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Tag: All Border Collie Rescue

Sabrina and I met in the McAlester OK Wal-Mart parking lot.

How I Met the Hillbilly Girl

By G. S. Norwood

Last Thursday was National Rescue Dog Day. Technically, it’s Jan’s week to write the blog, but she is busy rescuing dogs in the nail-biter finale of her upcoming novel, A Bone to Pick. So I thought I’d mark the occasion with another story about one of the dogs I’ve helped rescue. I’m calling this one, “How I Met the Hillbilly Girl.”

Rescue Required

Rescue groups coordinate their efforts all the time. So it wasn’t really a surprise when somebody from Mo-Kan Border Collie Rescue got in touch with the group I volunteered for early in March 2013. Headquartered in Houston, All Border Collie Rescue had outposts in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Oklahoma City back then. Mo-Kan had spotted what looked like a pure-bred dog in a small shelter in east central Oklahoma. She needed to get out, but Mo-Kan didn’t have a foster for her. They hoped we did.

The woman who worked at the shelter said the dog’s situation was dire. Not only did the shelter euthanize dogs when they ran out of space, they didn’t have separate runs for the dogs. This young female border collie—the shelter called her Sabrina—was in a big pen with a bunch of pit bulls. Some of them were unneutered males. Plus, Sabrina clearly hated the shelter. She was starting to shut down emotionally.

Sabrina in the shelter.
You can tell by the look on her face, Sabrina is saying, “Somebody get me out of here!” (see credit note below).

A Stake and a Chain

One potential foster backed out. Another couldn’t take the dog until the foster got back from a business trip. Meanwhile, the woman at the shelter was getting frantic.

“A man looked at her today,” she told us. “He said he didn’t have room, but he’s gone to ask if his nephew can keep her in his yard. He said he’d pick up a stake and a chain, to chain her out! If I tag her for rescue now, she won’t be available for him to adopt. Sabrina is a great dog. She deserves a better life than being staked out on a chain.”

Somebody had to step up. Even though I lived in a rented house at the time, and already had all the dogs my landladies would allow, I said I’d take Sabrina for a week, until the other foster got back from her business trip.

Warren’s purple truck.
I used Warren’s Dodge Dakota pickup truck for a lot of my dog transports. It’s easy to spot in a parking lot. (G. S. Norwood).

How I Met the Hillbilly Girl

A Mo-Kan volunteer in Fort Smith, Arkansas, agreed to pull Sabrina from the shelter. I would drive north to McAlester, Oklahoma. We’d meet in the Wal-Mart parking lot so I could take Sabrina to my place in Texas, where I’d hold her for the week.

It was cold and cloudy when I pulled into the McAlester Wal-Mart parking lot that Saturday morning. It wasn’t long before I spotted the blue Hyundai I was watching for—and she spotted my infamous purple Dodge Dakota pickup truck. (It was Warren’s. It’s hard to miss.)

Sabrina was more than happy to get out of the car and take a deep breath of freedom. Then she sat on my feet, leaned on my leg. Jumped up to wrap her front legs around me and give me a kiss. Wendy, the Mo-Kan volunteer, took some pictures, then I loaded Sabrina into the front seat of my truck, and we were Texas bound.

Sabrina and I met in the McAlester OK Wal-Mart parking lot.
Sabrina was really happy to get out of that shelter and meet me for her ride to Texas. (Photo by Wendy Mac).

Transport Failure

Some dogs fresh out of the shelter are so bouncy I have to crate them so it’s safe to drive. Not Sabrina. She curled up on the seat and fell asleep almost instantly. Little by little, as I drove south, Sabrina moved closer to me, until she was pressing against my leg. As we crossed the Red River I said, “Congratulations, pretty girl. You’re a Texan now.”

She let out a huge sigh, put her head on my knee, and fell deeply asleep.

I had been looking to adopt a classic black and white female border collie for the past five months. I thought a female would be a better fit with my very shy male dog, Tam. I had a foster dog, Chess, but he would be up for adoption soon. I wanted a second dog to keep.

When a volunteer agrees to foster a dog, we’re supposed to help the dog be adopted by someone else. If the foster decides to adopt the dog herself, we call that a “foster failure.” By the time I got Sabrina home, I knew she wasn’t even going to be a foster failure. She was a transport failure.

