“I worry you’re going to come home with a dog,” my wife told me
in the days leading up to the July 23, 2016, Tails of the Trail event at the Maury County Animal Shelter in Columbia, my first time to volunteer for Tails. I did not bring a dog home that day, but I did become emotionally attached to one. Nearly three weeks later, my wife and I brought the dog home together.
After 26 years without a dog in my adult life, I had begun to be cautiously drawn to the idea of having a dog in our family.
So when I learned about a volunteering opportunity to give exercise to shelter dogs, it seemed the perfect way to be around them without owning one. I knew my daughter would be visiting from Knoxville on a July weekend when Tails was doing an event at the Maury County shelter, so I signed us both up.
Sammy was the first dog I walked that day. He is a 25-pound border collie beagle mix, with a border collie’s black and white coloring and a beagle’s body. Thirteen months old when I met him, he still looks like a puppy. When the volunteer led him to me, Sammy stood on his back legs and gently rested his speckled socks in my hand in a most endearing greeting. On our walk, he was all business. He wasn’t interested in dog treats or pupsicles, laying in the shade, or playing in the pool. He just wanted to follow his nose. He never barked, and never acknowledge any of the other dogs. But when any other human came near, he greeted them by raising up and gently placing his paws on the person’s arm or outstretched hand, standing there as in conversation. We made notes about each dog we exercised.
For Sammy, I wrote, “The perfect combination of sweetness and energy. He’ll make some family a great dog.”
Between my daughter and I, we exercised five dogs that day, including Sammy. On the way home, I said I wasn’t sure if I had walked the dogs, or if they had walked me. All five dogs were special in some way and at dinner that night, the dogs were all we could talk about–the way each one acted, how happy they seemed to be about being able to get outside.
In the days that followed, I kept thinking about Sammy.
I watched every video YouTube showed me from a “border collie beagle” search. I researched the border collie beagle mix and learned this was an intelligent, high energy dog, requiring a lot of mental and physical exercise. This matched what I had seen in Sammy, and fit what I was looking for. Not a dog to sit on the couch with, but a dog to hike trails with.
On the second Monday after meeting Sammy, I called the shelter to check on him. They said he was there, but was quarantined. That sounded ominous, so I didn’t ask more. Yet I still couldn’t forget about him. On Friday of that same week, I called back to check on him and to get more information about the quarantine.
The shelter employee said Sammy had been adopted and returned the next day because his temperament wasn’t suited for a family with a toddler and another dog. “He doesn’t seem to get along well with other dogs,” the employee said. When I relayed all of this to my wife, she knew. She has heard the stories my mother tells of my elementary school teachers saying, “John is a good student, but he doesn’t get along with the other kids.” We agreed that if no one else claimed Sammy by the time he was out of quarantine, and if the shelter would approve us, that we would adopt him.
On the following Monday, we got the word that Sammy was released from quarantine. We filled out the paperwork
and the next day, after a frank discussion about Sammy’s hyperactivity, we were approved to adopt him.
That Thursday, 19 days after first meeting Sammy, my wife and I brought him home.
Sammy has lived up to his billing as an intelligent, high energy dog. But he has adapted well to our family and we to him, with some adjustments on all sides.
I’m proud that he gets along with other dogs well now, to the point that dog parks are fun, and he goes to doggy daycare one day a week.
He especially likes bigger dogs who like to run. He’s 60 pounds of dog in a 25-pound body. Our step counters tell us we are three times more active than before, and I have lost 15 pounds.
I like to think all of us, Sammy included, have learned something in the two months since he joined our family.
But the main thing I have learned is that a walk is more fulfilling when it’s taken with a dog.
John has since become a volunteer PAWtograher for Tails of the Trail.