||Three and a half years old|
||Washington County, Arkansas, USA|
is a happy hound. He lives with me, my true love, and his brother and
sister at 3 Dog Acres in the backwoods of the Ozark highlands. He's special,
I suppose, because he's my dog - as all dogs are special in ways known only
to their human and canine companions. For sure he's the happiest dog I've
ever known. No amount of dog trouble gets in the way of his undaunted joy.
I drove six hours on a cool December Monday from our home here in the Ozarks
to Frenchman's Bayou in the Mississippi River delta of eastern Arkansas to
rescue Ulysses. He was the runt of a litter of eleven, born to an abandoned mama
dog in a concrete-slab "cave" between Highway 61 and the Burlington Northern
and Santa Fe railway. My sister-in-law Brenda found the homeless pups. Given
the extreme danger zone of their birth, quick adoption became essential.
Brenda visited the litter daily and sent out e-mail alerts urging their
rescue. Her alerts included photos - and I was stricken.
My intent was to find the little pup I'd noticed in the photos, the one with
the bright eyes who bears the name Ulysses today. When I arrived at the lair
next to the railroad tracks, three of the litter had already found homes. I
found my new dog right away, even though four of his brothers bore similar
markings. Before my visit was done, I'd also found two others to be my dog,
too. Let's just say the peer pressure from friends and family who'd gathered
to greet me at the hardscrabble litter cave was just too much to overcome.
Three dogs? Why not! They've grown into an inseparable little pack of
Aussies. Isis, the baby girl, is the spitting image of her mother. She's
swift, ever on alert, and very self-sufficient - her own dog so to speak.
Gandalf the merle is handsome, stoic, and gentle. He's chosen my true love
Freddie Liz as his charge. And Ulysses? He's my boy through and through,
always at my side, rambunctious and loud, and ready to break forth in barking
song in an instant. In the photo of him in profile facing left, Ulysses is
watching bison on an early May morning at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in
north-central Oklahoma. He is very focused!
Even though Ulysses is the largest of our three Aussies, he was the runt of
the litter and remains at the bottom of the pack hierarchy to this day. Runts
make great dogs and are often very, very intelligent. Uly's brother Gandalf
is the leader, but Isis holds her own with the both of her brothers.
Observing and working with pack dynamics from litter mates is fascinating to
me - an intense challenge with very special rewards.
Ulysses knows how to perform the usual actions to please his master: sit,
shake, lay down, speak, get down, jump up, kiss, stay, hush. He and his
brother and sister also obey the most important command for any dog: Come!
Instant response to the come! command can be a life saver for an active dog.
When our three shepherds answer that call in our yard here at 3 Dog Acres,
they often run shoulder-to-shoulder at full speed - an awesome sight to
behold. They know their individual names and nicknames and respond
accordingly, but also know the pack command of "shepherds!" and answer that
one as a team.
Here is a link to a more detailed account about how Isis, Gandalf, and Ulysses came to be my dogs.
See more images of Ulysses!