The Story of Shelby

When I first stayed in Oregon it was to be in a moister climate to help my lungs when I came down with a devastating form of the flu that just wouldn\’t go away.  I\’d developed asthma from allergies to the desert scrub in the high desert area of California where I was living, which complicated things.  The asthma, compounded by that form of flu and the allergies, was so serious and prolonged that my doctor put me out on two month\’s disability.  Eventually I lost my job, and decided to move permanently to Oregon as the moist climate seemed to be helping my breathing problems.

A few months after settling here an adorable puppy showed up one day under the deck.  She was big, with huge paws, and seemed to be wanting attention and food.  I took her in and put out the word to the neighbors that a pup had turned up.  And cleaned her up and temporarily named her Tasha.  Those days are mostly a blur for me because I was so sick.  But that week that she stayed with me was the most memorable.  After a couple of really bad night\’s sleep I woke up one morning to discover that the puppy had jumped up on the bed during the night.  She was laying there curled up on my shoulder with her muzzled tucked into the hollow of my neck, breathing gently and making soothing noises.

When I turned my head to look at her she lifted her head and looked at me as if to say that she hoped her presence had helped to calm my dreadful coughing and breathing spasms.  And for the next several nights she continued to climb onto the bed and curled up chuffing softly as if trying to calm my disturbed sleep.  In just one week I became so attached to this gentle creature it was astounding.  Until the day that her real owners showed up to claim her.  And although I knew deep down that she must have caring owners who would show up sooner or later to claim her I was still devastated when the day came.

They lived only two acres away, and they tied her up so that she wouldn\’t roam back over here.  And it broke my heart to hear her whining for hours on end because, I thought, she really wanted to be here with me.  But surprise, her owners were only living here temporarily, he being in the military.  And they had gotten orders to relocate to Virginia.  As much as they wanted to take the puppy with them they just couldn\’t, and one day showed up, puppy in tow, to ask if I would give her a permanent home.  I couldn\’t believe my good luck even while it broke my heart to watch them say goodbye to her, the affection was so obvious between them.  And the only condition was that I let her keep the name they\’d given her:  Shelby.

Since that time Shelby and I have enjoyed and persevered through many adventures and mishaps.  And at nearly two years old she is a stunning creature.  I knew from the size of her paws she would be a big dog, but she is even bigger than I\’d imagined she would be.  She\’s so big now that her paws rest easily on my shoulders when she stands on her hind feet, and I\’m 5\’8\” tall.  And she has the most beautiful coloring, a thick long fur coat that is tri-colored with tan, brown and black markings.  She has one blue eye and one brown which made her vet decide she is an Aussie cross with possibly a Malamute or wolf due to other physical characteristics.

And she still has the sweetest temperament.  I remember one time when she got sick and wandered off during some rain storms.  This area is too big to fence in especially due to the forest we live in, and she had taken to joining other dogs in the area for romps during their early morning rounds.  One day they wandered down to the river and she had apparently eaten some Salmon that had been tossed up on the river banks during the spring thaw which had caused the rivers to become swollen with rapids.  She came down with Salmonella, and was very sick and had wandered off to die as dogs sometimes do.

I was frantic and drove around the area for a couple of days in that heavy rain trying to find her, suspecting what had happened.  All the other dogs were still hanging about but she had disappeared.  Finally I decided to put an ad in the local newspaper about my missing dog, and got into the car to head into town to place the ad.  And on the way spotted a lane that I\’d not checked out.  Something told me to turn down there, and sure enough there she was, soaking wet and disoriented.  How I managed to get her huge body into the car is still a mystery, and we headed directly for the vet\’s office.

For five days she was in intensive care, so sick and wasted from the Salmonella poisoning was she.  And each day they were kind enough to let me visit her, just sitting on a little stool next to her kennel, talking gibberish as soothingly as she had chuffed to me when I was so very ill.  But she is a fighter and survivor, like me, and eventually she pulled through.  And the day that she was finally released to come home was one of the most joyous for us both.  We sat together on the couch, her making sweet little doggie noises and nuzzling my hands, and I cooing silly human noises to let her know how very glad I was to have her back.

Since then so many of the \’neighborhood pack\’ have been struck and killed on a dangerous stretch of the road out at the end of our lane that I\’ve had to rig up a tether for her under the covered area of my deck to encourage her to stay closer to home.  But two or three times a day I let her off to stretch her legs, and she is a joy to watch, ears flapping and tongue wagging as she zooms here and there in and out of the majestic Douglas Fir trees.  And we have a routine now.  When I go off in the car she really hates being left behind.  So anytime I notice that she\’s wandered off too far I go out to the car and call out asking if she wants to go for a ride.  She inevitably comes racing over, tail wagging, and hops in the back seat.  And I drive us out to the end of the lane and turn around and come back, then either hook her back up to her tether or bring her inside.  And she quite happily settles down for a nap.

As big as she is with such a dense fur coat Shelby often gets too warm indoors and at night prefers to sleep on the floor most of the time where there are cool drafts wafting.  But on those nights when I\’m having a bad night\’s sleep or trouble breathing she still comes up onto the bed, curls up next to me, and tucks her muzzle in at the crook of my neck, and chuffs soothingly to me.  And those are the times when I seem to sleep more peacefully and restfully.

Shelby has taught me that dogs are not just pets.  They can be the truest of companions and friends.

Update I:

That story was posted nearly five years ago, and Shelby was nearly five at that time.  Since then we\’ve moved to the upper peninsula of Michigan, where she has a resident furry friend, Miss Kitty, an elderly barn cat who now lives indoors with us since she\’s going blind;  and, of course, my loving human companion, Bob, who adores Shelby.

Shelby has remained my truest companion and friend, and is in her element here with 5 wonderful acres to romp around, and unfortunately over 100 more of fields and woods fraught with dangers in wolves, coyotes and bears, plus deer, raccoons, chipmunks and squirrels everywhere she\’d love to chase.  It was a move/match made in heaven for us both, and we couldn\’t be happier.

Update II:

Shelby turned 11 this past December, 2008, and as happens with older dogs she\’s developed serious medical issues, such as hypothyroidism and hypoglycemia, which between them caused her to go through a brief phase of seizures.  Thankfully it wasn\’t epilepsy, and the medications are working and have returned her to her near normal weight and energy levels, although as an old dog she does sleep a lot more.

But her disposition hasn\’t changed in the least, and if anything she\’s even more sweet and loving, and is quite a character at times.  Even when her arthritis is bothering her she will suddenly go into a mad dog act and run in circles outside like a crazy dog!  And she\’s a true \”greeter\”, and gregarious to a fault.  No \”guard dog\” here!  Newcomers or friends or neighbors or relatives all get warm and enthusiastic greetings regardless.  Everyone just loves her as well.  And I\’m afraid we\’ve spoiled her in the past few years, though.  The pet industry has come out with so many new and cool and fun toys for dogs that she actually has a toy box overflowing with toys, especially ones that make funky noises.  A friend who dogsits for us when we have to be gone on long days laughed one day and said that our place looks like a doggy day care center!  Hehe!

Kitt from MI