I will try to keep this short today, just a little story based upon this photo. That’s Malachite, the cat, and Alan, the Sheppard. For me, the picture says more than my words can about patience, getting along, and then learning to love.
Alan first came into our lives 9 years or so ago; he was around four years old, had been rescued off the streets of Los Angeles, CA, and was in a foster home of a taxi driver (to whom I shall always be grateful for sending me this dog). Alan arrived in the mountains and thought he was in one big wild dog park. He would not look me in the eye, thought the foals that were just born on pasture were fair game, and the cats he was forced to share the house with were there for the eating. In fact, he bit one as soon as he entered his new home (the cat, apparently, thought it was our old dog, and went right up to him and rubbed up against him – oops).
The one big “rule” I stick with on our ranch is: You have to get along. If you can’t get along, you don’t need to be here. It’s a big world, but a small ranch. But you do get a second chance to try… or perhaps a third… or forth…
Alan was not getting along, with anyone. He even ate Forrest’s birthday cake right off the counter. I cried for days, called my mother regularly to “vent,” and said he’ll never work, what have I done, yet another mistake…
But I tried. I know some of us just need to know what is expected of us, need to be show the way just a little bit, need to be given a chance. So, I kept him on leash, even in the house, and next to me constantly. You may think this is cruel, but following me around the ranch all day ends up being a lot more activity and attention for one dog than most any other I know would receive. He came with me to milk the dairy cow, bring in the beef cows, work the horses, into the chicken coop and sheep pen… everywhere.
It was just one month later, in no time at all (though at the time, it seemed forever) I had a wonderful companion who would comfortably follow me into the chicken coop, follow the horses as I rode, and even share the sofa with a cat.
He’s an old dog now. He’s been a remarkable companion, partner and friend. He has taught me an invaluable lesson in patience, persistence and responsibility. And in helping – helping each other figure out just how to get along.