You can’t buy loyalty, or so they say

But I bought it though, the other day;

You can’t buy friendship, tried and true,

Well, just the same, I bought that too.


I made my bid, and on the spot

Bought love and faith and a whole job lot

Of happiness, so all in all

The purchase price was pretty small.


I bought a single trusting heart,

That gave devotion from the start.

If you think these things are not for sale,

Buy a brown-eyed puppy with a wagging tail.

(Author Unknown)




MISTY

By Jerry D. Haight


Six months before we met her, we had put Colin to sleep. Collin was born to our third Sheltie, Jenny. He was one of eight siblings and, very much a joy to our family; sharing many adventures over a ten year period.  We attended Colin’s birth in our basement and with he and his siblings learned to give vaccinations and insert feeding tubes down their esophagus into their stomach. Colin et al were so aggressive when it came to feeding time they overwhelmed Jenny to the point she suffered from eclampsia, she needed our help.  


Our experience with shelties started when we adopted our first sheltie in 1978. From that point on we learned more and more about them through books, other sheltie owners, breeders, and veterinarians. We tried our hand at showing our shelties and then breeding them, both were interesting, engaging and just darned difficult.  There are lots of misconceptions about raising puppies. If anyone thinks raising puppies is easy or profitable, they just haven’t had the experience.  Starting with breeding fees, travel, veterinarian charges caring for the expectant mother, there are even more costs after the birth. There are more vet visits, dew claw removal, distemper shots, examinations for sheltie eye syndrome, special food supplement and as previously mentioned, a plethora of possible special issues. But, finally, after eight exhausting weeks with seven puppies, we were excited about the prospect of their leaving us for their new homes and, at the same time, heartbroken with the thought of how much we would to miss them. Puppies, especially shelties have a way of tugging mightily at your heart strings.


As our travels required, we boarded Colin several times with a kennel but the last time, unbeknown to us, the managers neglected their kennel residents for the weeks we left him.  On our return we were crushed to see him lifeless on the floor of his dog run suffering irreversible renal failure. Then, after some time, the words of our vet shook us to our very foundation. She said “ . . . it is terminal and his suffering will just continue to worsen.”  We took him home to love and say our good byes then returned to the vet.  As she injected the medicine, we held him with tears in our eyes as he slipped into our memories for ever.  “Never again, much too hard”, we said.


Along the route to my office, there was a small house with a single car garage. I noticed a tiny back yard where on occasion two dozen or so shelties romped and played. I judged the residents were probably operating a puppy mill. Most of the time, the back yard was empty suggesting the dogs probably spent a great deal of time in the garage but otherwise the “puppy mill” was just there; kind of like a junk yard, a disheveled heap, broken down shed or some other eyesore.  But, this “puppy mill” would come to affect our lives in ways we could never foresee.  


Misty


It was one of many dark stormy nights with rain falling in torrents, each drop reverberated on the metal roof of the small garage that housed the more than two dozen dogs. Each was solitarily confined in its own cell. At least the rain was a welcomed change from the otherwise noiseless confinement where only the shallow breathing of the other canines 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 her companions who she met, all too briefly during the very short twenty minute or so daily exercise period.


Most of her nights were spent in dreamless sleep. But, this night she was restless with a glut of disconnected thoughts and images passing randomly through her canine mind. She reasoned that over the course of the past year new inmates 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 her cell and she heard voices she didn’t recognize. There was the sound of laughter, a sound rarely heard, and then nothing, the prisoner just vanished never to be seen again.


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 than she and she noticed hundreds come and go during that past year. 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 sensing the anger of her jailers, would soon find herself back in her cell. As she continued in her thoughts, she realized there was a huge hole in her being, something was terribly amiss and she felt a longing for something, but had no point of reference to explain it. But in the midst of her musings, suddenly a bolt of lightning struck close by on that night and was followed almost immediately by thundering applause. Like the epiphany outside, Misty had one inside as she realized she had to make a change in her life and find what was missing.


In the meantime, while waiting for a client at a restaurant, I chanced to look at a copy of The Spokesman Review and just out of curiosity glanced at the “pets” section. The words “sable and white Sheltie available” leapt off the page.  The ad continued. “Show quality, one year old”, and gave a phone number.  “It wouldn’t hurt to just inquire”, I thought.  “But no,” I said remembering the promise. When after a mental back and forth, the ad ended up in my billfold anyway. Just enough to leave the door open just a crack, so to speak.


