Open Letter to My Pitbull-Owning Neighbor

Monday morning Gala and I set off on a run, well, with my sore hamstring more a runnish.


We’d gone about a mile and ¼ when we came to a lone farm house that sits nearly on the road. Most of the old farmhouses in Pennsylvania do, since the roads are really paved cow paths and mail routes.

A young brown dog with a friendly face lives at this house chained in the side yard on a wire that allows him to nearly meet the road. On the days when he is outside early, he charges down the hill at us until the chain hangs him and his feet are yanked into a skidding stop. He barks ferociously, but his tail is usually wagging.

One time he was loose, about a year ago, he was still mostly a puppy. It was a rare day when I was running dogless. He leapt at me, nipping at my elbows, desperately wanting attention. I tried to pet him, but he dove at my face, most likely in the hopes of licking it. I continued on and he followed for a dozen yards or so before a voice from the porch called him back.

The dog is fullgrown now. A pitbull/bulldog mix of some sort – broad and squat and muscled with an enormous head. His regular charge always makes Gala nervous and she’ll bark back at him a time or two before pulling hard to get away from the house and his noise as we run past.

Monday, I heard the dog but didn’t see him as we approached the house. Odd, I thought, since by now he would usually be halfway down the short slope after us. We were nearly to the house when he came charging across the grass; a few inches of broken chain hung from his collar. I pulled Gala to the opposite side of the road, but he ran across the road after us, lunging at her. I yelled, she returned fire and he backed off, only to come at us again and again and again. Continue reading Open Letter to My Pitbull-Owning Neighbor


Home, Sweet Home

After a long weekend of driving in the rain and being on my feet talking to strangers (and trying to be charming), it has been nice to be surrounded by dogs once again. They’re very honest about what they want from me – food, squeaky toys, and my undivided attention and affection.

Buford (Bronson) basically doubles Frankie. Same size. Same energy. Same happy-happy. Same need for love and attention.


They spend their days wearing each other out with their playing (which was the secondary reason for fostering Buford, beyond saving a life). They vie for attention, constantly one-upping each other much like real boys. Sometimes their exchanges disintegrate into modified brawls. And sometimes they end when Gala has heard enough and barks at them. Her loud voice sends them both running for cover.

Here’s a typical scene: Continue reading Home, Sweet Home

This is a Special Dog

In less than a week, it will be six months since Gala arrived at our house. At this point, she believes she is our dog.

She is not.

I don’t know why she hasn’t found her family. I keep telling people who ask, that her family must be pretty special people if she has to wait this long. But then again, she is a special dog.

Part of me questions whether I am helping or hindering her adoption effort by writing about her, but it would seem insincere not to share her stories. And there are many. Because this is a special dog.

“Latest circus trick,” I say to Nick as we watch Gala Continue reading This is a Special Dog

Runaway Gala (& The Pepper Puppers)

This time I really thought I’d seen the last of Gala.

That was my thought, anyway, as I watched her disappear through the woods in pursuit of a herd of deer. She was headed in the general direction of Maryland, and I was pretty sure she would make it.

We were about a mile and a half away from home on our regular run when the deer appeared. Gala did what she usually does – leapt in the air after them.

Because we run with the Easy Walk harness, this usually means that as she reaches the end of her lead, the harness forces her to do a lovely pirouette in midair and land facing me again.

This is the point where I say, “Leave it,” in my firm, take-no-prisoners voice, and then she does not leave it. Most days it takes three or four pirouettes and reminders before she gives up and simply prances for a quarter mile or so.

On Friday, she had done about four pirouettes, when she went airborne for a fifth. This time, though, Continue reading Runaway Gala (& The Pepper Puppers)

WANTED: The Perfect Adopter

WANTED: one adopter. Must be a long-distance runner or hiker or have a securely fenced, large yard. Must be a patient person with a good sense of humor. Must be smart and not intimidated by a smarter dog. Must be creative and willing to adapt to my needs. Must not be a person who is overly attached to their belongings and/or is a neatnik and never leaves valuable items lying about. Must be kind and understanding and willing to accept that we all have our own histories, habits, and hang ups. Must be a one-dog kind of person. Must be allergic to cats (okay, maybe not allergic just not inclined to ever own a cat). Proclivity for road trips and adventures, a plus. Adopter should be looking for a dog who not only provides excellent and enthusiastic company, but also personal protective services. Lifetime commitment required.

That’s the ad that Gala would have me place. We discussed it on our long run this morning.

This dog.


She is breaking my heart. Continue reading WANTED: The Perfect Adopter

Rescue Work Overload & the Difference a little Trust Can Make

Every now and again, the dog-thing gets a bit overwhelming. This weekend was one of those times. It makes me pause and wonder if I’m doing too much, asking too much of my family, my own pets, my own heart.

It’s so easy to anthropomorphize dogs. (I toss that big word out there as if I didn’t have to look up the spelling and be sure I was using it correctly. It means to attribute human characteristics and purposes to inanimate objects, plants, and animals.)

We imagine we know a dog’s motives, emotions. We think we can read its expressions, sense its moods, understand why it responds the way it does, even interpret its feelings. (I’ve been anthropomorphizing Gracie for years — but who knows what really goes through that little head of hers.)


This week confirmed for me once again that dogs, like people, are mysteries. It is nearly impossible to know another person’s heart, let alone a dog’s, and twice as easy to imagine that we do. We assume based on our own experiences and bias, but in reality we’re wrong as much as we’re blessed with a lucky guess or two.

Yesterday morning, for the first time in weeks, Gala and Darlin’ had a nasty fight. Continue reading Rescue Work Overload & the Difference a little Trust Can Make

A Visual Tour of Nelson, One-of-a-Kind Dog

Our latest foster dog is one interesting canine. He is a hodge-podge of dog parts, scrambled together to create complete adorableness. Today I’m going to take you on a visual tour of Nelson.


Nelson is listed as a 2-year-old heeler mix. That description is a bit misleading, but it’s the official line, so we’ll go with it.

First off, Nelson is not a heeler. Sure, he’s got gorgeous heeler coloring, but in so far as heelers are energetic, semi-neurotic, herding dogs, Nelson is none of those things.

Energetic is not a word I’d use to describe Nelson. He’s very ‘chill’ as my daughter says. He has a happy little jaunt and is perfectly pleasant on a leash, but the most energy I’ve seen him call up is when we pass the fox den at the top of our pasture. He would very much like to climb right down the hole and visit with the fox family (and he’d probably fit). I have to drag him away from the hole each time we pass it.

Neurotic, also is not a word I would use to describe Nelson. He is super easy-going, gets along with the other dogs, and while curious about the cats, he can’t be bothered to make a big effort to chase them. He spends his days lounging nearby and doesn’t even bark at the UPS guy (despite Gracie’s theatrical performance of “kill-the-guy-in-the-brown-suit” which she stages every time the big truck lumbers up the driveway).

As far as herding, well, although Nelson likes to be with people, he certainly isn’t going to nip at your heels and collect all the people in one place. He doesn’t even cast a second glance at the horses when we walk by them and only feigns a passing interest in the chickens (mostly because Darlin’ gets so excited at the sight of them).

So, let’s assume the heeler label is in name only as a nod to his awesome markings.

Speaking of markings, let the visual tour begin. Continue reading A Visual Tour of Nelson, One-of-a-Kind Dog