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Returning Freedom

December 2, 2013

 As most of you know, I was pet deprived as a child, only allowed small pets that could be flushed down the toilet when they died. As a married couple, Mrs. Chatterbox and I have owned several dogs over the years and I’ve noticed an interesting dynamic—the dogs Mrs. C. picks live with us for many years while the dogs I pick don’t seem to work out. The reason for this is obvious; as an artist I tend to rescue beautiful dogs while Mrs. C. looks for animals with wonderful personalities. She couldn’t care less what the dog looks like. But ten years ago when we were between dogs I foolishly inserted myself into the process by selecting an Australian shepherd named Freedom from our local animal shelter. He was the most beautiful dog I’d ever seen. Mrs. C. kept guiding me to the cage of some mutt that was making goo-goo eyes at her but I insisted we adopt Freedom. Big mistake!


When we arrived home with Freedom he started running around the living room of our small condominium so quickly that it seemed he rose up on the walls like a cartoon character. His magnificent tail knocked over the collectibles on our shelves and coffee table, and he spent hours barking and trying to herd us into the hallway. Freedom was an exceptionally active dog which I would have discovered had I bothered to research Australian shepherds before selecting one. I could walk Freedom for miles without tiring him in the slightest. After several weeks of Freedom shedding everywhere and tearing up our condo, I made the painful decision to return him to the shelter.


I felt like a terrible person but I couldn’t live any longer with a canine cyclone blasting through our home. One rainy evening a few days before Thanksgiving, Mrs. C. and I put Freedom in the car and drove him back to the shelter. Mrs. C. cried the entire way as she tried to comfort me with, “It’s a no kill shelter so they won’t put him down.” Or, “It’s not like we got him as a puppy when he was cute and now that he’s an adult dog no one will want to adopt him.” And, “He’s no worse off for having lived with us for a few months.”


When we reached the shelter the attendant told us to bring Freedom back after Thanksgiving because no one adopts dogs right before the holiday. No way could we endure bringing Freedom home only to return with him in a few days. I just couldn’t handle it. I slipped the attendant a few bucks and he took Freedom from us. We were given a piece of paper with a number we could call to check on Freedom’s adoption status. On the way home I crumpled the paper and threw it out the window; Freedom had become an albatross around my neck and I wanted to be free of responsibility. I knew I wouldn’t check.


But that night my dreams were haunted by Freedom. In the days that followed I couldn’t get his smiling face out of my mind. One day Mrs. Chatterbox asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said, “All I want is to find out that darn dog went to a good home.”


“Why don’t you call and find out if he was adopted?” she suggested.


“What if he hasn’t been adopted and has been sitting in a cage all this time? I’ll feel like crap! Besides, I threw away the phone number.”


“You can call the shelter and get the information if you really want to.”


I waited a few more days before making the call. The person answering remembered Freedom, a gorgeous pureblood Australian shepherd. “Someone adopted Freedom the day after you brought him in. He’s now living on a nice farm outside of Portland.”


“Are you telling me the truth?” I asked. Wasn’t this the familiar lie hundreds of parents told their kids after shipping off unwanted pets to the pound—Little Barky is now living on a lovely farm where he has all the room he needs to be happy.


“I’m not lying to you,” the voice on the phone said. “In fact, I know the adopters personally and can give you their phone number along with the name of the farm if you’d like to check on him.”


That evening Mrs. C. again asked me what I wanted for Christmas. “I already got what I wanted,” I said.


I didn’t want or need anything else.