Zoe the first night out of the shelter.
Zoe’s first night in her new home. Note the untouched chicken in her bowl. (G. S. Norwood).

Meet Zoe, the Hillbilly Girl

I was on the phone to my chapter coordinator as soon as I got home. Sabrina became Zoe. I brought her home on a Saturday. On Monday, she went into her first heat cycle. We had pulled her in the nick of time.

She wasn’t used to fancy dog food. That first night out of the shelter she completely snubbed some home-cooked chicken and rice I’d made her. The next night I sprinkled a little Purina Dog Chow on the chicken. Now THAT was good eatin’!

She showed other preferences as I got to know her better. She was super tuned in to pizza and Whataburger drive-up windows. She liked men in their late 20s to early 30s. And she always perked up when she heard a motorcycle drive by. You can tell a lot about a dog by the things she likes, and Zoe’s tastes were distinctly redneck. That’s how she got the nickname Hillbilly Girl. Still, she’s a class act. I don’t know what we’d do without her.

Three photos from Zoe’s current life.
The Hillbilly Girl Zoe is now the “Sheriff” of the Pack (photos L-R by G. S. Norwood, Christine Lindsay, and Julia Rigler Photography).


We have several sources to thank for the photos in this post. The first one is Sabrina’s shelter photo (Maybe they’ve been able to improve conditions since then, but we’ve chosen to redact the shelter’s name). The series of Sabrina and G. meeting is by Wendy Mac, the Mo-Kan volunteer from Arkansas (montage by Jan S. Gephardt). And the photos of Warren’s purple truck and Sabrina/Zoe on her first night in her new home are by G. S. Norwood. In the final montage, L-R, the photos are by G. S. Norwood, Christine Lindsay, and Julia Rigler (again, montage by Jan S. Gephardt). Many thanks to all!

A healthy Chess makes the rounds in his back yard.

Rescue Me! Adventures as a Dog Rescue Volunteer

By G. S. Norwood

Rescue Me!

Over the years I’ve taken in a lot of strays, and helped many animals find good homes. In 2013, after I my beloved border collie, Liam, died, I contacted a border collie rescue group to find a new friend for my remaining dog, Tam. That’s when my adventures as a dog rescue volunteer really began!

WARNING: You may find some of the photos in this blog post disturbing. Please be assured this dog is now healthy, and has found his happily ever after.

I figured volunteering for a border collie group, and maybe even fostering a dog, would be a great way to meet a lot of dogs. After decades of having male dogs, I wanted a classic black and white female to befriend shy boy, Tam. But, to keep my options open, I regularly scanned the website for my local shelter. That’s where I spotted the picture of a dog whose face all but screamed, “Rescue me!”

Three shelter images of a very sad-looking dog.
Look at those eyes! You know he’s saying, “Rescue me!” (Collin County Animal Services).

Border Collie Enough?

I wasn’t even sure the dog was a border collie, although his overall conformation looked collie-ish. It’s hard to judge how large a dog is from a shelter picture, with nothing in the background to use for scale. I figured he was a big guy. His shelter name was Fontaine, but he looked like a Chester to me. He also looked like he was headed for big trouble. With no hair, he was a candidate for the Red List: marked as unadoptable and tagged for euthanasia.

Although I was living in a rented house at the time, my landlady allowed me to have two dogs. I only had one. So I contacted the rescue group’s intake coordinator and offered to foster this poor, unadoptable mutt. The intake coordinator agreed that he was probably “border collie enough.” I called the shelter as soon as they opened, and made a date to meet Fontaine. I even took off work early to make sure I got to the shelter before it closed.

Long Road to Recovery

Scraggly dog with bald patches, on a leash
One hour out of the shelter, and he was already a happier dog. (Gigi Sherrell Norwood).

My first surprise, upon meeting him, was that he was actually tiny—only 22 pounds. The shelter estimated his age at 1-2 years, but they really had no way of knowing, beyond the fact that he had all his adult teeth, and they were pretty clean. He was a mess, with very little hair and scabby, infected skin. Mange, we figured. That meant I’d have to keep him quarantined from Tam and my four cats. The rescue group had a local vet, so I could get Fontaine treated right away. I put a rescue hold on him, and all the shelter workers cheered. He was a sweet guy. They didn’t want to put him down.

