In 2013, a skinny dog wandered onto a rural Oklahoma ranch. It was the middle of summer, and temperatures were well into the triple digits. He was thin, dehydrated, and his feet were covered in sores. Despite this, when I drove up to the rancher's house, the dog got up out of the shade and greeted me with a smile and a tired wag of his tail. The rancher, a friend of mine, pointed the dog out and said he couldn't keep him. "Would ya like ta hava dawg?" He asked me. I told him I would, but that I shouldn't. I didn't think my parents would like it. He grinned, picked the skinny dog up, and put him in my suburban. "He got sprayed bya skunk, by tha way. Smells purty bad." He laughed after closing the door to my vehicle. The dog laid down on the back seat and closed his eyes, obviously tired and content to rest in the comfort of the air conditioning. I rolled my windows down and sent a text to my mom - "On my way. Please set out dog shampoo and baking soda." When I got home, I bathed him twice and doctored the sores on his feet, then I gave him something to eat and called the vet to make an appointment for him ASAP. Two days later, the vet checked him over, estimated him to be just barely a year old, gave him vaccinations, and wrote him a clean bill of health. The next day, my family noted that they could see a bond forming between the dog and I, and they suggested I keep him. I checked with all the papers, shelters, and vets in the area and no one had reported a missing dog. So, a few days later, when I was certain no one was missing this pretty boy, I made a list of names and let my siblings take a vote. They decided that "Pilot" fit him best. I ordered him a collar and a name tag so that he would never get "lost" again, and he has been my constant companion since.
What breed of dog is Pilot? I get that question a lot, and I just tell folk that he's an All American Dog. My sister thinks he is a Catahoula Leopard/Australian Cattle Dog mix, but we don't know for sure. We do know that he has a lot of energy, is very smart, is crazy photogenic, and dreams of being a real cow dog someday.
He has become an excellent rehabilitation companion for other dogs with problems. He is currently in training to become a therapy dog and he has become quite the trickster; with 25 different tricks under his collar. He also keeps his hoo-man in shape. He likes to jog, take long walks, go on hikes, and explore. If he doesn't exercise, he can't focus and he becomes too much energy to handle. At the same time, if he doesn't get some mental exercise (learning new tricks), he becomes destructive. So, he keeps his girl on her toes.
A lot of people will hear me talk about "my sister". I actually have three sisters and two brothers - all of them younger than me - but the sister I talk about the most would be the one that is closest to me in age. Her name is Kristyn. She raises, trains, shows, and LOVES Golden Retrievers. She is often called "The Golden Retriever Girl" and her website is called GOLDEN RETRIEVER STREET (the inspiration for that name came from A Bug's Life when P.T. Flea is singing his song about how the "streets will be paved with golden retrievers). She just about spends more time with her Golden Retrievers than she does with the family. Seriously. She loves those dogs. Besides her yellow (and cream!) dogs, she also has a giant yellow horse named Earl that she raised from a newborn. She also has Nubian Goats. They have more attitude and sass than I do.
Kristyn has given me inspiration for stories and blog posts, is constantly providing me new research for dog health and wellness, and has helped me and Pilot toward our goal of getting a CGC, a Trick Dog Title, and finding a Therapy Dog Instructor. She listens to my rambling, provides me good ideas, and she pops my dream balloon when it starts flying too high. Yes, it hurts, but it's nice to have a fresh, unbiased opinion to set me straight.
Kristyn is my challenger, my inspiration, and my best friend. Without her, I'd be pretty lost.