It is not a story about Christmas, I just figured it would be a good time to tell it.
In 1999 I was working in Knox City Texas as a hunting guide. I LOVED working in the small town with a population around 70. The only thing I did not like was all the stray dogs there. Being about 2 hours from DFW, and less that an hour from Abilene we where the dumping grounds for far too many unwanted pets. In my estimate, there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 strays running around at any time. It was common to see 10 or 15 laying on or along the road, hit by cars. It was not a pretty sight.
At that time I only had Maggy, Hunter, Blacky and Bubba, and had never even heard of anything called rescue.
I was making one big Russian boar into a bunch of little steaks one evening when I saw a dog at the edge of the yard. He was in the shadows and I could not really tell what he was. The butchering was a slow process and soon the dog came nearer. He was striking, but I still could not figure out what he was. Eventually, he was sitting just a few feet from me as I worked. He seemed so nice, he just sat there and watched what I was doing. He never came closer, and sonn I found myself talking to him.
After a little while I started to notice he was very thin. I said " hey fella, want something to eat?" He perked up a little. I threw him some meat scraps and he hurridly gobbled them down, but just sat and watched again. A few more scraps, some more watching. This went on for a couple of hours, until I finally threw him a leg bone and he trotted away with it. That was the last I saw of the dog for at least a month. I figured he just went home with his treasure and his owners put him back wherever they kept him.
Fast foreward a month or so, it was now dove season. Same thing, I am cleaning doves in the back yard when he comes wandering in. This time he walks right up and sits beside me. I gave him a few scraps, there is not a lot to give from a dove, and he stayed by my side the rest of the night. I had my Blacky there on that trip to retrieve the doves for me and the clients, and the dog seemed friendly to Blacky as well. They played a little in the yard and he was gone again. I figured he would dissapear again, but imagine my surprise when I found him sleeping on the porch the next morning.
My boss did not want him around, and shoed him away, but he kept coming back. By this time I had figured out he was some kind of hound, maybe a Bluetic, but I had never seen one before to be sure. The dog had more or less adopted me. Any time he heard my voice at the house he would show up, and he was always alone. I started to ask the neighbors if they knew who his owner was. No one did, but several of them said if he kept hanging around they where going to shoot him. There where too many damn strays in this town, they would all say.
He was too nice, too friendly, and just too beautiful to be shot. I would be headed back to PA. in three days, and I had a plan. By now I had named the dog, what else but Blue. I told Blue, "if you are here Friday when I leave for home, I will take you with me" With that he turned and ran full speed down the alley and was gone. I did not see him the rest of the day. I said to myself, "well, I guess it was not meant to be"
The next morning, there was Blue, asleep on the porch, but something was different. There was a little black pup with him. I knew right away what this pup was, a pit mix. But the pup was friendley and I spent some time with him and named him Ranger. For the next two days Ranger never left Blues side. It was like Blue ran off and said, "hey little buddy, I found us a ride. Stick with me and things will be good" Friday came and I had the truck packed. Blue and Ranger where sitting on the porch. I said, a promiss is a promiss So they both got a good flea bath and where ready to load in the truck. I found during the bath that Blue was in pretty bad condition. He had so many fleas that the water ran red with blood during his bath, and he had ticks. In the end I counted almost 70 ticks in the bath tub and that I pulled from him. He would not have lasted long like that. Ranger was not as bad, but had a few.
Into the crate in the truck, a quick stop at the vets office for wormer and we headed for PA.
I thought about keeping Blue as we had really bonded, but at that time I thought 4 dogs was more than enough to have. I ran ads and put up fliers and soon two sisters came to see the boys. After some long consideration on my part, I allowed one sister to adopt Ranger and the other to adopt Blue. All was well for about a year.
I got a call that Blues family was getting a divorce and the wife feared the husband might hurt Blue, so he came back to me. He was here for several months when I got a call from a man looking for a lab. This man had just lost his 14 year old lab to a long battle with cancer. He nursed her for over a year before the end finally came. I had Francie, the 14 year old seeing eye dog at that time and he wanted to meet and adopt her. The man, Mark came to meet Francie who was in about the same condition as his previous lab, she was near the end and needed a lot of care. I said to him with all sincerity, "why would you want to go through this all again and so soon?' Tears came to his eyes and he said he just missed her so much.