I found myself dialing the number. Of course, it was just casual and idle curiosity; certainly nothing serious. The party on the other end said he 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 named Maui.  He told 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. Phyllis and I thought it might be interesting just to visit Maui, just curious; well, maybe a little more than just casual. Strangely, Richard wanted to bring Misty to our house ostensibly to screen us. After all, he couldn’t sell his shelties to just any one, he said.


One evening, a few days later, the door rang. It was Richard and his wife Celia, a couple close to our age. They brought with them a sable and white Shetland Sheep dog on a leash.  We knew immediately she was shy because they had to tug at her leash to get her to come in. Then Richard, unhooked the dog they called Maui.  


Instantly, the dog became animated, speedily examined the entire house spending more time on our water bed.  As she returned, to the living room, she looked as if she just had “an aha” moment. I knew Maui decided the time had come to leave the Calvin’s and start her new life.  I swear she gave a look to Richard and Celia that said her good byes in no uncertain terms. In her mind, she had found it; her new home.  Phyllis wasn’t quite so sure and we wanted to think it over as there would be details to work out so we agreed to meet with them the next day.


The meeting took place in a very small house with a single car garage and small back yard. We could hear the sound of many shelties coming from the garage and soon, Maui sped into the house and came directly to me. She knew I belonged to her now and Phyllis was just part of the package.  The reason Richard wanted to bring Maui to our house became obvious. It was their reluctant to bring visitors to their place to see the deplorable conditions.


During the negotiations, they told us on the way home the previous evening Maui stood up on the back seat, looked out the rear window of the car and cried all the way back. Later, knowing Misty, that behavior was totally consistent.


Maui did not like her name and neither did we so we changed her name to Misty.  She was, as described, sable and white. She came equipped with a broad white collar, a white blaze across her forehead, brown ears that tipped forward on a wedge shaped head that parallels her muzzle in perfect conformity with the AKC standard.  She had beautiful clear brown almond shaped eyes that she could use to communicate very effectively.  Her "breeders", if one could call them that, kept her while deciding whether or not to enter her in the show ring; a rather dumb thought because her exceptionally timid personality had proven a severe handicap from any success in the competitive ring.


Some have asked, “How could you buy a dog from a puppy mill”. Our answer is simply, she didn’t know where she came from and it certainly didn’t matter to us. We simply fell in love with her.

And, as it turned out, she was, indeed, a rescue dog.


When Misty moved in, she was like a blank slate except for the emotional scars of confinement and sensory deprivation. 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 continued to amaze us as we watched her overcome the baggage of her past.


The main floor part of our house was at street level but our back yard was at the level of our walk out basement.  From the deck, was a flight of open stairs which were nemeses to Misty.  She trembled at the mere sight of them.   Since, we were not going to spend our life carrying her up and down the malevolent steps we had to find a better solution; which we did. Strangely, her leash became the answer as when attached, it turned out to be a mantle of courage.  With her leash attached, she gained confidence and soon conquered the steps as she would do so with many obstacles to come.  



GARAGE SALE

Sometime about a week after we brought Misty home we had a garage sale. All of the items for sale were either put on tables around our garage or otherwise positioned for viewing.  Most of the items for sale had a sticker indicated our asking price. It took quite some time that morning to set up for the sale and Misty remained on her leash in our garage for her protection since we didn’t know if she might become frightened and try to run away.  We should have known, however because once Shelties are bonded, they are home bodies and rarely stray far from home.  But, this was a new experience for both Misty and us so we elected to be conservative in our approach.  After the work of setting up was done, we waited at the “cashiers table” for customers, which didn’t take long. The sale was successful and many objects flew out of our garage.


Sometime during the sale, I looked down at Misty. She was lying on the floor next to me trembling. “Why was she quivering”, I questioned. Was it the people traffic or something else? As I studied her, her eyes met mine. They shifted from the objects in the garage and the people milling around. Then it dawned on me.  She was horrified that she was to be sold too.  


This was a new experience for me since all our shelties had come to us as puppies. Older dogs often come from troubling circumstances just like children and their security is threatened. Often times they will act out in various and sundry ways. Maybe it will show up as aggression and then again, it may show up has fright. Since shelties are typically so non aggressive, their reaction will be the latter.