I’ll Call Him Chess

I took that Friday off work and picked up Fontaine as soon as the shelter opened. We went straight to the vet. In person, this happy little guy didn’t look like a “Fontaine,” and was much too sassy to be a “Chester.” I decided to call him Chess.

At the vet, Chess’s skin scrapes came back negative for mange. It took about six weeks to diagnose his problem as severe allergic dermatitis. During that time he lost almost all of his hair. But, looks aside, Chess turned out to be an absolute doll.

Two photos of a black dog with almost no hair. In one he wears a sweater.
At his worst, Chess lost almost all of his hair. (Gigi Sherrell Norwood).

Chess became my constant companion when I was at home. He played cheerfully with Tam, and was gentle with the cats. He learned everything I wanted him to do so quickly I only had to show him once or twice. And he grew. Starting at 22 pounds and about half Tam’s size, he eventually topped out at 44 pounds and every bit as tall as Tam, although much more delicate of frame. Making a quick calculation of adult teeth + half adult size, the vet and I figured Chess was only 5 months old when he was picked up by the shelter.

Finding Forever

Right from the start, Chess decided he had found his forever home. He snuggled up next to me on the couch, waited for me outside the bathroom door, and slept by my side all night long. He loved to go for walks, but preferred I leave “that other guy” at home so we could savor our walking time together. I kept telling him I was just a stopover, and that someday, when he was completely healthy, we would find him an awesome forever home. His hair grew back, and I started taking him to adoption events. Nobody paid much attention to him, but I figured sooner or later somebody would see what an awesome dog he was.

Beautiful border collie with a lustrous coat—hard to believe it’s the same dog.
I started to take Chess to adoption events. (Julia Rigler Photography).

Then, about ten months after I brought him home from the shelter, we went to an event at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Chess was Mr. Perfect that day. His hair was long, and starting to get wavy. He greeted potential adopters politely, and even let one little girl with Down Syndrome cuddle with him. As we roamed the Stockyards, side by side, he never pulled on his leash or barked at the longhorns. He even waited patiently until I was ready to share a bite of my burger.

Ya Think?

The intake coordinator who had let me pull him from the shelter was watching us. “When I decided he was ‘border collie enough,’ I didn’t realize he’d turn out to be a purebred,” she said.

“Chess? A purebred?” I was stunned. I was used to the classic black and white look and larger frame American border collies usually have. Chess was a delicate thing, with long, thin legs and a thinner muzzle. He had tri-color markings instead of black and white. And yet, when I looked at border collie web pages, I realized Scottish dogs often looked like Chess. Could it be?

Chess and a Scottish border collie look strikingly similar in this montage.
The dog on the left is Chess. The dog on the right was a poster boy for Border Collie Rescue Scotland. What do you think? (L: Eva Loukas; R: Border Collie Rescue Scotland).

The Light Dawns

“You know he never takes his eyes off you,” the intake coordinator said. “Adopters aren’t asking about him because they think he’s your dog. You maybe ought to think about that.”

I thought about that. When I got home, I posted on Facebook about my day in Fort Worth with Chess. A friend of a friend—a woman I know, like, and am sure would be a wonderful dog owner—responded to by saying, “I want Chess!”

And I thought, “Like hell! You’re not getting my dog.” Which is how I finally reached the same conclusion that Chess, and everybody else in the world, had figured out months ago. The sad, ragged dog the shelter called Fontaine—the one they’d red-listed for euthanasia because he was unadoptable—had finally found his Forever Home.

Happy, furry Chess claims a corner of G.’s office at the Dallas Winds headquarters.
Chess still likes to go with me everywhere—even the office. (Cora Allen).


Many thanks to Collin County Animal Services for the composite shelter photo of “Fontaine.” We also want to thank Julia Rigler Photography, Eva Loukas, and Cora Allen for other photos of Chess (see photo captions), and Border Collie Rescue Scotland for the photo of a beautiful Scottish Border Collie. Other photos, as noted, are by G. S. Norwood. “Naked Chess” and “Chess-Scottish Comparison” montages assembled by Jan S. Gephardt. With gratitude to all!

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