alabama, then North-West Alabama, and last, Memphis, Tennessee. I really believe that Kathy had already figured out what I was up too. The goal would be to visit the various Rescue sites, discus the available dogs, go to the next Rescue site, and so on. When finished, we would return to the Rescue site that had the dog we wanted.
I must say, that it did indeed take one week to do this trip, we drove deliberately slow, deliberately down every back road (no Interstate Highway’s) to every Border Collie Rescue site in all three States. It was fun, we saw the beautiful countryside of the back roads, we had great conversations, we lodged where our hearts desired, and we looked at many dogs. Should I say, many wonderful Border Collies.
Our trek would end in Memphis, Tennessee. Georgia Rucker at West Tennessee Border Collie Rescue was our contact and Coordinator for Rescue operations in Memphis. In three days time, we visited with some of the finest folks whom had given their time as foster families for Rescued Border Collies. We were seeing first hand at the value of a volunteer community of “friends” that give the gift of life to our most gracious companions. These folks deserve the finest that God has to offer, and I cannot thank them enough for what they do, and the influence they have had over Kathy’s and my life, as well as the lives of many others.
Thank you, Georgia Rucker, Bonnie Skover, Victoria Burns (Summer and “our” Scarlett), Edith and John Taylor (Jasmine), Jeff and Judy Baxter (Sasha).
“ready, set, geaux!”
Kathy and I had spent 3 days in Memphis looking at some wonderful dogs, but we had not found exactly what we were looking for. Actually, we had almost given up when Georgia called late on the last day, and told us that there was “one more dog that we had to see”. We were on the outer skirts of Memphis, and the home that housed our potential new friend, was in downtown Memphis. We had held off on “touristing” this part of Memphis because we were so intent on our mission, but folks, have I told you how beautiful Memphis is? Please try it, you will like it! Anyway, back to the “tail” of the story.
Victoria was the team member we were to see. She, like many of the “friends” was so wonderful. Victoria was surely a dog lover, we could see all kinds of fun stuff that any Border Collie would be fond of on the side of her yard. We were invited in to Victoria’s home with open arms and a warm welcome. Then she showed us “her dogs”. There, among them was a small black and white 2 year old whom had just had recent surgery. This was the one last choice for us, and we were totally enamored by her. Our most desired choice for a Border Collie was a female with rough coat, and she fit just perfect. Curiosity got the best of her, and she was open and friendly, although you could tell that the surgery had slowed her down a bit. I sat on the floor because I wanted to see what she would do around a stranger, and believe it or not, she just came right up to me, layed beside me, placed her head under my arm and on my lap and stayed right there. It was as if she knew that this was a good thing about to happen, she had found two candidates to share her love. Not waiting a moment for any thought, I asked Victoria if we could have her. Kathy, wide eyed and surprised had no words. Indeed, with the specific arrangements and guidelines of the Border Collie Rescue association, she would be ours within 12 hours.
Victoria had all of the paper work, and medicines that Hattie would need to finish her post surgery regiment. And, this is important, that Victoria was an excellent knowledge base for animal care. After accepting the responsibility of taking Hattie as our own, even to this day, Victoria is my first call for her views on health issues that Kathy and I may not understand. We always get a positive response and willingness to help. The support of the Tennessee Border Collie Rescue is a lifetime commitment for these good folks, and it is a lifetime commitment to the new owners as well. Above all, you could not get the benefits that are offered by this resource. We are thankful of the endeavor we took to go this route for finding a new Border Collie.
The Road Home:
Following our rule of travel, to never be in a hurry, smell the roses, enjoy each others presence, we took Highway 61 South from Memphis to Baton Rouge. For those of you whom have not experienced this great highway through the Mississippi Delta regions, I suggest this as a superior choice for travel.
On this drive, Kathy and I officially named our new found friend to Hattie, her original name was Scarlett, but, we wanted to give her a name we had selected as a testament to the memory of this trip. Hattie was very quiet on the way down, most in part to the recovery she was having from her surgery. We stopped quite often in order to let her romp around and get use to us calling her and touching her. I honestly believe she did not know what to think of all the attention.
Once home, here in Baton Rouge, she made an amazing adjustment. This dog was ours forever and she just knew it. Two days afterwards, we woke up in the morning to find her in the middle of our bed between the two of us, feet up in the air… goodness gracious! She was in heaven….
Hattie is extremely responsive to training, alert and always wanting to satisfy. Someone, (thank you, Victoria?) had her house trained and crate trained. A real jewel, she stands at the door when it is time to go and even gives the occasional bark to get our attention. Hattie has become quite ball oriented, she had found an old ball under our couch that we had forgotten about, and made it hers. Her natural instincts just come in to play when you work with her on commands and tasks. Never, have we had a dog with such intelligence. No matter how hard we worked with Dottie we could not get her to perform like we wanted her to. But, with Hattie, give her five minutes training, and it is with her forever.
“Hello, and welcome to my new home….” Hattie Olivia Lang
It has been one year now that we have had Hattie. We had traveled over 1600 miles, visited many places, and you, Victoria and Georgia, made our lives whole once again.
We truly believe that our first Border Collie Dottie led us to your doors. Hattie’s personality parallels Dottie so much that it is unbelievable, but, of course, she is all Hattie! When I come home from work, the Sun shines… when Kathy is out in the yard planting beautiful “things”, Hattie is there to help. Folks, this is the greatest feeling except for this one thing… “the light that is back in my Kathy’s eyes”…. Immeasurable..
I cannot commend the West Tennessee Border Collie Rescue organization enough. We all need to support this cause and the wonderful work these folks do.
– Frederick from Baton Rouge, LA