Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rocky the Comeback Kid: It’s a God-Thing

This is a guest post by V.K. Whetham.
I remember the first day I met the small border collie like it was yesterday; some images just stick in your mind.  I picked him up from an animal shelter in a small, very rural town.  The entire shelter has ten kennels – and one of the runs is used as storage.
This little border collie was found by a sheriff’s deputy who undoubtedly saved him from death. The deputy had seen him several times on his patrols, clearly abandoned and becoming thinner by the day. Haunted by these sightings, the deputy searched for him on his day off.  After hours, he finally found the little guy and was able to coax him into a crate with pleas and food.    
The border collie was so thin every rib was visible. Dirty and shaved, he was every bit the picture of an orphaned waif. He was also terrified. It was quickly determined he wasn’t adoptable “as is,” and a search for a rescue began immediately. That’s how WyoHerd rescue and I got involved.
We have no idea how this little dog ended up all alone in rural Wyoming – far from any home, town or farm.  We don’t know why someone shaved him.  We don’t know if he fell off a truck or if he was a dump job.  Many people do dump dogs in rural areas knowing that some kind farmer will find their dog and give him/her a home.  People believe these dogs are better off dumped in the middle of nowhere than in a shelter where they could be euthanized.
People are mistaken. Dumped dogs more often than not end up dead from being hit by cars, starvation and disease. They are easy prey for predators. Sometimes they turn to hunting small farm animals or robbing rubbish bins to survive, and farmers shoot them.  Farmers don’t want strays mingling with their dogs because strays often carry disease and parasites, nor do they want their pets threatened or attacked by strays.   
We also didn’t know what this little dog’s name was – no tags, just a collar. I knelt down next to him and petted him. I whispered in his ear, “I’m naming you Rocky.  You’re going to be a great comeback story, just like that boxer Balboa.” Rocky peed on my sandals.
It took a few days to coax Rocky out of the crate and even more time before he didn’t run and hide when the doorbell rang. Rocky was fairly easy to housebreak, but marking was another problem.  He was only about a year old but had already started marking everything in sight – and when I say everything, I mean everything.  Once this behavior starts, it’s very hard to extinguish. 
Rocky had some things going for him that other rescues often don’t. He is a beautiful dog with remarkable markings. He is also an unusual color for a border collie – reddish/brown and white rather than black and white. At the time he was very young and small. He looks purebred, just smaller than most border collies. He was also in good health.
I didn’t have Rocky for very long when a couple called from out of state to adopt him. I talked to them twice on the phone, but I had some doubts. I told my rescue coordinator that I wasn’t sure about them. They claimed they wanted a “special needs” dog.  They said they were experienced with dogs and could tolerate the marking problem. Still, Rocky had a lot of needs; I was confident he would be a great dog but he his rehabilitation was going to take some time.  I wasn’t sure he was “ready.” They said they understood. They could handle it. And Rocky was adopted within two months.
This was in September, and by November a relationship I had been in for three years crumbled around me rather unexpectedly – well, unexpectedly for me anyway. It was a crushing blow. I was humiliated and horrified. The details are brutal. I ended up homeless, living with friends for a month until I could move back into my home I had rented out. I was paralyzed with grief for months.
In December, I received an email from the rescue coordinator. Rocky’s adopted family no longer wanted him. Turned out the marking behavior was more than they could handle, he began attacking their small poodle out of jealousy, he wasn’t very obedient, and the husband didn’t have the time to spend with him.  He was needy and demanded constant affection. Would I take Rocky until another home could be found for him? I emailed her back without hesitation. Rocky had a home; he just had to come home.  
So Rocky came home. He walked into the house without hesitation and folded himself into my arms. He hadn’t forgotten me either. My Mastiff, Lady, all 109 lbs. of her, jumped – okay stepped – from the couch onto the coffee table to get a better look at him, tail wagging, protruding butt wiggling. My Aussie sniffed him, snorted and, in her usual princess-like attitude, began to walk away. She didn’t get out of the living room before turning back. She licked his face. Even my princess, snobbish and particular about who she greets, couldn’t resist him. We were so happy; Rocky had come home. He really was the comeback kid!
Rocky didn’t demonstrate any of the problems he had at his first adopted home except for the marking, which has improved with time. He can be needy and demanding of affection, but with time and obedience this too has lessened. He still will occasionally mark when he’s upset or anxious.
Sometimes when people adopt special needs dogs they treat them like fragile figurines and don’t provide correction and obedience training. The problem with this is that dogs are pack animals and if guidance and corrections are not provided to anxious dogs, they become more anxious. They know they can’t be the leader of the pack and if their humans don’t provide the leadership, they become frightened, desperate and sometimes a bit bratty. 
Love, food, water and medical care are the bare minimums. Obedience, time and guidance allow dogs to feel safe.  It works the same for children.
Border collies are notoriously smart, and Rocky is no different. As I turn off the lights for bed, he rushes to the bedroom and curls up on the pillow next to mine. That’s his spot and no one is going to get it.  Also, he never lets me go to sleep without touching me. Sometimes it’s a paw on my shoulder or a tail across my legs, but always he is there. Remember Nick? Rocky became a bit jealous when Nick began to sit on the couch to be petted, so he would run to Nick’s bed and sit on it – staring at him. This made Nick nervous and Nick would go back to his bed so Rocky could have his spot back. This doesn’t work anymore because Nick doesn’t care if Rocky has his bed as long as he is sitting next to me, so Rocky lays on him now to get him to move.
Also like most Herd dogs, Rocky always has his eyes on me. He’s never underfoot but always near. He’s not a brave dog, so I suspect his plan is if danger approaches me, he’ll be there to show me a way to escape. Lady’s our muscle, and, at 109 lbs., she doesn’t run very fast – or ever. Rocky would probably convince her to guard our backs.     
Rocky’s return was salve to my open wounds. I realized when he returned things were going to get better, happiness would return and this too would pass. He offered renewed hope and optimism.   
I also saw it as a “God-Thing.” Some people say they don’t believe in God because they can’t see him. It’s hard to find something if you’re not looking for it. I don’t believe in coincidence. I don’t believe that Rocky came home by accident. I don’t believe he was found accidentally by a sheriff’s deputy or that he came home exactly when I was able to provide him with the care he needed. 
I believe something more was involved, something bigger. I believe he was a part of a bigger plan that was executed exactly in the manner it was meant to. I have no proof of this, of course. But how big is God? Certainly he’s big enough to save a little dog’s life and to bring him home when his family needed him the most. 
How big is God? So big that when I whispered in a little dog’s ear that he was going to be the Comeback Kid, God heard my promise and made sure it came true.  


V.K. will share Lady's story here soon!

Adopt one, until there are none.


Wilkins MacQueen said...

What a great story. I'm so glad Rocky came home to you.

I need to get a few of mine down and send them in. I'm working on how I turned one horse into a polka dotted wonder. Made my vet laugh/snort when he saw her.

I rescued three dogs by accident when it was 30 below. These dogs were fortunate I was able to find their owners and they were able to return home. All three were cases of critter sitters not taking care to close the yard gate. Three happy endings.

Karen said...

I love happy endings! And I believe in God-things, too (we call them God-incidences). Rocky is surely one of them!