Echo and Callie, my granddogs, both came to Evening Song Farm CSA as rescues. Echo’s rescue story is heartbreaking. Callie’s is about determination. However, both have happy endings with life on the farm.
It was important for Kara and Ryan that their first non-goat family addition was from an animal rescue agency and that it be a puppy they could train from a young age. The training aspect was critical as their first farm was on a well travelled road and, secondly, dog paws easily squish newly transplanted vegetables into nothingness. That is not what you want when you just spent hours in the snow or rain transplanting vegetable seedlings.
Above: Echo as a puppy, and Kara planting onions in the snow at the old farm
Echo’s mother and siblings arrived at Random Rescue in northern Vermont very, very sick. A kind-hearted individual was critical in intervening to prevent the shooting/ drowning of this canine family. That person then connected the ten dogs to the rescue agency. Even with medical care, two of the litter died. The remaining were up for adoption.
After several months of researching agencies on-line, completing applications, submitting references, and visiting shelters and rescues in the area, Kara and Ryan took a trip up north to see a litter of young puppies. They were originally drawn to a sister, who was a little more assertive and all black. However, as Kara remarked later, “the very skilled woman who ran the rescue suggested that that particular dog wasn’t exactly the right fit for us.”
So they kept observing the group and were drawn to Echo (Archie at the time). He was adorably able to chill and entertain himself in the corner while the wild, rambunctious pack of puppies kept tumbling over itself. “That was our dude.” Ryan and Kara thought they were on a long waiting list, but because their references replied so fast, they got to take him that day, which was a surprise!
After inspecting what the team is harvesting at the other end of the high tunnel, Echo still knows how to avoid the growing vegetables. Photo by Adam Ford
Then the training began. An electric dog fence wire was dug in the front of the property to train him not to dart across the road with the trucks barreling by. The essential commands of sit, stay, and come were mastered along with “Stay in the path,” that critical command for preserving the plants.
Echo was just the snuzzliest little one, eager to rest his head on a lap or a shoulder or just follow dutifully into the fields. Even as he filled out his paws, that cuddly nature has never left him.
After Hurricane Irene, which washed out all the farm fields, Echo seemed sad and nervous. Kara and Ryan noticed, however, he was his normal self when other dogs were around. He was happy, fun, playful, less in his head. So a dog buddy was in order.
However, because they were so busy with rebuilding the farm on new land several miles away, they didn’t have the same energy to put into all those trips to different shelters to find the perfect dog. Kara and Ryan decided to adopt without a face-to-face meeting.
SPOILER ALERT #1: This was a huge lesson learned!
Their criteria was pretty simple…. good with people and dogs, NO beagles or hounds.
SPOILER ALERT #2 – some rescue organizations don’t classify their dogs correctly.
The picture of Callie’s face on the rescue website was remarkably like Echo’s and she was called a “Collie mix.” They thought: Excellent, we love Echo, they look similar, and this dog has a herding type breed in her. It’ll work great.
This is Callie. Maybe she has a dash of Collie in her, but a mix? No way! Note the lead in the second picture. It foretells the consequences of her adventurous nature.
The backstory: resetting Callie’s “Kill Clock”
At 3-4 months old, Callie and her brother were found on the side of a highway snooping around. They were brought to a kill shelter and a woman who runs a backyard rescue took them home.
This lady would get dogs from kill shelters, keep them for very short amounts of time (even overnight), just to reset their “kill clock.” A kill clock is the amount of days an animal is able to stay at the shelter waiting for adoption before being put down due to lack of space. This rotation of dogs at her rescue maximized how many she could save. Right before the dog’s shelter time was done, this caring individual would take them to her place once again.
She also coordinated with a larger rescue that drove dogs from the midwest to the northeast for adoption. Due to Callie and her brother’s adorable personalities, that organization took them.
Kara drove to a rest stop to meet Echo’s new buddy. They called Kara’s name and as she stepped forward, a Newfoundland dog was brought off the truck. In a split instant she thought, “Well this isn’t what I thought we were getting but he/she will be OK” only to be told “Sorry, there’s a mistake. This dog is for someone else.’. When they called Kara’s name the second time, she was the one who thought “This is a mistake. THIS dog is for someone else.”
