When we lost a much-loved little Mexican street dog last fall, we began to search the various adoption sites for an adult dog to keep Virgil, our 10-year-old Hound, company. Preferably a mutt; we’re convinced they’re smarter than purebreds. Not too heavy to lift into the sink for baths (we have a horse farm and all our dogs have found horse manure irresistible— to eat and to roll in).
Finding a small grown-up dog in New England wasn’t as easy as it sounds. There were plenty of Lab and Shepherd and Rottie mixes but few lightweights available. Finally,we found and adopted, after extensive paper and phone interviews, a little brown dog from Tennessee.
Ten-year-old Rosie came in a trailer truckload of at least a hundred dogs shipped up from the South to a park-andride beside the highway about 50 miles south of our farm in New Hampshire. Terrified at first, she gradually absorbed the house, barn and acreage as her very own dynasty. She didn’t know much but proved a fast learner. A week to become house-trained. Six more to master walking on a loop leash and simple commands: Come, Sit, Stay, Off! (she is a tireless jumper-up on people and big dogs and, alas, can’t always resist).
Watching Rosie adapt to her new freedom has been enormously rewarding. Apparently, she had been found in a house with several dogs and a corpse, dead five days. She has a deep scar on one shoulder from the dogfights that finally alerted neighbors to call the police. Rescued, she spent her outside hours secured to an overhead run and nights indoors confined to a crate. Other dogs in her foster home were adopted; she remained. Perhaps her looks were not appealing enough.
Yes, she’s somewhat strangely proportioned, but her appearance grows on you. What breed is she? One part bat (the ears), one part anteater (the nose), the rest some sort of Terrier. She runs like a deer, stalks frogs like a heron and rolls wriggling on the grass like a puppy.
Once we were satisfied that she would not run off,we allowed her to accompany us off-leash to the pond, the pastures, the barn. She trolls the horses’ stalls for any tidbit of dropped grain, spends hours paddling around the perimeter of the pond, fascinated by the small plops of water striders, the occasional emergence of a turtle. She walks on stone walls, loves to ride in the golf cart to the vegetable garden, and indoors, migrates from chair to chair to couch—but not to beds, forbidden.
When we took Rosie to the vet for vaccination against Lyme disease, an issue in New England but not a problem in the South, we learned that she has a serious heart murmur. Now she gets a daily pill wrapped in something yummy. And, of course,Virgil also gets something yummy, without a pill. He’s very tolerant of his new companion. In her exuberance, she frequently jumps on him and he never protests. Although he has slowed down from his earlier turbulent years of racing in woods and fields, baying as he went, Rosie inspires him to run to keep up with her. She is our sixth rescue in a line of superior remarkable special outstanding mongrels. Our vet, who has looked after every one of them, tells us that Rosie, despite her ticker, despite her just-visible cataracts, could live another 10 years. But even if she has only this one in paradise, it will be a memorable one.
Illustration by Michael S.Wertz