Putting my hands on her face and pointed her muzzle into my face, I made direct eye contact with her.  I told her she was not for sale and reminded her she was our dog and we her people. As if by magic, she immediately stopped trembling and fell into a trusting and contented sleep.


In our experience, many canines refuse to initiate eye contact and become agitated to some degree or other when a person makes eye contact with them. Shelties seem to have none of these issues and Misty would frequently initiate it. It was one way she was sure she had our attention when she had something to say. An example, “Do you know what time it is”. This was just a short cut for “Look at the clock, it is 7:30 and it is cookie time”.   We had many of those conversations and there was seldom any doubt in our minds what was on hers.


    

TREPIDATION

While walking with Misty on her leash, she would freak at fire hydrants, bicycles, wagons left by kids, many types of motor vehicles but especially those painted black or other very dark colors. She was also shy about meeting other people, especially adults and frantic in crowds. But she always seemed ok with other dogs.  Phyllis and I could readily identify that part of her problem being the year spent inside her cage with little opportunity to stimulate her mind.


TEACH ME TO DANCE

In part it was because of her trepidation we joined a Canine beginning obedience class. I had lots of experience training dogs but this was more than that; it was to enhance her social experiences. At the class were lots of dogs, people, noise, activities and distractions. All those things to prepare her for life.   


Misty excelled in the class and soon we had graduated and continued on to more advanced classes. It was during one of the classes that I sensed Misty trying to tell me something.  Either I just was not “getting” it or what I was getting was too farfetched for me to comprehend.  But she was asking me to teach her to dance.  Finally, I said to her, “let’s dance” and motioned her to stand up on her back legs. Then I gave her a little assistance and very soon we danced.  This activity was clearly initiated by her and had long term repercussions until her body parts became inhibited by weight and age.


I have often been asked, “What do you mean when you say things like ‘she said’ or ‘she told me’” Of course the physical capacity to speak intelligibly is beyond the physical canine attributes. But like with close friends, much can pass through eye contact and the context of what is going on. Perception and well-honed intuition plays a most important role in nonverbal communication. Pets are most often better at this than pet owners, maybe because they are less distracted or more attuned.  


Training shelties is a lot like that “teach me to dance” experience. It involves communication and confidence. The dog wants to learn and to please and thus gain confidence.  They also like to have fun and enjoy the experience. For example, when we were “on parade”, a fast paced walk with a class of dogs, all at heal position; I would look down at her and swear she was grinning from ear to ear as she looked up at me. She absolutely loved the experience.


With our first sheltie, Princes, I attempted to get her to sit on command. After several attempts, I became frustrated and swatted her with a newspaper. I told her she was a bad dog.  That was not a good thing to do. She told me to sit, which I did. Then with her eyes making contact with mine, she proceeded to teach me about shelties. In effect, she told me she was not to be swatted with a newspaper or any other object. She continued telling me nothing in life would ever fulfill her more than to be pleasing to me, and, at the same time, nothing would destroy her more than punishment by object or by words uttered in anger.  With her eyes still glued to mine, she said she loved me unconditionally and nothing in her life was as important to her as I. She then proceeded to convinced me dogs are not deaf so one need not shout and they do not respond to swearing. It was a very quick and long lasting lesson, never to be forgotten.   


Obedience training should never be militaristic like basic training but rather a building of trust and mutual communication.   Life with Misty (or any canine) is replete with unplanned encounters, fearful events and even potentially dangerous situations. These might include heavy auto or pedestrian traffic like the time we exited our motorhome one night under dim sodium vapor lights right next to a huge eighteen wheeler with its engine running at full blast at a truck stop, or when we encountered people packed like sardines on a sidewalk at DIA pulling luggage, pushing carts, carrying back packs and none looking down at a small sheltie walking with her master. But often such chance encounters include noisy machines, barriers, unplanned happenstances with people or animals and, who knows what else. Only her trust would see her through. She learned to respond to basic commands like sit, stay, down, heal, walk and, let’s go. She would respond to voice, hand signals and even eye contact.  For my part, I had the confidence when I told her “stay misty” I knew she would grow moss before she would move from the spot. She on the other hand knew I would never, no not ever forget her.


