We first spotted Dan three days ago in the grandstands at the Magic Valley Reined Cow Horse Association Futurity and Derby. Annabelle had just finished showing her wonderful horse, Doc, in their first-ever NRCHA boxing class, and we went up to sit and watch the rest of the competition.
Dan was a beautiful older golden retriever lady. She wore a new black collar, and had been recently clipped into a darling short haircut. She wandered happily in the grandstands, wagging her tail as she wandered from person to person, spending extra time with the youngest kids in the audience. When we went to feed our horses that afternoon we noticed Dan wandering out around the trailers, laying with other dogs in the shade and just generally hanging out. At the awards picnic that evening, Dan joined in, lolling on the grass and watching us eat our excellent trout dinner. She never begged or bothered the people at the tables, she was just there with us.
Lots of people were talking about the sweet pretty dog. The announcer made a broadcast in the afternoon asking if she belonged to a participant at the show. Word quickly spread among the close-knit community of competitors, and it was determined that she did not belong to anyone there. When we left the fairgrounds that evening to go back to our hotel Dan was out front in the big parking lot, drinking from a mud puddle. Annabelle started crying, begging to take Dan to the hotel with us. “No,” I told her, “this dog obviously lives around here and is loved. She is fat and healthy and she is going to go home.”
The next morning we were going to watch a few horse show classes before we headed back to our city, but all Annabelle cared about was finding out whether the dog was still at the fairgrounds. First thing upon our arrival she scanned about, locating Dan in a just a few minutes lying in the shade under a truck near the stalls. A friend took a picture of Dan, and posted it on Facebook, asking if anyone knew where she lived.
I was working hard to get Annabelle to load up and get home. We got our horses out and exercised them a bit, then started to pack up. My eight year old helped to gather and load, as always, but still she kept badgering me about the dog……what if she was lost? What if everyone left and she was still there and nobody fed her or gave her water? What if she was there all night by herself? And sad?
She was crying again.
About that time we were approached by Karl, one of the local trainers and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He wanted to congratulate Annabelle on her ride and compliment her on her progress. We exchanged niceties for a bit, and I thought I saw an opportunity to put the dog issue to rest. “Karl,” I said, using the universal parental tone that I thought meant back me up here! “Karl, Annabelle is very worried about that lost dog that everyone has been talking about. Since you live around here I wondered if you knew the dog or maybe had an idea of what to do to find her owner?”
Karl let me down.
“That is such a nice dog,” he said. “I have been wondering about her too. We talked to the fairgrounds maintenance guy and he said he’d never seen her before. I had figured that she probably lived around here and came over when she saw people, but he said she just showed up yesterday. I know for a fact that she was here all night last night. I think she’s lost.” I saw Annabelle’s face crumple with worry.
Then Karl took it too far.
“Why don’t you just take her home and I’ll tell the fairgrounds people you have her? If someone comes looking for her they can call you.” I said I hated to take her so far away when clearly she was a beloved pet. How would someone retrieve her? Karl had an answer for that too. “If they love her and want her back they can come and get her.”
We chatted a bit longer, Karl completely clueless that he had violated a parental code of ethics. When our friend rode away on his pretty bay horse, the lobbying really stated. “Mommmmmmm! We HAVE to take her home. She doesn’t have a home. Karl said.”
I explained over and over to my child that the dog clearly had a home. We shouldn’t drive her almost three hours away. What if kids were missing her?
Anyone who knows Annabelle very well knows how single-minded she could be. When she couldn’t immediately get me to capitulate, she came up with another tactic. “I think we should ask someone else’s opinion.” she said.
That sounded good to me. Anyone in their right mind could see the dog was well taken care of. They would never condone taking her so far from home. “OK, Annabelle,” I said. “You pick a person. Anyone you want. Whatever they say, that is what we’ll do.”
Her little blond head tilted for a bit. “Jake. Let’s ask Jake.” Good, I thought. Jake is a practical guy. He’ll say leave the dog. Then….”No, not Jake. I changed my mind. Let’s ask Dan. I pick Dan.”
We walked over to the warm-up pen, where Dan Roeser sat on a big pretty horse watching the two-rein competition. Dan is a trainer from our area, and also one of the sweetest guys I know. He is a kid magnet and softie for all animals. I didn’t realize just how much of a softie he was, though, until he made his ruling. Annabelle and I had both explained our positions, and I told him his decision would be final. Dan listened carefully, then he looked at me and said “Are you sure you want to ask ME what you should do?” Yes, I said. Annabelle picked you.
