So There's This Dog


Sometime in June of 2012, I convinced Husband to go check out a street fair in South Park. We were just about to start wedding planning and he was getting ready to move in with me. I didn’t tell him, but I’d heard a local dog rescue organization would be there and I wanted to see if he’d be tempted by any of the dogs up for adoption.

We walked past the rescue group’s set-up and of course I stopped and awww-ed at the pups they had. One or two puppies and a bunch of small dogs (chihuahuas and terrier types). In the back of their booth, under a table instead of a pen, another dog was sitting by herself. I slowly walked towards her and knelt down, holding out my hand. She barely looked at it.

They told us she had been neglected, just left in a yard pretty much her entire life. She’d just had puppies (which were also being fostered by the group). She was extremely shy and skittish — downright fearful — around people, especially men.

They let us try to take her for a walk. We got maybe twenty yards from the booth and it was clear the poor thing was just freaking out. We took her back. “Nope, she’s not having it.”

We wandered through the rest of the street fair and then to a nearby bar for lunch. We talked about the dog we’d seen. Husband thought we should adopt her. I wasn’t sure. She seemed sweet, and obviously in need of a good, loving home, but man, she’d need a lot of time and work. We’d both had family dogs our entire lives, but this would be the first time we’d be primarily responsible for one. Maybe we should start with an “easier” dog, I thought. One past the puppy stage, but decently socialized and trained, or at least, trainable.

Husband convinced me and we went back to fill out an adoption application. We had some travel coming up in the next couple weeks, and I needed to clear it with my landlord, so they gave us the contact info for her foster family to make arrangements in early July.

They brought Onyx to our apartment, along with a crate, bed, a couple toys, bowls, and a bag of food, on July 7th. I was nervous — to the point of wanting to back out a couple days earlier.

But she came, and we took her for a walk that night and started teaching her to “wait” before we crossed a street. That is now the command she responds to best.
Because my commute at the time was all of 15 minutes and Husband’s was at least 45, I was the one who started walking her every morning and evening. I was also able to come home for lunch most days to let her out of her crate and just hang out for about half an hour. So within a month, I and I alone became her human.

Two months after getting her, we went to Santa Cruz for a wedding and left her with her former foster family. She escaped from her steel crate and got out of their garage through an air vent the first night. It took us about five days to find her, during which I was the definition of “complete wreck.” We can’t leave her alone anywhere but our apartment and my parent’s cabin in Tahoe. She has escaped (slash caused property damage) at my grandparents’ house and uncle’s house and chewed through two leashes so far. The vet says she’s damaged her teeth from chewing on metal. She’s broken welds on that steel crate (obviously, we no longer bother with it).

We were told she’s a Shepherd-Chow mix (the dark tongue is the Chow giveaway) and that seemed reasonable. But we met a trainer at the dog park once and he said she looked more like a Kelpie to him. Once I looked up “kelpie” on Google, it seemed so blatantly obvious that’s what she is — in looks and personality.

Around October or so I started taking her on short runs with me. When I first tried that, in July or August, she’d lag behind and look at me like “why the hell would you run if you’re not being chased?” But after getting used to me, I guess, she warmed up to the concept. Now I’m pretty sure “run” is one of her favorite words.

The rescue group gave us a couple squeaky toys that terrified her at first. Over time, she’s collected a little gang of five stuffed “friends,” as we call them, three of which squeak and one of which grunts (the fifth one used to squeak, but she chewed out the squeaker). She freaking loves those things.

In October, I took her with me to Little Lake for my grandpa’s birthday weekend. This is a cabin in the absolute middle of nowhere, with miles of open space all around. I remember taking her out for a walk in the morning, before anyone else was up, and letting her off-leash. She took off and started sprinting through the scrub brush, back and forth, running up to me and jumping, spinning around and running back through the brush. When I got home, I told Husband (who wasn’t able to make the trip that year) “I’ve figured out how she plays!” Her favorite way to play is still just running around, chasing us or letting us chase her. She’s happiest when allowed to run and hike out in the open and off-leash, with no other people around besides me and Husband.

She used to run and hide when someone came to the apartment or even knocked on the door. Now she guards her space fiercely — and “her space” extends to about ten yards beyond our apartment and patio. She especially does not like when our neighbor trims his rosebushes along the fence he shares with us, or when the people in the next building do their laundry, or whenever any delivery person walks by.

She is one of the three best things that have happened to me in the last three years.

Second Chance Dog Rescue is the organization that rescued and fostered Onyx. They do amazing work for thousands of dogs throughout SD County and Baja Mexico primarily by getting dogs out of shelters before they’re killed and placing them with private foster families until they’re adopted. If you’re looking for a dog in the area, I highly recommend starting with them.