About 8 years ago I was shopping in Fayetteville, Arkansas at Petco. A friend and I had made a “dog food run” from Eureka Springs about 40 miles away. On this particular Saturday there was a Dog Adoption Fair in the parking lot out front by a group called Save Our Strays. I own a couple of Jack Russell Terriers so my eye stopped on an odd-shaped terrier in a kennel cage. She had a smaller head than my Jacks, but a much larger body. She was shaking like a leaf – this is not typical terrier behavior – they are more likely to pace or verbalize nervousness. I also noticed that she was no puppy. Most of the dogs there that day seemed to be cute little puppies. I stopped to ask some details and learned that this group visited the local shelter every Saturday and picked up all the dogs they could haul that were scheduled to be put down on the following Tuesday. My heart sank! I told her I would think about it while I shopped – I stepped inside the store and mentally went back and forth – I already had 2 terriers – plenty of dogs for me. Did I want the extra responsibility? Would it detract from my other pups? By the time I checked out I had picked out a collar – she was coming home with me. After all I had terrier experience and she was an older dog. I could give her a good life.
I headed out to the parking lot to find the volunteers loading up their tables and empty cages – I stepped over to ask about who might have adopted the terrier. “Nobody, we sent her back to the shelter about 10 minutes ago.” Again my heart sank. We tried to get the driver on his cell and left messages at the shelter – but it was after 5 and there would be no one there until Monday. I told the lady that I would write a check for the adoption fee right now if it were possible to get to her. I told her that I lived 40+ miles away and would be willing to make the trip as soon as possible.
Long-story-short the woman arranged to retrieve the girl Monday morning, she had her checked by a vet, groomed and took her home – by Wednesday I was headed west after work to pick her up. I had a brand new car and owning terriers I know what the shedding is like so I covered the seats with a soft plaid blanket and headed out. The woman told me that she had learned that the terrier was picked up on the roadside near the airport – apparently dumped. No one had called to claim her or report her missing. The vet had told her that she was likely a rat terrier and was about 6 years old. He thought that she had delivered pups sometime in the last year.
I loaded her into my rig and headed home – she sat like she was sitting upright in a chair and she watched me closely all the way home.
I adopted this dog without ever touching her. What was I thinking? I got her to the house and let her loose in the house and introduced her to the other dogs and I saw the terrier in her come to the forefront – she was playing with my pups who were both about a year old and she was playing with them like a momma dog – lowering her head and extending her legs forward. My male was twirling – he was clearly crazy about his new housemate. My female twirled around me – she decided right from the start to pretend that there was no new dog. She focused totally on me – being the one closest to me at all times. To this day the two sleep next to each other and face in opposite directions. That younger pup has yet to show any affection – she doesn’t hate her, she just prefers to pretend she doesn’t exist.
I put the other pups outside and decided to spend the rest of the evening bonding – and thinking of a name for my new old girl. About naming – I don’t worry about finding a clever or dog-like name – I tend to think that these things reveal themselves. So laid out that same blanket from the car on my couch and sat down. The girl snuggled up along side my leg and stayed there all night. If I got up she followed me, when I sat back down she snuggled in. When I showered she sat on the bathroom rug and waited – where I went she went. I decided to call her Velcro that first night – and she’s been sticking by my side ever since.
I’m not sure about her politics – but she’ll stick it out.
Velcro has some peculiarities.
First – she eats bugs…lots of bugs. She digs up grubs in the spring. She waits by mud dabber nests for the young to hatch – a tasty treat. Tonight when I came home she was eating honey bees near the water dish.
Velcro digs…a lot. Grub extraction is a messy business. In addition to bugs Velcro digs up moles and pack rats. I used to have new topsoil trucked in every summer, but at this point she’s 14 years old (more or less) and I’m never going to have a flat lawn while she’s on this side of the rainbow bridge. She’s a digger, but I’ve learned to be OK with that.
Velcro hard at work on Grub Removal
Hard at work being busy
Velcro sits funny – nothing wrong with this, but she sometimes looks like a charm school reject.
Velcro takes sitting very seriously
Velcro will only sit on the couch if there’s a blanket – in fact she will sit anywhere there is a blanket whether you want her to or not. Unfortunately she sheds like most terriers and I have decided the best thing I can do is own a high-capacity washer.
If there’s a blanket it must be for me!
Lounging is hard work.
When not on the couch Velcro loves grass. Unfortunately with the drought this year there hasn’t been much – but when the bluegrass is green, she’s got her belly in it.
Velcro almost disappears in the grass.
She almost flattens her thick body into the turf – when I mow she stays ahead of me, enjoying the deep grass as long as possible. She does not care for new-mown grass.
Velcro looking out across the mountaintop.
She’s spotted something that may be enticing enough for her to get up.
Velcro hunts by stealth. My other terriers bark and squeal at every animal that enters their space. Squirrels, snakes, deer, rabbits. With the exception of snakes, they never catch a thing – I think that’s because snakes are deaf – anyway, Velcro stalks her prey like a cat. She hunkers down in the grass and crawls closer and closer. This tubby, lazy girl has caught a rabbit, 4 squirrels, and a pack rat – and that’s just this month. She is a snake killer too – although a bite from a pygmy rattler nearly did her in about 6 years ago – she’s never been bitten since.
Soaking in the sunshine
Velcro does some other odd things. She loves to eat persimmons – and that’s OK by me because I have 2 trees and can’t stand them. She digs through the snow to eat them in the winter. I have 2 trees so there are always plenty. She tries to steal matches from the fireplace and I have caught her sneaking down the hallway with one – no idea what she wants with them. She also steals Sunshine’s toys – Sunshine is my goldendoodle pictured below with her. She doesn’t play with toys and has never had any interest in them – but she steals his and puts them on the blanket with her.
Friends don’t let friends keep their toys.
She’s always a momma dog. About three winters ago I fostered a standard poodle for 6 weeks. It had been rescued from the woods at about 12 weeks old. We thought it might have been outside on her own for almost a month. Velcro adored her. When I went to work I would put the poodle in a large crate and leave Velcro in the same room – she would sleep right by the kennel door – never leaving the pup alone. By the third day she was staying in the crate with the pup. She cleaned it and it followed her everywhere – I really believe she socialized that pup enough to make her adoptable.
Lounging on the porch
Apart from these idiosyncrasies she’s a pretty normal dog. I often wonder why she was dumped and why she does the things she does. Does she insist on a blanket because she was left alone in the cold, or is a blanket the key to our first bonding moment? Does she hunt and eat all those things because she was abandoned and left to starve by someone she trusted – so now she eats up just in case I let her down too? Does she behave like a mother to the others because she was once a mother to some pups that she still misses? Was she dumped because she was not as cute and cuddly as those pups? Did she dig too much, shed too much, anything too much?
What mystery lies behind those eyes?
I’ll never know the answer to these questions, but I do know that as I watch her sleep on that same blanket I threw over my car seat 8 years ago that I will do my best to never let her down. I promised her a good life and I’m going to make sure she gets it. I hope she keeps digging for a long, long time.