Deb and I boarded the Silverado late yesterday morning and headed south on US Route 65, a road trip we’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. The skies couldn’t decide whether to be bright or gloomy, but during the best part of the drive — through expanses of pasture land, over the rugged Boston Mountains and across the Buffalo River — we were treated to perfect (if cool) conditions.
Along the way my “retirement truck” turned over 100,000 miles. We arrived in Conway, Arkansas with time to kill before our scheduled “meeting,” so we ducked into a Cracker Barrel and enjoyed a hearty breakfast (at two o’clock in the afternoon).
Afterward it was on to the Love’s truck stop in North Little Rock. Obviously we have no affection for urban madness, and that half-hour Interstate drive reminded us how glad we are that we don’t live anywhere near such a place. But we had good reason to be there.
It was about 4:15pm when a friend of Deb’s from the shooting world rolled into the parking lot, along with her husband, to deliver a package to us.
Actually, it was more of a bundle. Of the joyful kind, I mean.
Her name is “Smudge.“
Smudge is a three-month-old Heeler, one of a litter of 11 born October 10th on our friends’ Indiana farm. They had to drive to San Antonio this weekend and agreed to meet us along their route. Deb and I had spoken for our pick a month ago but couldn’t figure out how we’d be able to get up to Indiana to fetch her, so this arrangement worked out great.
On the 150-mile trip back to Harrison, I drove until dark and then handed the wheel to Deb. Smudge rode on the passengers’ laps, sleeping soundly the whole way — no trouble at all, not a whimper.
Meeting her new mates, Scout and Dipstick, went extremely well on our return. That says a lot, I think, about all three dogs. Smudge was still cautious at feeding time last night, feeling safest eating under and between my knees while I sat on the floor.
By this morning she was taking her breakfast at my feet, her back to the others. At that point we officially became a family of five.
We decided not to announce Smudge’s arrival to the wider world ’til after she’d met Deb’s cousin on The Mountain. That was the focus of our Sunday. The puppy took well to the drive and was on her best behavior for the introduction.
Deb’s cousin approves.
The three of us did a lot of garage-sittin’ today and, for the most part, when she wasn’t seeking attention Smudge slept in one lap or another. We did spend time outdoors with her to work off some of that famous herding-dog energy.
Taking a leap of faith, we let her off-leash just to see what she’d do — remarkably, she came when called and followed close behind each of us when we walked.
Remember, this was less than 24 hours after she came into our American Life. That was pretty cool.
As a breed, Heelers (Australian Cattle Dogs) are damned smart and receptive to training. Smudge is 7/8 Heeler and 1/8 Australian Shepherd (presumably owing to a “Texas Heeler” in her bloodline). She has all the right ingredients to be a great companion on The Mountain.
And for the record, Smudge is a Blue Heeler.
What’s most gratifying to us — and if you’ve ever adopted a dog, you’ll get this — is that Smudge is comfortable here. There’s been no tension, no flinching, no signs of fear or apprehension. She’s affectionate and playful. She, Scout and Dipstick are working out the pack thing.
I believe we did right. We did good. Smudge complicates an already crazy life, of course, but the rewards for us — and for her — will be worth it.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.