Kate Flora here. This morning I have a story to tell you, one I hope may open your heart to shelters and shelter animals. First, some background. Although I was carefully watched over as a child by a brilliant collie-shepherd mix named Mrs. Kitzel who always placed herself between me and strangers, as an adult, I’ve mostly been a cat person. I’ve been dragged back into the amazing world of dogs three ways.
First, by writing two true crime books–Finding Amy and Death Dealer–in which some of the heroes of the stories have been search and rescue dogs and their handlers. Second, by having my two sons and their wives adopt rescue dogs. I now have four grand dogs–Frances, Otis, Harvey, and Daisy. Finally, because I’ve spent my last two and half years helping a retired Maine game warden write his memoir, and his story is full of dogs and their amazing abilities.
I no longer look at the dogs the same way. I wonder about their backgrounds and their characteristics and what they like to do and their long lineages of interactions with humans. I’m amazed at dogs who will work for hours for the simple reward of getting to play with their toys. The stories I’ve been told are changing my landscape.
Like everyone else, I’ve followed the stories of secret service dogs Hurricane and Jordan stopping the man who jumped the White House fence.
Which brings me to the story of Winnie. Winnie is a Dutch Shepherd who was found wandering the streets of Atlanta, Georgia and brought to a shelter. She was mangy, flea-infested, and had worms. She was funny looking, a rangy little creature who seemed to be all ears. Active, restless, possessed of the breed’s urge to work and herd, she was not chosen by a family to be their pet.
Winnie was one day away from being put down when a young woman named Lindsey Guay, who worked with a rescue organization called The Pixel Fund http://www.thepixelfund.org saw her picture, recognized her breed, and posted her photo on Facebook, alerting her uncle, Roger Guay, and asking if he might be interested in the dog.
Knowing how valuable Dutch Shepherds can be in search and rescue, and how readily their
characteristics can lend themselves to bomb, drug and other police and detection work, Guay said that if arrangements could be made to bring Winnie from Atlanta to Maine, he’d be glad to have her.
Winnie made the journey and arrived in Maine a sorry sight. Not a cuddly family dog–she was an energetic handful which is perhaps why someone abandoned her–but a type of dog that lives and breathes to work. A dog with a very strong herding instinct, super alert to her environment. An extremely smart animal that just wanted a job.
She was at a perfect age to start training, and after she was cured of worms and fleas and restored to health, Winnie started training as a working dog, immediately showing that she was a natural.
A few weeks ago, Roger took Winnie along to a day long dog qualifying session in Greenville, Maine. At the training, she caught the eye of Jim Roy, a deputy in the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department. Jim Roy had a dog that was on the cusp of retirement, and was thinking of getting another dog and when he met Winnie, it was cop and Shepherd love at first sight. But there were complications. Roy was planning to retire soon himself, so the department would be
reluctant to support his acquisition of another dog. And Roy’s current dog was a great working dog but grouchy and territorial and intolerant of other dogs.
Luckily for all, Roger was able to make a deal–Jim Roy would take Winnie, train her for the department’s use, and on retirement, he and Winnie would transfer their talents and services to Merrill’s Investigations and Security http://www.merrillsinvestigations.com. Best if all? Winnie’s awkward charm endeared her to Roy’s other dog, and now the two are inseparable.
This is a happy ending story. The ratty little stray from the streets of Atlanta will one day soon be either a bomb detection dog or a drug dog. Either way, because her life was saved, she may one day save yours.