77: Oreo

77: Oreo

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog


Fun fact: If you chase your runaway dog, it may cause him to run more, but if you run away from him, he may chase you and you can secure him that way.

When you live on a farm, people are always dropping off stray animals. They leave dogs and cats, and once we even watched someone open a car door and place an opossum on the road. So we weren’t surprised when a black-and-white Border Collie mix showed up on our porch one day. Usually, we called the local animal shelter to pick up the strays, but my young son Alec fell in love with this dog instantly, and within an hour, he had named him Oreo.

Within a day, I could see how he would cause havoc in a house. The great outdoors itself barely seemed enough space for him to run. When he was let out of his pen, he became a black-and-white blur of fur darting all over the place at breakneck speed. His high energy was entertaining, but also wearing. He never seemed to tire of running, of jumping on people, or of barking.

He barked incessantly, not only at strangers or wild animals, but at wind, leaves, and snowflakes. Sometimes, at 2:00 a.m., I thought he must be barking at the dark itself. He was also a world-class escape artist, wriggling loose from every sort of collar ever devised, and jumping over his enclosure fence with the agility of a white-tailed deer.

In an attempt to rid him of some of his excess energy, I often took him on long walks. They never seemed to tire him out, and I soon got tired of releasing him from the leash as soon as we reached the fields, only to have him return covered in the stench of some dead animal. The last straw was the day I reached for his collar to connect the leash and got a handful of stinky, gloppy cow manure. From that day on, it was my husband Gary’s job to leash him up for walks.

One day in late summer, Gary, Alec, and I walked with Oreo to the edge of the hayfield and unhooked the leash. He took off on his normal sprint across the lush, green fields and soon disappeared over the crest of a hill. My family walked the tractor path along the fence at a much slower pace, looking for four-leafed clovers and wondering when the sickle pears would be ripe enough to pick when suddenly we heard barking behind us.

We turned to see two unfamiliar dogs speeding toward us, and they did not look friendly. Ears back, teeth bared, they flew toward us over the dirt path. Gary shoved Alec and me toward a tree with some low-hanging branches. “Get Alec in the tree,” he ordered as he picked up a heavy stick. Heart pounding, I hoisted Alec onto a limb, and Gary squared off to face the attacking dogs and give us time to get into the tree.

Suddenly, a black-and-white streak shot over the hill and slammed into the bigger of the two dogs with such force that it tumbled into the other stray. The aggressors scrambled to their feet, but before they could get their bearings, Oreo wound in between them, over their backs, and around them in a tight circle, knocking them to the ground again and again. In less than a minute, the invaders had had enough, and they turned tail and ran back in the direction they came from. Oreo was hot on their heels until we couldn’t see any of them anymore.

Shaken, I lifted Alec from the tree. “Is Oreo going to be okay?” he asked, turning in my arms, searching the knee-high alfalfa with anxious eyes.

“I hope so,” I said, meeting Gary’s worried gaze. Our wild, crazy, sometimes infuriating dog had just saved our lives. I only hoped he hadn’t paid for ours with his.

We walked back toward the gate. Gary still carried the stick, and I carried Alec. We had almost reached the end of the field when Oreo came trotting up calmly from the opposite direction, his long, pink tongue lolling. He must have chased the interlopers in a giant circle, all the way to the far borders of our land.

“Oreo!” Alec squealed and twisted out of my arms to drop to the ground. He threw his arms around Oreo, and the three of us lavished our proud dog with praises and pats along his soft fur. His tail wagged happily as he soaked up the attention.

Finally, Gary said, “Let’s go home. I bet Oreo needs a drink after all that running.”

I grabbed his collar to attach his leash for the short walk along the road.

“Oh, Oreo!” I said in dismay as I discovered my fingers covered in manure again.

“Don’t yell at him, Mom,” Alec said. “He’s a good dog.”

I smiled and wiped my hands on the grass until I could wash them at home, then gave Oreo a grateful pat on the head, well away from his collar.

“You’re absolutely right, Alec,” I said. “He’s a hero.”

~April Serock

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