The summer before my senior year of high school, I joined my parents for one of their jaunts around Vermont, hitting yard sales, antique shops, and whatever else struck their fancy. These were always great drives. We’d find all kinds of fun stuff, stop at some out-of-the-way diner for lunch, and have wonderful conversations.
At one of our first stops, there was a beautiful Border Collie. While my parents perused the yard sale, I simply sat on the driveway and loved on the pup. As we got back in the car, I began to wax rhapsodic about Border Collies; how smart, how beautiful, how wonderful. How someday, I’d have my own Border Collie. It would be a girl and I’d name her Harley after one of my favorite soap opera characters (oh yeah, I watched soaps!).
In an effort, I think, to shut me up, my dad said “I tell you what. If we find a Border Collie puppy for sale today, you can have it.” Well, you best believe that for the rest of the day, I was LASER FOCUSED on finding myself a puppy. My head was on a swivel, carefully checking every roadside sign. When we stopped for lunch, I perused the local paper looking for puppies for sale. For hours on end, I was relentless in my puppy pursuit.
Finally, after many hours of fruitless searching, I got tired and just sat back in my seat, daydreaming. Suddenly, my dad said “Oh. My. God.” I sat bolt upright in my seat and shouted “YOU SAW PUPPIES FOR SALE DIDN’T YOU?! DIDN’T YOU?!” My mom stared open-mouthed at my dad, who sheepishly said, “Well, we did promise…”
While mom shook her head in disbelief and I bounced around screaming in excitement, my dad turned the car around. Sure enough, about a half mile back was a farm with a giant sign reading “AKC Registered Border Collie Pups Available.” I honestly don’t know how I missed it. And if my dad hadn’t said anything, we would have just kept driving. Anyway, we pulled in to find that there were three puppies available, and only one of them was a girl.
They were being kept in a stall out in the barn. I looked in and saw three little fuzzballs. The farmer who was selling the pups indicated that the female was the little grey and white one. I picked her up, and she wrapped her little puppy paws around my neck, and that was that. I had my Harley. The farmer allowed us to buy her for only $200 cash without any AKC papers, which was fine by us. I had $90 in my wallet, and my dad spotted me the rest until I could go to the bank.
The whole ride home, Harley slept on the floor between my feet. For the first year of her life, her crate was in my bedroom. I paid her vet bills. I took her out to pee in the middle of the night. Groomed her. Took care of her when she was sick. Picked up her droppings. When I went away to college, she stayed home and became a family dog. She forged an incredibly close bond with my dad, riding in the car with him, going to work with him. Sleeping next to my parents’ bed at night.
But whenever I came home to visit, she knew me. Her little tail would start wagging like crazy and she’d come running to greet me. I was the only person she’d allow to get near her face, the only person she’d kiss.
She was a weird dog. She was scared of hardwood floors, so my parents laid out a maze of area rugs for her to navigate their downstairs. She would back up onto the rugs instead of walking directly onto them. She hated the cats, even though the cats loved her. Wheat thins were her favorite cracker, and she’d do anything for a taste of cheese.
This last year, her health started to decline. She became incontinent, and lost a bunch of weight. But she was still a happy girl. She loved car rides, and walks, and playing in the snow. Every time I visited home, I was conscious that this might be the last time I’d see her, but you never really expect that it will be the last time.
I saw Harley for the last time on Sunday October 15.
My mom called last night to say that Harley hadn’t eaten or had any water in three days. She was lethargic and unresponsive. The vet will be going to their house at 3 pm today to put Harley down. She would have been 15 years old in April.
Goodbye, my Harley-doo. You were a good girl.