AGILITY

After graduating from the advanced Obedience Classes, Misty had grown in her socialization but still had a long way to go. Fear of things continued to beleaguer her so we decided to join an agility class. Our first experience was daunting. Not only was there a field of dogs of all sizes, many off leash but also strange new equipment we would use. There were “A” frames, bridges, weave polls, tunnels, jumps, tires and other obstacles. The goal, of course, was focused on the dog’s ability to navigate through the course as quickly as possible. Our goal was just to get through it without being afraid.


It was during the agility classes a consistent pattern emerged as I hoped. Each piece of apparatus would elicit near panic for Misty but her curiosity always prevailed. As an example, her first encounter was the tire she was supposed to jump through. We didn’t make it the first day but when we got home, we knew she was thinking about the experience. Sometime during the week between classes, she came to terms, so to speak, with the tire. During the next class she passed right through it and this pattern continued for the duration of the class. The tunnels were a little more complicated but when we cut through a box at home to create a tunnel effect, our grandson Reid played with Misty and her fear of tunnels vanished.  Each time she achieved an obstacle; she would look at me, wag her tail and seemed to say “I really did good didn’t I” and indeed she did.   


FAMILY PORTRAIT

Often canines will bond with just one person. Misty, however, was a family person and while I was her “alpha”, she would cooperate with Phyllis as well. If the toenails were to be cut, Phyllis would ask Misty to lie down and she would quickly roll over exposing her nails. The same thing occurred with brushing and other grooming activities. At the groomers, she was always compliant. Even when being examined at the vet’s office, and with her privates being invaded, she cooperated fully; never snapping or biting.


She insisted that she was part of the family in all respects. Like the time all our family was posing for a group photo. We were not taking Misty into consideration so she took the initiative and walked to the front of the group, turned around sat and faced the camera. After all, she was family too. This happened far too often to be considered coincidental.


MOTORHOME

Phyllis and I like traveling and have taken several cruises to Alaska, Mexico, The Caribbean, and South and Central America. Just after Misty came to us, we took a short cruise that had already been planned. We had a friend stay with her while we were gone. It was not a good time for Misty because she suffered severe separation anxiety. She would stop eating, become listless and her little eyes would grow dim. She just stopped thriving.  That and our sad experience with Collin dictated that we definitely had to include her in our travel plans, but how?


The how began innocently enough the same year Misty joined our family. It was October of that year when an Itasca 38J crossed my path. It was shown by a dealer at a shopping mall in the micro city of Liberty Lake WA. That it was loaded with equipment could not be denied, but that it would ever be a part of my life could. Our paths separated without further thought. But a week later, I had a casual conversation with our pastor’s wife.  She asked if I had been at the mall last week. Our conversation then drifted to that very motor home that was the most wonderful she had ever seen.  I learned from her that she and pastor were extremely avid campers and had many RV’s over lots of years. It was then the 38J acquired status in my mind. Then she made a fateful comment when she said to tell my wife Phyllis, we are supposed to buy that motor home.


The ensuing weeks focused on the fact that both Phyllis and I planned to retire the next year. We determined our travel goals would be confined to the continental USA because of Misty.  Our son in Rhode Island would retire from the Navy in July and, yes, it would be very nice to host our kids in their neck of the woods (especially our grandson Nick).  But, we also have a history purchasing RVs (nothing of this magnitude) that spent solitary lives only to be sold later still in virgin condition.

Our search began casually as we began learning the meaning of terms like motorhome, fifth wheel, travel trailer, class A, diesel pusher, rig, galley, grade brakes, and etc. Early on, it became clear that choices and tradeoffs are more prevalent among RVs than in any decision matrix I had ever come across. We gravitated toward motorhomes over other types of RVs because of the greater mobility at our destination, we chose a class A because of the amount of time we felt we would be living in it.

We chose the floor plan because of Misty. Somewhere in this process it became apparent that the search was more than casual. I really cannot say just when it happened. But by January Phyllis had finally seen a 38J for the first time along with its sister, the 38R. I knew we were hooked when Phyllis noticed that there was more space in the bedroom area for Misty in the 38R than the other and the die was cast. We placed an order for delivery in April.