“OK, then,” Dan said. “If I thought there was any chance at all everyone would leave today and that dog would not have a home to go to then I would say take her. You have to take her home. She’s laying over beside my trailer, by the way.”
Annabelle jumped up and down and laughed for the first time all morning. “You heard him mommy. We are taking her home.” Fine, I said. “We are going to name her Dan.” Everybody laughed.
I thanked our mediator, and off we went to load up. We rearranged the back seat of the truck, folding up the long bench side and putting down a comfy horse blanket, then walked over to the trailer where Dan lay sleeping. I called her and she jumped to her feet, wagging her tail and happily following us to our truck. She jumped right in and Annabelle buckled up beside her. We were on our way.
Back home, Dan was met with unbridled enthusiasm. She greeted everyone enthusiastically, and Batman and Desperate Hubby vied for her attention. Neighbors Grandpa Vernon and Grandma Kay came to welcome our guest. Dan had apparently sat with Grandpa Vernon for several hours at the horse show on Saturday when they were there watching, and he was already a big fan.
Dan settled in like she’d lived here all her life. She slept on the floor by Annabelle’s bed that first night, whining to wake her in the morning to go outside. When my little horse-trainer went out to lunge her pony over jumps, Dan followed and sat patiently outside the arena, periodically taking a dip in the concrete irrigation ditch to cool off. She was in and out of the house all day long, never getting more than a few feet from one of us.
At nine o’clock in the morning, the opening time stated on their web page, I called the Minidoka County Animal control to report that we had the lovely dog. Friends from the horse show and the Rupert area were also posting Dan’s picture all over Facebook trying to find her owner, but I was secretly hoping we would get to keep her.
At about noon I got a call back from the shelter, saying that they would keep my number, but were not optimistic that the dog’s owner would be found. The person I spoke to said that they took in over 600 dogs a year, and that fewer than 17% of those dogs were claimed by their owners OR adopted out. That made me sad.
When I had a free minute in the early afternoon we loaded Dan up in the pickup, the kids arguing over who got to sit next to her, and took her to our local animal shelter to scan her for a chip. As predicted by DH, the handheld scanner found no identifying information. The kids were ecstatic, and I was hopeful.
We went to Costco after dropping Annabelle and Dan off at home, and Batman picked out a large round dog bed for Dan. I put it in my room when the kids wouldn’t stop arguing over it, and Dan slept quietly beside me all night long. She went outside with me at 6:30 to feed the horses, staying on my heels the entire time like we had followed the routine for years.
It was a little after nine this morning when I got the call. I was on the other line when an unfamiliar number came up on my phone. As soon as I hung up, I listened to the voicemail. It was a man, he sounded nice. “I think you have my dog.” The man’s name was Lee, and he said he lived near the fairgrounds. Apparently, Dan’s name is Hailey, and she spends part of the time at the neighbors and part of the time at Lee’s, since he works a great deal. Lee had thought that Hailey was at the neighbors over the weekend, but when he went to retrieve her last night after work he discovered she was gone.
He said he was devastated.
First thing this morning he called the animal shelter and got my number. It was clear that he loved Hailey, and he desperately wanted her back. His kids and his neighbor would just be heartbroken if he couldn’t come get her.
I was happy for Hailey/Dan that she would get to go home again, although truth be told she seemed pretty darn happy with us too. She is a wonderful dog, and she obviously already has a family that loves her. The only thing about Lee’s story that made me a bit sad was that he said this was the second time Hailey had ventured to the fairgrounds and been there long enough to be taken home by a concerned person. Last time, he said, she had been taken all the way to Boise by a family, and he had found her in the same manner, by a report filed with the Minidoka Animal Shelter.
All I could think was….and still no ID?
Hailey/Dan gets to stay with us for another couple of days. On Friday, when Lee is off work he will meet me halfway to pick up his dog. I asked him for the complete spelling of his first and last name before I hung up, and when Hailey goes home this time she will be sporting a dog tag with his information so that she can be returned if she wanders again.
Annabelle and Batman are devastated. Annabelle is worried that the beautiful dog will be picked up by someone next time who won’t treat her so well, and she hasn’t stopped crying since I told her about the call.
I told her that returning the dog is the right thing to do.
We can only hope there won’t be a next time.