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!