Superbowl Sunday Save
Updated: Jan 23
It all began one cold afternoon in the middle of January. Rancher Pete was driving down the freeway between two rural ranching communities. He observed a vehicle in front of him swerve to miss two livestock guardian dogs running along the side of the road. Pete knew if he left them there, they'd likely get hit, so he loaded them in his horse trailer and drove home. The dogs were posted on the county lost and found pages and the brand inspector and volunteers who assist animal control in the area were contacted. He reached out to his neighbors and the ranching community to see if anyone was missing their dogs. Most of the sheep had long since left to warmer desert climates until Spring, but he tried anyway. Pete put them with his sheep to no avail. They would always escape and follow him around the farm. Weeks went by and as chance would have it, a rescue was tagged in the post and the wheels to rescue these two were put into motion.
"The day came to pick up the dogs from Pete. It was a very cold Superbowl Sunday and I made my way to pick up the dogs and foster them. It took 2 hours to reach the meeting spot. I pulled into the parking lot and saw the horse trailer with two rambunctious dogs jumping around in sheep crap. I chuckled to myself thinking, "really, how bad could it be?" It took 35 minutes to finish loading the dogs into the vehicle and it was clear that they had never done this before. Once we finished getting one of the dogs securely harnessed in, the other would escape. They were wild and confused and I knew it was going to be one heck of a drive home. I entered the freeway and within two minutes, both dogs began lunging at passing vehicles on the freeway at 70mph. I was hesitant to keep driving but I didn't have any other options. Things began to get more intense when the dogs started snarling at each other and looking to fight. With my right hand, I grabbed hold of the collar of the smaller dog that Pete's kids had named "Scar" because of the scars on his face. I held his head firmly right next to mine. He began to lick my face and I just knew I was going to get worms. The licking continued but I didn't intervene, I could see it was calming him down and that made the big guy in the back calm down too. Although they were skeletally large, I could see their ribs and matts in their fur. The entire drive home, my arms trembled and ached from gripping the steering wheel and never letting go of Scar. As fate would have it, we made it home safely and it was a Superbowl Sunday I will never forget.
From the moment they got out of the car, the transformation, and destruction began. I named them Oliver and Ozzie (short for Oswaldo). It was clear from the get-go that they were in need of physical and emotional care. They were frightened to enter a building and would fence bite in the kennel. Oliver had anxiety so bad, he would pace and pant and self-soothe by tearing things up. There were times when I questioned what I had gotten myself into. As the days went by, I could see the bond that they had with each other. Ozzie was a sense of calm for Oliver and he was always observing my actions. Oliver was like Houdini. I'd swear he picked a lock. They were always trying to escape and go back to running wild. They tested my patience and I tested theirs. I trusted, they trusted. I pushed their boundaries, they pushed mine. I remember times just sitting and talking to Oliver to calm him down and that's when I realized that we were working together and teaching each other. Little by little each day, we made progress.
Transitioning from life on a mountain with no rules or boundaries took time but I clearly remember the day that we reached a turning point. I had left the house to take my senior dogs for a hike, it was something I did every day. Midway through the hike I could hear noise behind me as if something was running. I turned around to see that Oliver and Ozzie had escaped the yard and were running towards me at full speed. I bent down and braced myself, I wasn't sure if they were going to plow me right over and keep on running. I had tears in my eyes when they immediately stopped and began what appeared to be celebrating the successful mission of coming to find me. We hiked almost two miles back home and they followed at my side the entire way. It was that day that I knew they had formed a bond with me and with me is where they will stay forever. Fast forward to today. They are the most gentle, loving and patient creatures I have ever known. They are thriving here and true to livestock guardian breeds, they alert at predators that come through the property. Their favorite things are daily hikes by my side, chilling at the pond, guarding the senior dogs, meeting new people, playing with new doggie friends, trips to the groomer and kicking it on the couch. Looking back now, I am not angry that Oliver chewed up 3 seatbelts. Indeed, I am grateful that he left one to keep me safely belted in."
Sometimes for many different reasons, livestock guardian dogs don't work out. We are grateful for Rancher Pete recognizing that these "failed" working dogs deserve a chance at living a wonderful life being loved and cared for by what they wanted most.... humans.