It would be great to say the day we took delivery was exciting, but frightening would be far more realistic. My first glimpse of our new motorhome happened on entering the detail shop where it was being prepped. The resemblance to a space ship was remarkable with all the spotlights and workmen wearing white overalls. From ground level, looking up into the living quarters, it was enormous. My first thought was “Jerry just what in world were you thinking”? Phyllis’s first thought was “let’s go home NOW!”  At that moment that motorhome was huge. My second thought was of me, an acrophobic, driving that thing over Lookout Pass or Fourth of July Summit in a snowstorm.  

After replacing our mouths which had bottomed out near the floor we regained our composure and preceded with the blur of activities including ‘orientation’, paper signing, resisting all the irresistible offers of additions we should not be without and then it was just the four of us. Phyllis, Misty, me and the Itasca 38R.  Did we really buy a forty foot motorhome for our pet, Misty?  We have been accused of just that. It will just have to be left for the reader to decide.

I began to appreciate the thought and engineering that went into our motorhome when in deed we climbed to the top of Fourth of July summit (no snowstorm) and started down. I learned about the “grade brake system” and as we started down I took special note of where the emergency truck ramps were. But at about45 miles per hour, I tapped the brake pedal and our motorhome held the speed steady and I didn’t even need the emergency truck ramps. Then, I knew the motorhome was really ours, Phyllis, Misty and me. We were off to an adventure of a lifetime.

The walkthrough instructor at the dealer suggested we do shake downs before a long trip and while we did spend several nights in our motorhome, our shakedown cruise commenced July 10 and was scheduled for a nearly 6000 miles round trip to Connecticut and Rhode Island.

We were careful to take advantage of rest stops to allow Misty relief but nights were often another matter. It seems her early years left her with stress related colitis. Things like thunder, fireworks and sometimes situations unknown to us would give her diarrhea. So, in the middle of those nights, Misty would wake us up and tell us “I got to go . . . bad.” The context was that it was in the middle of the night, Misty was at our bedside, very antsy. Intuition told us she was “crossing her legs”, so to speak. Like fireman, we jumped into our clothing while she was shouting “hurry, hurry, hurry”. Then it was out the door, down the stairs, to the dog run and relief. In six years of motorhome travel she never had an accident inside the motorhome. We were ever so proud of her.


When the ignition key turned in the motorhome, Misty materialized in the “shotgun” seat. She would make eye contact with Phyllis, look at her then at the couch, and settle in for the duration. Phyllis would then have to move Misty, sit down and spend her day with Misty on her lap. This ritual continued until we sold the motorhome six years later.


TEXAS SQUIREL  

During a stay at KOA in San Antonio we found ourselves in a walnut grove. It was the time of year when the trees were full of walnuts and, of course, squirrels. As it happened, there was a happy little creek that passed through the campground. Along the creek was an iron pipe two tiered guard rail to prevent unplanned water experiences. Well, for several days the bushy tailed rodents teased Misty into chasing them. Both she and they thought it was great sport. They would manage to keep our canine just barely out of reach of their tail until at the last minute when up the tree went the squirrel leaving the frustrated dog on the ground looking up. It was at that point Misty looked at me dejectedly and asked, “Can you teach me to climb trees?”

  

Later, two of the conniving critters conspired to put Misty in the creek. One sat on the rail and the other got her to chase it. Their plot was having the firsts draw Misty to the second and then the second would use Misty’s momentum to place her in the water. I am very sure this scenario was well rehearsed and often successful. I can only surmise the howls of laughter in the trees over the day’s events when they included a hapless wet canine.


As the current event unfolded, Misty was at full gallop nose to tail with the first squirrel as they were nearing the creek.  I noticed what was about to unfold and told misty “Stop.” She really didn’t want to and started to argue. “Grandpa” she might have said, “You don’t understand”. “Yes I do and you need to stop right now”, I said. Fortunately for both of us, Misty stopped. Then we had a conversation. “Misty, do you know what those squirrels just about did to you?”, I said, and then explained. Misty, so innocent, had her first experience with treachery.   


TEXAS DUCK

 One day near Savannah Georgia 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 and 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 Misty’s 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 its tantrum, it was going into the pond, and it did. Misty had reached another milestone, and we were both very proud of her and she with herself.