I suggested that he meet Blue, but he said "I am not a hound person". Still, I said why not just meet Blue. He agreed so I brought Blue out into the kitcken. He walked right over to Mark and layed his chin on Marks knee. We talked for an hour or so about Francie, and his former dog. Blue had gone over and layed down on a pillow in the corner. Every now and then Mark would look over, and Blue would lift his head. Mark said, he is really calm, is he always that way? Yep! I is very striking and handsome. Yep! After a while Mark said, "can I take him home and try him out?" YEP! So Blue went home with Mark that night.
They kept in touch pretty well for a while, but life was busy and the calls finally stoped. He had told me that Blue went to his office with him every day and that his staff was always so happy he was there. He became the companies official mascot and Blue even got to run with the Olympic torch when it came through PA a few years ago. Blue was my very first rescue and I was always VERY proud of him.
The phone rang today, and the voice said, "hi Joe, this is Mark ****. Do you remember me?" I was honest and said I remember the name, but can not place from where. "I adopted Blue from you about 6 years ago" OH! MY BUDDY BLUE!!!!! How is he doing? (I was affraid he was calling to tell me Blue had passed) Blue is fine, he still goes to work every day and is somewhat of a hero now. There was a huge fire in the office building back in October, and Blue was running back and forth leading people out the door. Everyone in Washington PA. knows Blue and even the mayor came to the fire scene and said, "Mark, Blue is up on the (flat) roof leading people down the fire escape. He always was one smart dog. Mark owns and runs some sort of computer or internet business. Mark went on to tell me he just had some promotional pictures done of Blue for his advertising, would I like to see them? Well of course. I have not seen the actual add yet, but this is Blues picture that will appear in it.
You always remember your first. Even though he was not a lab, and I did not do rescue at the time, he set the wheels in motion for what I am today. He played almost as big a part as Maggy did. He will always be "MY BLUE" and I may get a visit from him in the next few weeks. I can't wait to hug his big floppy face. Thanks for being there when I needed you Blue!
By the way, Ranger is still with the other sister and is doing well also. I hear from them about twice a year.
Southwest Pennsylvania Retriever Rescue Organization or S.P.A.R.R.O. and Shades Of Grey Senior Sanctuary
A 501c3 Non Profit Organization.
Saving one dog will not change the world But, surely, for that one dog the world will change forever!
blue is beautiful and so was your story.
thank you for sharing it with us.
"Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend." ~ Corey Ford
JOE! THAT WAS A GREAT STORY!!! You are such a good storyteller.
Oh, I was on the edge of my seat. I cried at how much Mark missed his girl. I beamed when he took Blue home. I felt so proud when I heard of Blue's recent heroism.
Blue is a really, really special dog, to have gotten you started on this wonderful journey. But I do have to say, he's wearing a really silly hat.
Seriously, that was a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. Love your stories!
Connie and "The Boys":
Angus, Yellow Lab, CGC, RE, CD
Simon, d.b.a. Flat Coated Retriever, CGC, RE, CD
Gone ahead, but forever in my heart:
Crash, Pit Bull x Rottweiler x Golden Retriever
Gosh Joe, Thats a great story! Happy tears here. Go BLUE!!
Karen, Mom to the Lab Monkeys:
Daisy DoBug YL 7 yr old
Kiana YL 5/2006
Piglet 4/2006 Lab @ Heart
**Bella Mia 5 yo (RIP~2/07)**
*Molly Blu 2.5 yr old (RIP~7/06)*
LOLIN.ORG Saving one lab at a time.
What a wonderful, wonderful story.
You're a great writer and storyteller, with such compassion. And Blue...a shining star hidden, to be discovered. I hope you do get to see him soon; what a special treat!
Oh Joe! That is a beautiful story.
Wonderful story Joe!!
Joe your the best, and I agree with you, you always remember your first.
I love happy endings! Thanks for posting.
Judy, mom to Reba, the Lab, and Jalapeno (Halle), the JRT
What a great story.