Rosie is the Jack LaLane of terriers

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, September 1, 2016

Saturday morning our impossibly spry, 14-year-old Rosie, asked to be let out for her usual routine of doing her business, followed by 20 minutes of ‘woofling’ at the woods, bouncing off her front paws at each bark, to let the world know she is up and reporting for duty, before reappearing, bright eyed (she only has one), and ready for breakfast.

Only there was not a single bark, Paul and I realized, and running out, there was no Rosie.

Having rescued Rosie after she appeared on our property 13 years ago, emaciated, cowering, wily, endearing and terrified of humans (a trait she still exhibits to this day), once she locked eyes on our beloved late Jack, Bonnie, that was it. We were a far distant second place in her affections: seemingly trustworthy humans that brought her food and spoke kindly, but unless pressed between Bonnie and us in bed, never truly worthy of her complete confidence. The abuse she had suffered prior to her arrival destroyed that possibility.

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She clearly has some feline in her heritage as she is well into nine lives having survived being electrocuted while chewing on a computer power cord, having her chest cavity pierced by running full blast into a sharp, broken branch as she and Bonnie went full tilt after a squirrel, and despite wearing topical flea/tick killer, contracted Ehrlichia, sending her into organ failure and surgical removal of her right eye.

Despite all these calamities, during her annual physical just two months ago, our vet, after viewing her blood work numbers and X-rays exclaimed, “She’s going to live for years!”

So when she was suddenly gone, this was completely out of character. No, I told friends as we immediately posted on social media, distributed flyers and walked well over five miles through the hundreds of acres of woods and corn fields behind our farm, she would not have taken off chasing a squirrel and got lost. Now that Bonnie is gone, Rosie shows no interest in hunting. And absolutely no, thank you, she did not wander off to die. Fourteen and one-eyed might sound decrepit, but Rosie is the Jack LaLane of terriers.

Although I haven’t seen one in a couple of years, I felt sick to my stomach that perhaps a coyote had gone after her. She is the fastest dog I have ever seen on her rather bowed, long, slender legs — like a whippet, but coyotes are quick, too — and I was haunted by remorse for not standing outside during her 20 minute ritual.

Friends on Facebook shared our post over a thousand times. If Rosie was heading to any neighboring states, or even Europe, people knew about it. As Paul and I headed into the woods for a second search, we both noted the treetops beginning to whip in a rising wind which, we soon learned, was the heralding of a severe thunderstorm which, the news reported, a half hour later, was capable of producing damaging winds and prolific lightning strikes.

“Really?” I asked God, inwardly, “Nothing scares her more than storms, nothing. We’ll never, ever, find her if this storm hits.”

And the storm hit. Hard. Our farm is situated in an area which we jokingly refer to as The Red Sea because enormous, angry, storm cells are known to fly over the mountains, approach us aggressively and, at the last moment, break apart and then reform a couple of miles away.

But not this evening. The rain began to fall in heavy drops and the first crack of lightning sizzled overhead. By now I was in tears and ready to get back into the truck again for another drive around the neighborhood. Then suddenly, Paul’s phone rang and his first words were, “You saw her?”

We bolted for the door in response to our neighbor, Jay, about a mile away, who had seen our posting and had just happened to look out his front window when he caught site of Rosie, terrified, streaking across his yard and heading for the road.

Knowing her fear of humans (and being married to a veterinarian with great common sense when it comes to approaching wary animals), he couldn’t have been more surprised upon flinging open his front door to see Rosie, having changed course with another lightning strike and now fleeing straight for their front porch!

When we arrived, pulling up slowly, Jay pointed to the side of his house and called out that she’d taken off around the back and into the woods. The rain still coming down in earnest, I spotted her soaked form disappearing into the scrub and briars and took off after her, trying not to scare her but determined not to let her get away.

She couldn’t hear me in the storm but seeing her climb into a ditch, I ran down the length of it and hopped in as well, praying she’d continue down it and not pop out and that she did, walking deliberately toward my outstretched arms but utterly shell-shocked and shaking.

As usual, I owe God an apology. The storm that I believed to be unfair and, frankly, cruel, was needed to flush Rosie from wherever she had been hiding or roaming. Bundled up in a blanket, rubbed down and fed dinner, her 15-hour ordeal came to an end as she fell promptly asleep beside us on the sofa and slept hard for several hours. When she would awake from time to time, she would raise her head and look me straight in the eyes, whine a little and return to her slumber, safe and sound.

While she retains her off-lead freedom of trotting beside us when we are outside, she is not compliant being buckled into her harness for ‘ business’ outings at dawn and dusk, and reminds me of a spry, elderly woman who is offended and snarky by the offer of help. She submits to it but she isn’t the least bit happy about it.

And neither am I, or Paul, as her sole audience for 20 minutes of barking, three times a day, in all weathers.

But what beautiful music it is!