RABITS IN KIMBALL – SOIUX FALLS - CARLSBAD

It seems throughout our travels other four legged creatures became an integral part of our adventures, especially rabbits. To us, a rabbit was just a rabbit. But to Misty, a rabbit was somebody to have an adventure with. From the perspective of a rabbit, some dogs were a danger, but they seemed to see the encounter with Misty as something fun.


In Kimball Nebraska, Misty and a rabbit played chase. The next thing we knew there were half a dozen rabbits waiting outside our door for our Misty to come out and play. But in Carlsbad, after she chased one of the leporidae (lebo ri day), the rabbit in retribution returned and pooped all over the patio in front of our motorhome.


In Estes Park, most of the long eared creatures came to our door seeking Misty to come out and play. But all long eared creatures are not rabbits, some are deer.


One of those deer was our grand deer named “Hooves.  As Phyllis remembers Misty was on leash in our back yard when Hooves quietly moved in behind them almost causing a heart attack, Hooves was ready for a nap and wanted to “nap” with Misty, which he did.   


ARIZONA CACTI

One of those unexpected encounters came about as we walked off leash in the desert. Misty came back with a sad and dejected look that said: “I didn’t do anything to it”.  Looking at her, she had a dozen or so la cholla needles embedded in her nose. Her natural instinct wanted to scratch the barbs with her paw.  Thankfully, she responded to my sit and leave it command.  Without tools I held her paw, wrapped my arms around her and extracted the spines with my teeth, there were also tears in my eyes. She was such a great trooper over that instance and it was her first and last encounter with a la cholla.


THOSE DARNED SHELTY EATERS

Along life’s road are many perils. To a not-so-laid back Sheltie some examples of those are black vans, eighteen wheelers and other big trucks, buses, dumpster trucks, road construction equipment, and trains to name a few;  especially, when encountered in a truck stop, a public park or even encountered alongside the road during construction work. In her mind these were sheltie eaters conspiring to devour her.


Sometimes, we thought Misty just liked to scare herself but weren’t always sure. In any case stepping out of the door of a motorhome right next to a truck with enough tires to start a tire shop with its engine sounding like a moon rocket takeoff about to happen is daunting enough to a reasonable human adult much more so to a small sheltie.  Nevertheless, the trust and confidence gained in obedience classes came to play on numerous occasions saving her life.  “Misty, it’s alright you are safe”, we would say. “But you don’t understand”, she would respond. “I just know this is a sheltie eater”.  “Stay close, Misty and we will protect you”.  “I know”, she would say.


GRASS GIRL

Misty was a “grass girl” as we described her. She did not like to do her business in rock, weeds (especially lion heads) or other places full of the disgusting remnants of thoughtless canines and their owners. According, while traveling in our motorhome she would gravitate to those areas of rest stops that had well maintained lawns even though they said “No Pets Allowed”.  We didn’t mind and accommodated her because we always picked up after her and were repulsed by the lack of attention given to most “Pet Areas”.  


When Misty first came to live with us, we had a large well maintained lawn. This was her domain and used for practicing for her agility classes, general exercise and her territory to guard. There were rabbits, quail and other small critters to chase.  Not that she would actually hurt any of them. In fact, quite the opposite.  


When we purchased a home at the Voyager, a 55+ community in Arizona, we were drawn to it because unlike most residential property, it had a back yard of grass.  Did we really buy a home for our pet, Misty?  We have been accused of that also.  But it, too, will just have to be left for the reader to decide.

COMMUNICATIONS

In Spokane a lady named Lou had a dog grooming business tied in with Misty’s veterinarian.  The day of our first appointment we took Misty and left her with Lou while we ran some errands. Later we returned to retrieve our now beautiful sheltie, paid and left. On the way home, Misty was in the back seat, I drove and Phyllis was in the passenger seat. As we sometimes are prone to do, we talk with our pet.  


As it was that day, a natural question might be “do you like Lou?” We don’t always expect an answer for obvious reasons and for other very obvious reasons we don’t usually divulge our conversations we have with our pet. However on this day Misty told us simply “she howls”.  


Dog owners know their pets communicate with them but even with lots of experience with shelties, I admit being somewhat shocked and incredulous about what I was hearing. How does one explain this communication to non-pet owners? Sometimes, it simply is useless to try and just let the facts speak for themselves.