Photo by Adam Ford
The excited dog they were leading towards her was definitely not a collie mix and surely had hound genes somewhere in that little body. But Callie bounded forward and was instantly in all-loving up on Kara. It was as if Callie was saying, “See, see, I have kisses to give you and I’ll nuzzle my nose in yours just like your other dog does and I’m in love with you, Kara. Can we go home and play?”
With this type of rescue organization, there is not an option to change one’s mind there at the rest stop. Kara took her home. Oh, and Callie arrived with an extra present of kennel cough. However, Echo was absolutely in love with this new addition to his pack and delighted to have a live-in buddy.
Echo and Callie playing together. Photo by Adam Ford.
Fast forward. Echo has graciously accepted his role as leader of the Evening Song Farm pack with patience and aplomb. These 4 humans, several goats, and one dog are his to watch over, guard, and protect. He does this by barking fervently at the UPS truck that makes an almost daily delivery to the barn while remaining silent when someone just walks down the hill for a visit. He has been a pillow for a tired toddler head and has resigned himself to share his dog bed with the youngest humans. Left to his own devices, he surveys the fields, keeps track of the farm team, and maybe wanders off down the farm road to play with the neighbors’ dog. His favorite spot now seems to be resting on the back porch.
Echo guarding the compost pile, and Calie guarding the play area.
Callie is affectionate, loving, playful, and she is still an energetic hound. While Callie made a great playmate and running buddy for Echo, Callie has been known to lead Echo astray over the years. Due to the fact that Ryan and Kara were rebuilding a whole farm (barn, high tunnels), prepping the fields, and building a new house several miles away, Callie’s training was not as consistent as Echo’s had been. Because she had lived in crates for so many months of her early life, crate training was ….well, not successful, to say the least. As Kara stated “Callie proceeded to run away often and with glee.”
Over the years, Callie had spent time at Kara’s parents for periodic vacations/ farm breaks and received additional dog training. She actually is a good student. However, at some point when back home, the tempting smell of some animal leads her nose and her bounding body from the farm fields through the woods.
“Echo, I smell something down here! If it runs away, we’re going to follow it” Photo by Adam Ford.
When I was a therapeutic foster care worker, I often reminded the fostering family about the adjustment process for the children. There are similarities to adopting a rescue.
Regarding their past life and behaviors…
You may know only a tiny bit of the trauma this dog has endured. They need time, and in some cases, lots of time to trust you.
They may gulp down their food. Why? Because they aren’t sure some will be there tomorrow.
They may pee somewhere they shouldn’t. Why? Because before it didn’t matter if they peed on a concrete floor.
They may pace up and down. Why? Because they’re nervous and still adjusting to living with somewhere new.
They may be afraid of light (or dark or certain noise). Why? Because in the past it meant something bad would happen.
They may cower when you raise your hand to rub the top of their head. Why? Because in the past that meant a beating.
None of these behaviors are about you. It is the trauma from their past.
Not playing with the new toys you bought is not about you.
Wanting to sleep on the cold kitchen floor instead of the new dog bed may be because that’s what they are familiar with. It is not an act of defiance nor is it a rejection of you as a dog parent.
You will need to invest your time, your consistency, and patience to help them feel comfortable in their new home.
And then, be prepared to invest more time and more patience.
When they forget something you taught them, it doesn’t mean they are stupid or can’t learn. It is that reminder to you that this will take time.
Trust me, your new dog is doing all he/she can to try to learn and to please you. Remember, the time you spend being patient and teaching him/her what the routine/ rules are will be paid back to you many times over.
Portrait of Echo when he was younger.
A heartfelt thank you to:
My daughter-in-law, Kara Fitzbeauchamp, for her story of Echo and Callie’s rescues. She is an amazing farmer, artist, story-teller, mom and… well, I could go on and on. Evening Song Farm, CSA
Adam Ford, who takes amazing photos of Kara and Ryan’s farm, and makes them available for purchase on his website. It was such a wonderful trip down memory lane to go through his album and select which ones to purchase.