This was a top breeder’s question when a big, black, stray dog appeared. A true story of mystery and a long-lost Belgian Sheepdog.
CAN WE KEEP THE DOG?
Gloria Lambert © November 2009 / TheDogPlace
It was a sunny August morning, a day that was promising humidity as well as a lot of heat. My husband and I live on a 200-acre farm in one of the least populated townships east of the Mississippi. We were up early to feed our calves and as Skip was doing that, I was tending to my little Chihuahuas that were happily barking to go outside for their morning sunshine.
All of a sudden I heard my red Australian Cattle Dog ‘Suede’ barking furiously and my husband yelling “come quick and get this black dog!” I don’t have a black dog! “Hurry up!” he said “or Suede will rip its face off!” I ran out the front door and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Peering from around the side of my shiny PT Cruiser was a large black stray that resembled a wolf! Feeling only a fleeting sense of fear, I spoke gently to the dog who immediately put its head in my hand for comfort. With Suede barking and growling in the background I figured this was not the best time to introduce them so I got the stray black “wolf’ to follow me through the house to the fenced-in backyard, with my husband holding onto Suede.
Once in the fenced enclosure, it was apparent to me that this was a purebred dog, and certainly not a dog I had seen at any of my neighbor’s farms, the nearest being a ½ mile away. After almost 20 years of exhibiting my Chihuahuas at dog shows, I knew what breed of dog was standing before me. Gauging my safety while giving the dog a cursory exam I discovered it was a female and she had some type of injury to her head and inside her left ear. She wore no collar and while thin, she appeared in relatively good shape.
I took her to our kennel pen that is normally empty except when the electric company arrives. It is where ‘Suede’ must pass his time barking in protest until the offensive stranger has gone. I gave the black dog water and food tended her wounds. Relieved and exhausted, she promptly fell deeply asleep. I believed in my heart that this must be someone’s lost pet! Skip couldn’t help but fall in love with this kind and gentle soul even though he usually laments “oh no, not another dog.”
I fired up my trusty computer and looked up the parent breed club for Belgian Sheepdog. Sure enough, the dog that had materialized out of thin air was a purebred Belgian Sheepdog. I contacted Sharon from their rescue link. She was friendly and eager to help in my quest to find the owners. I got my camera and took a quick photo which I emailed to Sharon and she readily agreed, what had wandered onto our farm was a BSD!
Sharon and I decided the first thing to do was to see if the dog was micro chipped so I called the local veterinary clinic to make sure they had a scanner. The black dog eagerly jumped into my car and off we went! The friendly staff at the clinic greeted us with, “Oh the poor thing!” which turned into comments about what a nice dog she is! The entire time the sheepdog was wagging her tail, eager to receive the many pats on her head. The vet’s assistant came out with a chip reader and in one swipe it located a microchip. Realizing that soon we would know the dog’s history and find the owner was bittersweet. We loved her already!
Debbie, the assistant, went to look up the number on the clinic computer. After a few minutes she came back with only the news that the chip was registered to a veterinary clinic in Ohio and since the new owner had not bothered registering the chip and weren’t regular clients of that clinic, they had no records. Okay, at least I had a starting point. Thanking the vet staff, we headed back to our farm. I love unraveling a mystery and I was hoping figure this one out.
Upon arriving home I decided first things first! With pin brush and comb, I worked on getting the dead hair, cockle burrs, and briars out of her coat. She seemed to enjoy the attention but tired of the grooming so I let her rest while I googled the location of the Ohio vet clinic and also found two Belgian Sheepdog breeders in that area. I called the first breeder and had to leave a message but decided to wait to hear back from them, since there are always more chores on a farm than there is daylight, I decided to finish some of them.