We realized we had failed to include a tip when we paid Lou and decided to return and rectify our mistake.  Then I decided to ask Lou about Misty’s revelation but had a bit of a time trying to decide just how to approach the subject.


Anyway, when we paid Lou her tip I asked her if she sang while she worked. I doubt I will ever forget the look on her face as she said “well yes, but how do you know?” Then I told her Misty told us. We all had a good laugh as she admitted she had never been ratted on by one of her furry clients. As a pet lover, she too communicated with her pets.


ANOTHER FRIENDS – LOU

Misty did not warm quickly to people not that she was either aggressive or fearful but rather on top of the natural tendency of shelties to be a little stand-offish she was so bonded to us she had little interest in persons of the two legged variety.  That said, the situation would change, at least temporarily if there was a treat (like a dog bone) involved.


But then there was Lou (not the same as the aforementioned).  He and his wife Sandy lived alongside a dog run where canines congregated. Even though we had a grassy back yard, we would often visit the place to socialize with other dog enthusiasts and their canines. Lou always had a box of goodies handy and invited most dogs to his house for a treat. Misty wasn’t very interested and for several years remained aloof.  


Lou tried befriending Misty with offers of treats but it was more than three years before she would go for the treats and then a couple more before she would allow him to touch her. Slowly and very gradually she formed a bond with him.  She told us when it was time to go for her walks to “see Lou”.  Then she would look for him on his porch.  If she saw or heard Lou or Sandy, she would start crying and quickly run to their gate. With Sandy, Misty remained somewhat reserved but with Lou. It was another matter. She would crawl into his lap, give him her paw, walk with him and continued to lavish her love on him.


Misty liked the peace and quiet of her home and became very nervous at sounds like a smoke alarm, hammering, sawing or other kinds of mayhem.   When we remodeled our kitchen the turmoil at our house was intense. It was the only time she threatened to leave home and we found her starting to head down the sidewalk going to Lou and Sandy’s.  She said the noise was like somebody was pounding on her heart.


HABITS

 It is hard to move around a house without encountering a canine. Ours always met us at the door, then examined us with her keen smell to see if we had encountered other creatures and inspected all packages to see what was coming into the house. She followed us everywhere in the house and always parked in close proximity. For example, when at work on the computer, she was three or four feet away.  If went to the bathroom, she move her spot to the bathroom door to wait, and then follow back to the computer room.  Misty loved us unconditionally and nothing in her life was more important to her.  At first thought, one might see this constant companionship as a bit obnoxious. But her manner was so unobtrusive one hardly noticed (with certain exceptions, of course).


Taking a bath, she was there to dry off our hands and arms, leaving a shower; she was there to dry our legs. She loved warm water. At meals, she was parked under our table.  In the evening, she watched television with us. At night she slept by our bed so that our dangling hands would feel her soft fir.  Midnight trips to the fridge? Yep, she was there to help no matter how quiet we were.  In the closet for a snack? Not without Misty.  Sick in bed, she was consoling company.  If she needed out while we were sleeping, she would gently but persistently nudge or, as a last resort, whine.  

The only way we could lose her company was to get out a fly swatter . . . she would vanish to the bedroom.


BUGGY FRIENDS

One evening in Tucson, Misty had come inside from our yard and we noticed her examining something small on our carpet. Curious, Phyllis investigated and found a scorpion. From her body language Misty picked up on the fact that these bugs were definitely persona non grata in our house. From then on, Misty would shake herself to dislodge any such critters before she came into the house. This response was completely self-taught,    



DOGGY FRIENDS

Misty always was comfortable with other canines and she had many friends. Often she met other dogs who were phobic of canines, including Misty.  But we were fascinated to see Misty impact their life and become their friends. First, she had a very calming and disarming personality. She would let her new friend make the first advances, very carefully observing the process. When that dog was distracted, Misty would subtly move in closer. In this way, she became non-threatening and before long had a new friend.    


Her friends included mostly small and medium sized dogs but she definitely gravitated to other shelties. It seems she could spot one from a great distance and would bark in recognition and excitedly whine until we could arrange a meeting. The owners of the other dog were in the same predicament as their sheltie would do the same.   



