(UPDATE: The names and locations have been changed to protect everyone involved. As it turns out, some states actually are so small and inbred that nearly everyone truly is someone’s cousin and, well, we just don’t want Duck Dynasty knocking on the door of the Schwartz looking for their dog back.)
JC has an old family friend who lives in (an unnamed state) in a rural neighborhood where almost all of her neighbors are cousins (no hillbilly jokes…well, OK, what the heck, do it…I had to re-edit this story because hillbillyism is the gospel truth in them there parts of the country). Most of Rural Unnamed State is beautiful with rolling hills, green streams and masses of trees with names like sweet gum, black willow, blue haw and American hornbeam. It had been a couple of decades since JC and his unnamed friend had seen each other and we received quite the welcome. JC’s friend then pointed to a slender spotted puppy and said, “Look at this beautiful Blue Heeler! You have to take him when you leave!”
Well, it turns out that this puppy had arrived the day before and JC’s friend brought him back to the house down the road where he lived not once but three times. On the third visit, a young child was there to receive the dog and promptly began beating him. Horrified, JC’s friend exclaimed, “What are you doing?!? Don’t hit that dog!” The boy struggled to keep a hold of the puppy who quietly tinkled, frozen and cowering. “Well, you got to! This dog don’t listen!” Friend: “Well, beating him isn’t going to help!” Boy: “This? This ain’t nothin’! This is my cousin’s dog an’ he hits him with a shovel an’ shoots him with the BB gun!”
Now, you have to understand that JC’s friend is an animal savior. She has rescued horses and stopped in the middle of a highway to scoop up an injured kitten. Shehas a network of furry friend lovers and heroes, some of whom have executed stealth operations in the middle of the night, cutting malnourished dogs from yard stakes.
So, this last bit of horror from the little imp was a lot more than his friend could take. But she couldn’t just grab the puppy away from the boy. After all, she lived just down the road a bit. So, cringing and reluctant, the friend drove away. Sure enough, in a few hours that puppy had escaped again and was promptly whisked inside. That’s about when we arrived and the ticket out of the country life for this Boy had been secured.
The next few days we worked hard trying to find him a permanent home. We thought he was so beautiful and sweet that he’d get adopted in a minute but no such luck. The no-kill shelters were full up and other leads failed to pan out.
Meanwhile, the Boy (who had an abused-life name which we all agreed to not call him by anymore) was sleeping in the guest room with us at night and hanging out with the two big dogs – Mattie and JC’s friend’s lab – during the day. The first day we were able to convince the Boy that it was OK for him to come inside the house and that the broom in the corner wasn’t going to leap up and whack him. The second day the other dogs helped teach him what a toy was and that sleeping on a cushy dog bed was better than dirt or hard floors or even carpet.
On our last night in Unnamed State, one of JC’s friend’s animal rescue comrades agreed to foster the Boy but she lived far away. We all piled into the friend’s pick-up – three humans up front, three dogs in the backseat of the cab – and drove 30 minutes into the darkness for a clandestine meeting at a gas station an hour outside of nowhere. We started tearing up the minute the Boy switched cars. Parting was a lot rougher than we’d expected. Somehow, after only 48 hours the little guy had become a part of our family. Maybe he knew it the minute he saw us. Maybe all of our baby-making energy had primed us to raise a young’n and yet, there we were, giving him away. Mattie was the only one happy to see him go.
Later that night, we started getting calls. The animal rescue comrade had brought the puppy to a woman who wanted to adopt him but he immediately pooped in her basement. This was bizarre as we had all marveled over the Boy’s innate ability to tell us when he needed to go out. A few calls later, we heard that the comrade had brought him home, but before she could even get him out of the car, he was barking and growling uncontrollably at her German Shepherd. His yips were so loud, we could hear them on the other end of the line. That didn’t make any sense either as he had managed just fine with two big dogs for days. JC and I looked at each other and it was decided. By the time we arrived back at the gas station, it was 1:30am. JC was convinced that the Boy started acting out because he just wanted to be with us.
The next morning, JC’s friend marveled, “You know, this dog just keeps coming back. Every time I tried to get rid of him, over and over, he just kept coming back. He’s like a boomerang!”
The funny thing is that it took a full week before we admitted to ourselves that we were adopting him. We still had two farmstays to complete and more delicately, we had lined up three house sitting gigs in LA for the holidays. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that we would need to make some changes. But we couldn’t imagine him living with anyone else. And, I like to think he couldn’t either.
And that is the not so tall tale of the skinny speckled puppy from the backwoods of Unnamed State who came to be known as Boomer!