Sunday, March 26, 2017


First photo of "Bob" surveying his new home
After detailing the pet carrier, as well as its bewildered occupant, the Prius started its commuter trek north. I wish I would have been able to take a photo of my stoic passenger's profile, focusing on Interstate 5 straight ahead from his carrier as if entranced.  It occurred to me then that several hours earlier this little guy had never seen a highway, and even two-lane roads near his farm in Kellogg, Minnesota were at a premium. What he must have been thinking.

A couple of hours later we were in Bellingham, Washington.

Home was a single-story rambler with a fenced back-yard, and a front yard just large enough for a Frisbee toss - a must for a Border Collie - on the southside of town. Environs that didn't come close to resembling Bob's free-range existence on the farm. He seemed underwhelmed as I set up his carrier in the living room. A sliding-door opened onto a backyard deck, and after I had finished configuring his new digs I found our boy perched stoically on the far edge glancing at every passing bird and digesting each new sound.

Less than a half-hour later I heard his new mom on the front porch. This ought to be good.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hitting the road for home

Casey's last romp in Minnesota with Mom
A short walk around the tarmac with Bob was no where near as comforting for our urine-soaked Minnesota refugee as I was hoping. There was no sign that this little guy had been traumatized by his flight, but he had no intention of relieving himself after his six-hour trip (including a stopover in Minneapolis). A sniff here, another there, an occasional glance at Pacific Highway traffic, and rarely acknowledging the existence of the big guy on the other end of the leash.

It was time to hit the road for home, but first thing first. My new charge was in dire need of a bath. After removing smelly, wet debris from his carrier, I installed it in my Prius for a side-trip south to Federal Way. For the record, his water dish was dry, a plastic bag of adult kibble (Purina One) was taped to the carrier top, and paperwork accompanying the crate indicated Bob was actually seven-months-old, all red flags for mistreatment. A discussion for later.

One thing for sure, Bob would be in his forever home in a couple of hours. Before that though, my daughter-in-law Ernie would soon be the first of the tribe to meet the kid, urine or no urine. Some introduction to the family. No where to go but up.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Chasing Molly memories

OK, so now the die were cast. We were ready to bring another excentric puppy into our lives. Well, ready or not this little reject from a farm in Kellogg, Minnesota was as good as on his way. But before we go there, a little background.

Annie 1990
Victoria and I were first introduced to Border Collies in 1995 by our good friend Marsha, who owned two incredible girls Megs and Katie. To say we were impressed is such an understatement. Complicating matters that year, we lost our 15-year-old cockapoo Annie in the spring and were looking for another exceptional dog, just as irreplaceable. Then our quest was expedited by Vic suffering a nasty leg break. Focusing on a loveable rehab partner was an integral part of the search. The more we looked the more we realized that an inquisitive, active Border Collie would be a perfect match.

Marsha, Megs, Katie, Vic and Molly 1996
TThat fall we found Molly, and we immediately fell in love. She was a dynamo that kept us on our toes, even setting the agenda much of the time for almost 13 years. Our family and friends loved her. The total package. For the rest of my career Molly lived on both coasts and was up for anything - running, hiking, Frisbee, herding and she absolutely loved baseball. I couldn't drive by a Little League game without stopping to let her watch. We even went so far as to dvr a Seattle Mariners game for her to watch on television during each off-season.

Molly 2002

Molly B was a joy. Oh, she had her issues like all of us.

And we had never felt a sadness like the one we felt when Molly died of colon cancer. It became a hidden dread that I locked away in my psyche for almost a decade. 

Never spoken about again until this year. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Long-distance rescue?

All the signs were there. Vic had seen it coming ever since I first saw "Bob" on the Minnesota breeder’s site. And after I’d returned from my status call - just to see how he was doing, mind you – I must have looked pathetic. “Just give her a call back and tell her we’ll take him. You know you want to.”

“Seriously?  You sure? Really?” Not wanting to push the issue or take any chances I was hearing things, I was hitting redial for the breeder as I was heading out the door of the quilt shop.

To this day Vic has always said the look on my face before she gave the go-ahead to call, just pathetic. Never regretted it, particularly not now.
Arrangements were quickly made to fly our guy to Seattle, ETA one week. It could have been sooner but Vic and I had made plans to stay with our friend Marsha at a B & B on Orcas Island for a couple of days, a delay we would second-guess for years.

So…I’d done everything up to now that I had been told to never do when looking for a dog. I began my search before I’d even stopped grieving for the loss of our beloved Molly; I found our new dog on the internet without personally checking out the breeder; and I had him shipped by air to the northwest. All red-flags in any dog adoption or purchase process – and I’d never recommend our plan of action to any potential guardian - but something was telling me that time had been a thief up to this point for Bob.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wheels turning

Calico Creations Quilt Shop
OK, so where was I. And what exactly does a Mt Vernon quilt shop have to do with Casey's Worlds anyway?

