Gift: This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)
Early in the year one of our CSA members contacted us about some English shepherd puppies they had. They knew we were researching herding dogs and planning at some point to get one. Initially, we said no. We were swamped and felt that any dog we brought into the house at that time would likely become just another pet for lack of proper attention to training.
The conversations continued, though, and through their persistence and after further research we decided an English shepherd might very well be a good match for us and the opportunity was one we could hardly pass up. They brought a couple of the puppies by the market for us to meet and a decision was made that the best of the bunch would be Lachsmi, a female that was bossy with the rest of the dogs. We thought she'd make an excellent herding dog. Sometime in early May, we met them in Tulsa and picked her up.
What happened after we returned to the farm is hard for me to write about. While walking with the dog, I tripped and fell and dropped the leash. Lachsmi ran. The leash caught hold of the leg of our barbecue grill and sent it flying, landing on the ground in a big crash. Lachsmi bolted and ran for the garden. I went after her, trying not to let my panic lead me to do things that made her think I was chasing her. I found her in the garden, against the fence on the far side. I was slowly approaching her when a truck with a cattle trailer came down our road, banging and clanging and making a lot of noise. Lachsmi bolted under the fence and out to the road. I ran back to get my truck so that I could try to catch her. By the time I got out to the road, our neighbors pointed across the highway, saying she'd gone that way. I slowly crossed the road and parked. I saw her in the field. She stood and looked at me for a minute. I called her name and took one step toward her. She bolted again, disappearing into the tall grass. I never saw her again.
I searched for her all afternoon, talking to everyone in the area where she disappeared that I could find at home. We made fliers to post. I put them up at intersections in the area and in a couple of stores in the small town close to us. I searched again the next day, walking all over the field where I last saw her, driving up and down roads, walking through more fields. I saw no sign of her. The friends from whom we'd gotten her came out with Lachsmi's mom and the three of us plus the dog searched again. Nothing.
I felt horrible. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I think about it. The thoughts of what happened to her as a result of my clumsiness and failure to keep things under control were hard to bear. It didn't help that the situation reminded me of another painful experience with a dog that had happened a little over a year earlier. I wondered if I was destined to keep repeating the same mistake over and over. I was sure I should never be trusted with a dog again, maybe no animals at all. It was hard to sit with the awareness of how many people and animals had been hurt by my clumsiness and lack of control in those two situations.
Days went by and my heart ached. I found myself looking for her every time I drove by the area where she disappeared. I even stopped a few times and walked along the roads calling her name. As time went by, I began to accept that she was gone and so I prayed that she was safe in someone else's home, someone who simply never saw the signs we posted or didn't get a visit from one of us when we went door to door.
I went out of town on business and the time away helped. The pain began to ease up some and I found myself starting to let go a bit. A few weeks later we received an e-mail from the friends who gave us Lachsmi. They had another pup and after a lot of conversation in their family, had decided that it would help them with their healing if we would receive the other pup as a gift, no charge, and train her to be a sheep dog.
Tears streamed down my face as I read the e-mail. I did not feel at all like I deserved such a gift. I was scared to death that I would blow it again. But I could see in Lisa's face that she really wanted her and knew that it was the right thing to do. I knew that I had to get past the experience if I was ever going to survive living on a farm with so many animals under my care. We agreed to take her and responded to them with appreciation for the amazing grace they demonstrated in making the offer to us.
The next Saturday, they brought Gaia (now called Maya) with them when they came to the market. When market was over, they handed her off to Lisa who brought her home. I was nervous at first. I found myself keeping my distance. We kept her inside for a week, taking her out on a leash to go to the bathroom. We walked her around on a leash outside, slowly introducing her to the animals. Her response was completely different than the other dog's. She was calm and curious, very attentive to us, clinging to Lisa's side whether in the house or outside.
With fear and great concern a week later, we let her out for the first time without the leash. She sniffed around, did her business, ran around the yard a bit, but came back to the door, showing no signs at all that she was going to run away. Gradually, we began to relax more and trust that she was going to stay.
In the months since, Maya has found her place on this farm. Though initially intimidated by the animals, she is becoming less and less afraid to be around them. She's right at our side now whenever we work with the sheep. She goes out for hikes with us, always running up ahead of us several then stopping until we catch up to her. She is our miniature dachshund Jai's best companion, playing with him in all his craziness.
And with time, I let my guard down and let her in. Every morning, she jumps up on the bed and lays next to me while I journal and write. She lays at my feet at the dinner table and when I come home from work, she runs to greet me.
Sometimes I look into her dark eyes, the serious gaze that comes from her sober face, and I see the greatest gift of all this year, the trust of a dog who found her way into my heart and the grace of friends who decided to give us another chance.