After Skip and I had our evening meal the phone rang. It was Renee, the breeder I had left a message for. She was indeed the co-owner of the dog in my possession. My heart sank a bit as I realized that maybe the dog would have to leave. As we talked, I learned “my” dog’s name was Sacha, she was a payback puppy for Renee, and after one litter, she had let her go to a pet home in Indiana. Sacha was five years old and was supposed to be spayed and living happily with her Indiana family. As Renee was looking thru her files to find the name of the current owner, I thought to myself, "Won’t Pam be happy to know that her pet is safe in my home and waiting to be reunited?" Boy was I in for a surprise!
Renee called the family, left a message, and said she would contact me when Pam returned her call. Two hours passed and I was having a feeling something was not right. I decided to call the other owner and Pam promptly answered the phone. I identified myself and began to explain that I had their dog Sacha. There was a lengthy silence on the other end of the phone . . .
Expecting to hear surprise, relief, and happiness instead I heard a voice tell me Sacha had been missing for two years. Two years?! Now I was shocked! Pam went on to explain that they had searched for her, put up flyers and grieved her loss. Her tone became very hushed and quiet. Thinking that she may think I was trying to pull a scam I told her that I had been in contact with Renee and I had no idea where her dog had been for two years but I knew from the micro chip that I did indeed have their dog.
Awkward silence followed and I sensing that she might not want the dog back, I probed further. “Pam, if you can’t take her back, I understand. I am not calling to make you come and get this dog. She’s your dog and to me finding the owner is the right thing to do.” Pam paused for a moment then said, “She was tied in our backyard one day and next thing I knew she was gone! My circumstances are different now and I cannot take her back!” Hiding my amazement that anyone would not welcome the return of this dear sweet creature, I assured Pam that she should not worry, that Renee and I would figure this out. In the mean time I told her, “You have my name and number if you change your mind.”
Wondering if the economy had contributed to this situation or that maybe I had not gotten the whole story, I called back to Renee, the original breeder. She was surprised that Pam had not returned her call. Trying to think the best of people, I interjected that maybe they were too embarrassed to call her. Renee kindly promised to send me an email stating I now had ownership of the stray dog and she also promised AKC papers. It was getting late so I told Renee I would call her back tomorrow. A visit to a groomer was on my agenda and I hadn’t even called one yet!
Turning my attention to Sacha, I began to assess her knowledge of words and simple obedience tasks. She knew how to sit, shake paws, and “down.” Her stay was half-hearted but we could work on that. Her lead work was typical of a pet oriented household, she wanted to pull me down the road and what side she was on did not matter. Still I marveled at the intelligence of this “stray” dog. She lifted your hand to be petted and gently used her paw to get your attention. She also had an entertaining talent for catching food tossed to her from any angle or direction! I was confident she was safe to take to a professional for a much needed bath!
The next day I made an appointment with a local groomer whom I am sure was more used to poodles and shi-tzus than she was a large breed dog. She was an attractive woman in her late 50's who needed help getting Sacha into the tub but once that was accomplished, she went about her work in a capable and cheerful manner. You could tell she loved animals and was very interested in Sacha’s story. Sacha did not love her bath but neither did she hate it. Clean and dried, on our way back to the farm I was thinking how much Skip and I were enjoying this girl even if her stay with us was a short one.
If only Sacha could talk, what an interesting story she might tell. Her condition was not the best, she only weighed 46 pounds, much less than a normal 55-60 lbs. Typical of many stray dogs, the one thing she seemed to have no trouble conveying was her gratitude at being rescued.
Pam had said Sacha was spayed but it became evident to me that she was not! At first I thought she had stepped on something and hurt her foot, but her amorous gestures towards me and my other dogs made me check and she was indeed intact. She had her CHIC number and after talking it over with Renee, we thought maybe a litter was in her future? For me there is nothing better than improving on a breed and that most intoxicating of all things, puppy breath!
I will never understand why some people just throw dogs away. Dogs fill our lives with love. I would like to think if one of my dogs were ever lost, that whoever found them would treat them kindly. Dogs are a wonderful treasure whether you are their first, second, or third home.
Sacha will make happy memories and she knows that we care. The details of getting her papers signed don’t matter. The wonderful thing is the answer to the initial question of this story. Yes, yes definitely, we can keep her!