Misty The Shepherd

By Jerry D. Haight

It was a dark stormy night with rain falling in torrents, each drop reverberating on the metal roof of the garage where over thirty beings were housed, each solitarily confined in their own cell. At least the rain was a welcomed change from the otherwise noiseless confinement where only the shallow breathing of the other prisoners broke the pervasive silence. Try as she might, she just could not get her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Only her sense of smell confirmed she was alive and not alone. For more than a year she was able to discern the smell of each of her companions who she met during the very short twenty minutes daily exercise period.

Most of her nights were spent in dreamless sleep. This night she was restless with a plethora of disconnected thoughts and images. She knew that over the course of the past year new prisoners came, mostly very young, and many left, to where . . ., she was uncertain. She remembered the last time somebody left, the jailer took the prisoner from his cell and she heard voices she didn’t recognize, the sound of rarely heard laughter and then nothing, the prisoner vanished. A flood of ideas came over her as she made the connection that most of the time when the jailer took a prisoner from a cell, the scenario repeated itself. It was true, no one had been in the prison longer and she had heard hundreds come and go. The few times she had been away from her prison she was on a leash in the presence of large crowds. It was there someone would probe her private parts, part her lips to examine her teeth, feel her ribs, hold her tail and would say something like “very elegant bitch, but just too shy for the ring”. She would feel a violent tug on her leash and would soon find herself back in her prison. As she continued in her thoughts, she realized there was a huge hole in beung, something was terribly amiss and she felt a longing for something, but she had no point of reference to explain it. In the midst of her musings, a bolt of lightning struck close by followed by thundering applause. Like the epiphany outside, Misty had one inside as realizing she had to make a change in her life and find what was missing.

Six months before that dark stormy night, it was a very dark day in our family when it became necessary to put an end to the suffering of Collin, our nine year old Shetland Sheep Dog, better known as a Sheltie. Collin was born into our family and was, in every respect an integral part of it. Although hurting deeply at the loss of Collin, we decided to wait at least a year before considering another canine. I have no recollection as to how I found myself looking at the want-ads, in the pet section, and my eyes drawn to the small ad about a one year old sheltie. I found myself dialing the number given,my interest, of course, just casual.  The party on the other end was Richard Calvin, a breeder of shelties. He told about his exploits in the show ring and the dogs he showed and extolled the virtues of their one year old sheltie and how they had waited for her to mature in hopes to show her. They said she was house broken,  well socialized and described her as sable & white with a blaze of white on her forehead. I then thought it might be interesting just to visit Misty, just curious and well, maybe a little more than casual.  Strangely, Richard wanted to bring Misty to the our house ostensibly to screen us,  but later we found them a puppy mill and reluctant to bring visitors to their place to see their deplorable conditions.

After a thorough inspection of our entire house Misty decided the time had come to leave the Calvins and start her new life. Our decision to adopt Misty would have to wait until the next day so Misty and the Calvins left with Misty standing up in the rear window and  audibly crying all the way back to her cell.  


When Misty moved in, she was like a blank slate except for the scars of confinement, sensory deprivation and trepidation. The fact she so thoroughly investigated our house in spite of her innate fear is a credit to both her curiosity and determination, traits that continue to amaze us as we watch her overcome the baggage of her past.  Most recently, we found ourselves surrounded by a flock of fifteen or twenty ducks next to a pond.  We expected to see our intimidated  Misty at the end of her leash trying to leave. This was what happened when Misty encountered a small flock of quail. But not this time. Instead, she crouched to the ground, watched the ducks intently while trying to sort through conflicting emotions. Part of her wanted to escape. Another part, something primordial, demanded her to herd those ducks to the pond where they belonged. She stood up and slowly walked toward the flock and lay down in front of them. We couldn’t tell whether Misty or the ducks were the most bewildered.  Then, like that dark and stormy night, another realization came when she knew, deep down, she was a shepherd. Rising with a proud and determined look, she marched those ducks to the pond where they belonged. She was so proud of herself and we were ever so amazed, but even more so a few days later, It happened when Misty was off leash and encountered a Texas sized duck with an attitude. Misty wanted that duck in the pond too. The duck wanted no part of her and began wildly thrashing its wings at the audacious canine who thought she was going to herd it. I figured her fight/flight instinct would lean heavily on the flight side and a chase scene was about to happen. But to my total shock, she walked slowly to a point about six feet from the duck and just sat down. Making eye contact with the duck, in her own way, she told the duck when it was through with it’s tantrum, it was going into the pond, and it did. Misty had reached another milestone, and we were both very proud..