GAMES

Misty loved to play and recognized it as a form of communication and recreation.  One of her joys was when I put on the oven mit to protect my forearms from sharp teeth as we wrestled. Then we could go at it with no holds barred (I was a little gentle with her). She always loved “Sunday”. That was when we hid parts of dog biscuits in four or five places around the house for her to find.  We might bury one in her toy box, another might be on the back of a chair, and yet another might be under a pillow or behind a piece of furniture. Most were positioned so she would have to exercise her excellent sense of smell in order to find them. It was one of her agenda items so she would tell us when it was Sunday and she was right most of the time.


Rough house was always fun as we chased each other around the house. Her bright little almond shaped brown eyes would just sparkle as she charged up and down the halls, around furniture, in the bedroom on the bed and then back. Chase was even more fun when done in our big back yard.  


Vacuum sweepers were always welcome as toys even though most machines making noise would cause her consternation. With Misty “helping”, the mundane chore was fun and exciting, the same with a broom.  


Then there was the backyard hose. We surmise she was no kind of water dog in a past life. She hated lakes, ponds, streams or any other kind of water that would require swimming.  She looked on with distain when watching a lab splashing around in a lake and just rolled her eyes as if to say “whatever”, but she was not about to join in the fun.


However, the hose in our back yard was a completely different matter. As soon as we turned the water on, her molecules would vibrate and she just had to play chase with the hose whether we wanted to our not. Were we to leave Misty in the house while we used the hose, she would absolutely throw a fit. She would bark, whine, lobby and pace back and forth making us so uncomfortable that we would just have to have a hose session with her. Once done, her life was back into order for her. She definitely had her agendas.


These were certain things in her life that were very important. Examples of these were “the Sunday game” as previously mentioned; it had to be every Sunday. There was the after dinner walk for which she started lobbying for even before we finished dinner. She wanted to visit her friends and, of course, her best friend Lou who happened to always have a cookie for her. Then there was the 7:30 cookie time when she had her evening snack, it had to occur every evening. Animals aren’t supposed to be able to tell time. Phooey on that notion.


One of our favorite activities was our walks.  Believe it or not, she would set our course. Most of the time she led the way and we could tell where we were going. It mattered little that just maybe we had an agenda, hers usually prevailed. Since canines are supposed to be on leash, Misty wore a collar and leash.  It was strictly for show inasmuch as she could “slip her collar whenever she wanted.  In her mind, the collar was for her to control us.  Oh well.


On more than one walk, when we came to an intersection and a decision point. Sometimes I wanted to go further which was straight ahead.  If she wanted to go the same way, there was no problem. If not, she would stop turn her body in the direction she wanted to go, sit then look at me, then back to her direction.  More than once an observer would comment, “that’s the darnedest thing I ever witnessed. She is really talking to you, isn’t she?” Of course, the answer is yes.


Among the games we would play along our walk would be what we called “around the pole”. The way it is played is on the approach to a sign pole if Misty was a little ahead of me and passed the pole on the left, I would go by the pole on the right, leaving her in a slight bit of a dilemma.  I never would go around the pole but would require her to make the adjustment.  She, in the meantime would try to anticipate the side I was intending to pass while I would try to deceive her.

We both became quite skilled at deceiving one another and I for one loved the look on her face when “I won”.  I am very sure she would say the same when she won.  Again, people watching these antics would marvel at what they were observing.


Speaking of walks, those with canines know that nearly everyone along the route knows the dog’s name.  Me? I was just known as Misty’s daddy.  Most people would speak saying “hi Misty” or other greeting but rarely ever would it be “Hi Jerry”.  On one occasion, a nice lady commented “You have such a pretty coat”.  I replied, “Thank you, it came from a lighthouse gift shop in Oregon.”  It took a while but the lady finally got it.  


Misty turned twelve the month before we transitioned to our summer home. She was showing signs of her age as her body was also transitioning. She wanted to go with us to our summer home where she had deer and rabbit friends, where there was snow that she loved and, of course, her golf course where she ran off leash..


It was there our vet said “. . . it is terminal and her suffering will just continue to worsen.”  We took her home to love and say our good byes then returned to the vet.  As she injected the medicine, we held Misty with tears in our eyes as she slipped into our memories for ever.  “Never again, too hard”, we said.


Hello Toby, welcome to our family..


The Rainbow Bridge

Author Anonymous

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals that had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together....