21: A Real, Living Lassie Come Home

21: A Real, Living Lassie Come Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog

A Real, Living Lassie Come Home

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.

~Walter Elliott

When I was in grade school, I discovered Lassie Come Home in the school library. It told the story of a dog’s loyalty and devotion to her people. I believed that the story was true, because I had known and loved my very own “Lassie.”

He was a large red-sable Collie that had wandered onto the farm where I grew up. That was before I was born. He was full grown, and my parents did not recognize him as belonging to any of the neighbors. They had not intended to keep him, so they simply called him “Collie.” However, he stayed, and I eventually adopted him as my dog.

The spring I was four, my older sister came home from our great aunt’s with a Terrier-cross puppy. My parents said either the puppy or Collie had to go. We could not keep both dogs. I was outvoted. My mother called “Party Line,” a local call-in radio show, and advertised Collie, free to whoever would come get him.

A man in a pickup with racks on it took Collie away. The next morning, there was Collie, under the blooming bridal wreath bushes, waiting for me. Later that morning, the man came and took him away again. The next morning, Collie was back! This was the pattern, and to me, it seemed that he came home for weeks. Then suddenly one morning, he wasn’t there. My mother said that his new owners were tying him up to keep him at his new home.

When I started kindergarten, a boy in my class told me about his dog “Pup.” Then, he said, “You know, my dad got him from your folks.” His dog was my Collie, and his new home was only two miles straight west of mine. I often questioned the boy about him.

When we were in fourth grade, the boy made the announcement that his father was selling the farm and moving the family to town. The day after the auction, I asked him what they did with “Pup.” I was hoping that they brought him into town. I knew the house they’d moved in to, and it wasn’t too far from the school. I was hoping to have the chance to slip away from school to see him. But no, they had given the dog away to someone who said they would take an old farm dog and give him a good home. The man who took him lived over forty-five miles away.

When I got home from school two days later, my mother asked my sisters and me if we remembered “Collie.” She told the story of how someone else had taken Collie from the auction to a new home. But the morning after the auction, the man went outside only to discover that his new dog was gone. He called “Party Line” and explained that the dog he’d brought home was missing. He was hoping that someone would call in saying that they had his dog. “This morning,” my mother explained, “another caller to Party Line said that the dog had shown up in his yard just before sundown last night. They’d fed the dog, but this morning, he was gone.”

It became a daily ritual. Each morning a new caller told the same story on Party Line—the dog wandered in the night before, they fed him, and then in the morning he was gone. As people followed the phone calls, it became evident that “Pup” was going home. He was traveling a straight line to the southwest, stopping each evening at a farmstead. With sunrise, he’d be gone, only to show up farther west that night. The last call came from a house located just a mile northeast of his home. The caller said the evening before the dog had come into their yard. After he’d eaten what they’d fed him, he had curled up on their doorstep to sleep. In the morning, the farmer found “Pup” still curled on the doorstep where he’d died sometime during the night.

Some said, “He was a very old dog.” I knew that he’d stopped only because he was close enough. He was going home to those he’d loved and served, to his people.

~Maxine Leick

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