My younger daughter thought it was the saddest thing when she learned at forty-five I had never owned a dog of my own. Nevertheless, I told her when she asked if we could volunteer at the local animal shelter that volunteering did not mean we would take anything home – we already had one faux dog (hers) and two cats.
I am excellent at ignoring the hand that has written on the wall, at arm wrestling fate to a dead loss. She was the second dog I saw, less than ten minutes after we arrived. She was in an outside pen, running laps. I said to the director, that if I were to have a dog (not that I would), it would be a dog just like her. The director looked at me like I had lost my mind. Sunflower, she said, was the most obnoxious, hyperactive dog of the seventy they had.
I am almost embarrassed to say, not that that dog came home with me because everyone knows how the story ends, but that she came home after five months of thrice weekly visits. I think Sunflower knew where home would be after the first few visits, just as she knew within a week of coming home which shoes were made for walking. Ultimately, I think she brought me home and not the other way round.
When I first got her, she was afraid of hats and men and belt buckles. She was afraid of most other dogs and most people. I was told by vets and dog trainers that she would turn on me and would have to be destroyed by the time she was two. She was a year old by the time she came home. One of the first things I learned was that a herding dog needs a job to do. Well, you always start with name, sit, lie down, come. We would go for a walk and she was afraid of everything – kids yelling, lawn mowers, other dogs barking, so, I would tell her to sit and she would be reassured because that was something she could do. Sit down, look around, think about it, go on. And so our walks went. Then I learned how to get her to come by running away from her. What a metaphor for, well, just about everything in life.
Three months after I got her, we demonstrated her level of dangerousness to my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. She shook their hands, crawled on command, turned in clockwise and counter clockwise circles and of course, heeled and sat up and begged for cookies. She is so dangerous today that my younger daughter has just adopted a mixed breed herding dog of her own. Against my advice, she picked the most hyperactive and difficult pup in the bunch. Two days and he already knows his name. Yes, I am a proud grandma. Just wait until I have human grandchildren.