The Harlan Chronicles 5


Harlan's Friend, Betsy
Harlan was ‘special’ and caring for him was a breeze. He refused the leash, therefore he didn’t go on walks. Despite the fact that he didn’t exercise, he had the run of a big backyard if he should feel the need to use it. He didn’t like to be disturbed and did not require my attention. It was like having a plant that ate. I had learned to accept and love Harlan for who he was and we were quite comfortable with our relationship.

As time went on, I became aware that people were talking. I understood that the word on the street had me made out as a sucker for weird dogs. That wasn’t entirely true. Yes, Harlan was a little weird and yes, I sought out a “different” type of dog - but that was yesterday. I really didn’t care to have a “normal” dog. Never the less, I would frequently receive calls from both friends and strangers telling me about “a starving-stray-sort-of-Lab-mix”, "a blind-in-one-eye-abused-Rhodesian Ridgeback” or "a pitiful Bulldog with-the-mange-I-think”. I was quick to let these callers know that “I really don’t know squat about dogs and I wouldn’t be doing them any favors should I take them in.” Enough said.

But then I got a call from a friend of a friend who described the "coolest, most playful, healthy, stray" but “obviously lost because she was well cared for” Austalian Shepherd. This lady already had four dogs and couldn’t take another in. No one had responded to her flyers about finding the dog and she was afraid to give it up to an animal shelter which would spell certain d-e-a-t-h. She also mentioned that she understood Harlan might benefit if he had a friend. That was where she got me. Maybe Harlan did need a friend.

Betsy was a blast. She was everything that had been described and before you knew it, she and Harlan were simpatico. Following a short 'getting to know you' period, Betsy moved into Harlan’s garage/house. I purchased matching doggie beds for them. Actually, the doggie beds were large plastic bins with sleeping bags in them – the reason for the plastic bins? In the event of flooding, I imagined that the doggie beds would rise with the water level and thereby giving Harlan and Betsy their own ‘boats’ per se - as Dallas is famous for its heavy rainstorms and flooding. Seriously. What can I say?

Every day, Harlan and Betsy would come out of their house and into the sunshine. Although Harlan would not participate, he seemed to tolerate watching Betsy play. She would run rampant in the backyard chasing squirrels. Tugging on Harlan’s ears, jumping and pouncing on him trying to get his attention and showing him that she wanted to play did not phase him.

One afternoon, while watching Betsy's antics from my kitchen window, I saw Betsy lying on her back, suddenly she began wriggling in an apparent frenzy on the grass. Seizure activity!? I ran, calling out to her - "Betsy!" Betsy immediately flipped over, stood up with her tail wagging. She apparently recuperated quickly. I called my friend JoBeth who was experienced with dogs and was assured that ‘normal’ dogs do this sort of thing. Nothing to panic about. Although it was a long while before Harlan showed any signs of improvement, I knew everything would be alright the day I saw both Harlan and Betsy lying on their backs, wriggling on the grass.

Sadly, Betsy passed away only three years after she came into our lives. In that short time she was a dear and devoted friend to both Harlan and I. Through Betsy, Harlan learned how to play, chase squirrels, dig holes, ride properly in a car, take food from a person’s hand, walk on a leash, respond to “sit/shake/come/lie down” and receive a hug from me without peeing all over himself and for that, I will always remain grateful to her.

Part 6 The Grand-Dog

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