Lots of dogs on that farm.
By: Cranky on December 2, 2013
You know you did the right thing for you and for freedom. So many times people don't and end up being miserable with their selection and so is the pet. I've worked with rescue dogs for a long time and I think it is brave of people to try but it is kind of people to know when they can't. Not all rescue folks feel that way. I bet Freedom was a great farm dog, his breed surely is not a good condo breed. Loved your story.
By: Oma Linda on December 2, 2013
Hooray, a happy ending! I think my old dog Homer must have been part Australian shepherd; he could run and run and dig and dig.
By: PT Dilloway on December 2, 2013
This is your best, Charles. I've had a herding dog, and concluded that it's asinine for people to own a dog that's bred to run 50 miles a day and expect it to be happy living a relatively sedentary. I got bad shoulders (resulting in three surgeries so far and a life in pain) from trying to give my blue heeler enough exercise by throwing a tennis ball many hundreds of times a week with a throwing stick, and she still wanted more. Having a herding dog is, for most people, like giving an old person a Ferrari. As for no-kill shelters, what do you think they do with dogs they can't adopt out? They send them to kill shelters. What else can they do with limited resources?
By: Snowbrush on December 2, 2013
Sorry, dude, I actually do know your name, but you know something of my condition this morning, so I know you'll understand. I hurt so much that it's all I can do sit in this chair, yet I would be equally miserable out of it.
By: Snowbrush on December 2, 2013
Face it, you have a conscious and a big heart. But your dog-shopping skills need to be overhauled.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 2, 2013
glad he found the right place for him - he was lucky.
By: TexWisGirl on December 2, 2013
That trip taking him back to the shelter had to suck. I totally know how you felt though. You did the right thing. I don't think I'll ever own a dog again. Too painful.
By: Bouncin Barb on December 2, 2013
There's no way i could keep a dog happy -- that's why i have cats.
By: mimi on December 2, 2013
You did the right thing, my friend. A herder doesn't belong in a small apartment!!
By: fishducky on December 2, 2013
A nice ending. That baby needed to run freely on acres of land. You both got some freedom. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on December 2, 2013
Hard choice taking Freedom back, but you made the right call. Two weeks ago we "adopted" an older cat and was warned he might not work out. We loved Cheddar and he was very mellow when we held him, which was rare. He was a "scaredy cat" and hide. We found him one evening up in the engine. He wouldn't eat and he was not adapting and sadly we had to return him. We should have listened to the warning, but he was a beautiful cat.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 2, 2013
Stephen- several years ago my sweetie wanted a standard poodle-was always admiring them and saying how smart they were consequently a few months later a man needed to find homes for his many standard poodles because of his serious illness. Red was 7 years old and was living in a foster home. We went and visited and made the decision to take him home with us. First off we had to have him neutered, teeth cleaned, groomed and nails trimmed as he had not been really cared for very well for some time. So after we had him for about a week he went to the vet and the groomer. BUT I was still working and my sweetie was NOT the alpha in this dog-human relationship. I was and I wasn't home all the time. So Red with his no boundaries behavior was into counter surfing and barking a lot when I wasn't home. The final straw was when he ate all his meds from his surgery. My sweetie was beside himself and wrought with guilt as he realized this dog was not a good fit for us. Red was returned to the foster home and fortunately for him was immediately adopted by a couple that had another Standard Poodle in their family. We refer to that sad time as Red going to K and R's Doggie Spa And now we just stick to cats.
By: Kathe W. on December 2, 2013
I know how much energy Benny, our Jack Russell Terrorist has and how much it takes to keep him active enough. I can only imagine what that's like with a large dog like and Aussie Shep. It's good that you have come to recognize that Mrs. C. should be the dog selector for your family. There's no shame in that. It would be much worse if you hadn't figured that out.
By: Hilary on December 2, 2013
Cute story. Nice to know Freedom ended up in the right home. I'm terrified of dogs. Ha!
By: LL COOL JOE on December 2, 2013
Freedom needed a job to do. I'm sure people with a farm had a job for him. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 2, 2013
These choices can lead to very stressful experiences. Is your feed picking up my blog?Ihave a suspicion that some blogs are not picking it up.
By: red on December 2, 2013
Aw, so glad Freedom got a good home. My friend has an Aussie and he is insane! He is sweet and loveable, but I definitely would never get one for myself. I like my easy, lazy dog :)
By: Kianwi on December 2, 2013
Oh, I was so glad to read the happy ending. And as we have two blue heeler pups in our family, I fully understand how a small space would not do for them at all. Our 300+ acres almost aren't enough for these two boys~
By: Shelly on December 2, 2013
The Aussie Shepherd's gotta herd. Or train for a Frisbee competition.
By: Val on December 2, 2013
You got what you wanted that Christmas - and so did Freedom! Great story.
By: jenny_o on December 2, 2013
What a great outcome!
By: John on December 3, 2013
Heart-warming canine story. I can picture him running around your living room like a cyclist at the velodrome.
By: Bryan Jones on December 3, 2013
A wonderful ending. I missed having dogs as a child, too, but I've made up for it in adulthood. My biggest complaint about all my dogs is that I outlived them and had to put them down when their time came. I don't do that very well. It's exactly like pulling the plug on a family member. What am I saying...they ARE family members.
By: Scott Cody Park on December 3, 2013
Such a touching story. I would have been just like you. Really glad it worked out. I assume that was when you finally learned that Mrs. C was ALWAYS right.
By: Mitchell is Moving on December 3, 2013
Good ending to the story. I'm a cat person myself, but have been cat-less for over three years now. I realize dogs require a much bigger commitment.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 7, 2013

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