Such a precious relationship!
Very frequently when I connect with dog lovers I make it clear that if they have any stories that they would like to share with you good people that they don’t hesitate to submit something. I am always blown away by these submissions. Indeed, there are two being offered to you dear readers this week.
So the first is from Maria Matthews and without any further delay from me, here it is.
How an amazing Collie pup gave me a new purpose in life.
By Maria Matthews, 28th August 2016.
I was redundant, sitting at home, days divided between housekeeping, writing and walking Bob our dog who was then 7 years of age.
The trouble was I hate cleaning a house, and Bob an Norwegian elk-hound is allergic to being energetic.
My husband mentioned he would love to find a husky and as I was at home I agreed; I was 51 years of age and didn’t hold out much hope of finding work. Our search took us to a well known dogs rescue centre. They suggested we needed to build up our walls, as a husky needs a secure environment, plus the home and us would have to be inspected. We agreed, went home and made the necessary changes. When we returned we discovered there was one hiccup in the plan, a dog taken from the centre had to be housed indoors. We couldn’t agree to it, as Bob loves being outdoors.
I pointed this out and stressed that the backdoor is always open, but it was useless for they wouldn’t budge. The internet is a terrific place and google, God Bless him, suggested loads of places but when I rang there was no husky available. Until I contacted a lady in Easky, County Sligo (the Western side of Ireland) and she informed me she had twenty dogs for re-homing.
So on a sunny Saturday morning we, including Bob, set off. He wasn’t impressed with spending more than half an hour in the car and refused to lie down. We joked that he was watching the road, noting the sign posts, etc., in case he needed to make his own way back. However to cut a long story short, none of the twenty dogs liked him or he them. “We do have one other option,” she paused. “We have a collie cross husky who is extremely active, but she is still a pup.”
We decided to meet the pup.This time when the gate opened there was a pause of maybe thirty seconds while this tiny pup, with the biggest ears ever seen, inspected us. Then she raced into the compound, ran around Bob, jumped over him, turned about, and then ducked under him. He responded by diving down, front paws on the ground and joining in the game.
An hour later we left, with Bob snuggling up to his new companion in the back. She snored for most of the way home and once there took control of his bed, his life and everyone’s hearts.
However, we discovered a downside to having a clever pup. She loved balls, would do anything to find one, and learned how to open gates, upend the laundry basket and sneak socks and other pieces of underwear out into the garden.
She needed a job. We tried agility, and she excelled at it, but the class was too crowded for her and a distance away from the house. Then I stumbled on an article about dogs that search for people who are lost.
I began by hiding her ball. She loved this game. I made contact with Irish Search Dogs and a local man who agreed to meet with me. He was bowled over by her ability. She quickly began learning how to find people. Our new weekly regime included a drive to County Cork at 6 am on Sunday mornings, a drive of three-and-a-half hours there and another three-and-a-half back home. All for a training session of fifteen to twenty minutes. I needed to find someone closer to home. After much searching I met Fred Quinn a dog trainer of 40 years who agreed to take a look at her.
He was impressed but decided our training methods needed adjusting. And she loved it. We searched: woods; water; urban areas; for our hidden helpers. It became a challenge to think of new places to hide. So we used cars, car boots, trees, dried out ditches, derelict sheds, wheelie bins, massive drainage pipes under the roads, and on one occasion a huge hollowed out hole in the ground with shrubs, etc., covering the opening. And on each occasion she found our volunteer missing body. Then we upped her training further and began using dead scent.
At each change in her training she took it with a big wag of her tail.
She continues to love it. Three years ago we met with a group who recover and rescue people from the rivers and lakes in the County. They were intrigued with her and asked us to join their group. Now it was my turn to train, I learnt how to cox a boat, took more first aid courses, learnt how to walk a river bed, swam in the river Boyne on a star-filled night, learned how to cross a weir safely and feed a boat across it by rope. I think Ellie viewed my training sceptically as she sat on the boat and watched with interest.
When we are on call out, we are a team. We have worked through rain, snow, freezing temperatures even having a picnic in a wood on the top of a hillside during a snow storm and all through it this medium-sized dog was urging me to get up and move again. She knows she has a job to do and is eager to complete it.
In the past two years she has helped in nine recoveries. People wonder why we do it and I suppose now the answer simply is, because she has this great ability or gift and it would be a shame not to make use of it. However, the greatest gift she has given me are the friendships I have gained and the extra life-skills made during the past few years. It is probably down to all of this extra or new found confidence that I have a blog site, two books published and a great amount of energy.
And I thank my four legged friend, my dear Ellie, for bringing me on so many adventures.
Not only is this a wonderful story but it is yet another insight into the precious relationship that so many of us humans have with our dogs. Beautiful!
I’m also going to close by including a little of what was in Maria’s covering email.
Ellie has been working now as a search and recovery dog for the past three years and more than proven her worth to all around us.
I would love to think other people might read it and consider doing something with their own dog even if it was only to bring them on visits to elderly relatives as I have noticed that my own father and mother-in-law get comfort from Bob’s visits to them.
Many times I stop and ponder about these very strange times we are now living in. How they have the potential to be most unsettling.
Then just as many times I know that while I have my darling Jeannie in my life and so many dogs who make me feel so special to them those strange times ‘out there’ are, to me, like water off a duck’s back.
Maria’s story just reinforced that feeling in me and I bet I’m not the only one affected in that way by Maria’s words!