So, after wrapping up our visit to the Skagit Valley Highland Games...the Border Collie competition was over anyway...Vic and I headed over the West Side Bridge and the Skagit River to city center's First Street. That gave us enough time to ruminate over the competitors, especially the young male collie, and of course Bob's status. It was about time to check up on him again. He had to have been adopted by now. Are you starting to get the picture? Vic was.

Our first downtown stop was Calico Creations, a quilt shop that Vic could have spent the rest of the afternoon in. She had to have sensed that I was distracted while I was feigning interest among the racks of fabric.

"Why don't you give the breeder a call and see how he's doing?" Vic had that look. She knew my grown-up creds were on the verge of crumbling for our reject in the Heartland.  

"OK, someone must have taken him home by now. Be right back."

I was back inside in ten minutes after finding out that my Minnesota distraction was still for sale, and there had been absolutely no bites. "He's just not outgoing enough, kind of timid." Incredulous at this news, as well as her dispassionate update, I hung up and trudged back into the quilt shop. But the wheels were turning.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


We kept a cyberspace eye on the "hard to place" runt for a couple of weeks more, even called the breeder - no takers. But we did find out that our guy was  actually 10 months old, having been returned for a refund, and no longer in the best bargaining position when a new litter of half-siblings were his competition.
Our long-distance, dispassionate pragmatism was starting to come apart at the seams, and the Skagit Valley Highland Games & Celtic Festival in Mt. Vernon finished it off. While watching Border Collies compete in the sheep trials we were completely blown away by a two-year-old male who didn't place, but the rapport with the commands of his lady guardian...priceless. And that wasn't all.

Even more than that, her exhausted "kid" jumped into her lap for a rub down, as we were kudoing their performance. Public displays of affection were never our alpha girl Molly's thing.

"Oh, yeah," she said, "Border Collie males are way more affectionate than females, real softies, at least those that I've worked with. They just want to please...look at my love junky here." That got my attention. Just had to go check on Bob.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Keeping tabs

We didn't have a clue what we were getting into. About a month before Casey - actually "Quantum Leap Bob" to the breeder - arrived at Seatac Airport, something just didn't seem right. I mean the idea that here it was summer and this little guy still hadn't been snatched up. Ten months old and no forever home. It was unsettling.


Before Victoria and I had even stopped grieving over the loss of Molly, our first Border Collie, I had been scouring the internet for an occasional puppy fix. To this day I don't remember how I found the website of a Border Collie breeder in the middle of Minnesota but one day it just popped up, and there was that face. Bob, the runt of the litter, should have been totally forgettable. He was sporting a nose that had way more than his share of pink and a partial blue left iris, both products of the Merle Gene from the sire, Bubba. Show dog material, unlikely, but that face was lure enough. I had to keep checking on him.

In a week or so I phoned the breeder to see how Bob was doing. "No takers yet. He just sort of hangs back," said a less than enthusiastic rancher. "The runt of a litter of seven and more submissive than most folks are lookin' for."

"Well, someone will take him home..he'll be perfect for some kid. Come on. He's a cute kid."

"Interested? Money back guarantee." Of course, she had no way of knowing that we didn't have the time to invest in another Border Collie so soon after losing our irreplaceable Molly to cancer. No way of knowing for sure, but she had to be sensing I'd be calling back.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Late in July 2008 I drove to Sea-Tac to anxiously retrieve a new family member at the airport. When I arrived at the baggage area I was redirected to a vast freight facility on the south end, where I began wandering through a cavernous Northwest Airlines cargo hangar. An airline employee soon joined me in navigating mountains of cargo and a labyrinth of freight containers. We were on a quest that afternoon for a simple grey pet kennel, one that had been driven and flown over 2500 miles from a farm in America's heartland.

The company baggage handler led me through even more stacks of containers and nondescript freight until we both spotted the familiar Petco travel crate, large enough to hold a German Shepherd. At first glance it appeared empty. But after stooping to peer into the wire opening, I spotted, tucked in the shadows of a rear corner, a small dog, seemingly content to stay right where he was.

After a few minutes of gentle coaxing, nothing was succeeding in convincing our reluctant traveler to move off his haunches and into the light. "Hey, little guy, you wanna get out of here and go home?"..."How you doing kiddo?" Nothing doing, nothing at all, but who could blame him after his cross-country trip in steerage. What should he expect next?

Finally, taking a chance, I carefully reached into his dark, durable plastic den with a treat in hand, and was immediately enveloped in a cloud of ammonia. The kennel pad had morphed from cushion to urine sponge, and probably several hours earlier. "Quantum Leap Bob" was awash in the evidence, and had to be feeling worse for the wear. So, after using a combination of sweet talk and gentle tugging, the newest member of our family slowly - ever so slowly - ventured out of the darkness of the hangar and became the light of our lives.