Thursday, June 2, 2011


Back around Mother's Day a visitor showed up at our place. A young, lively, sweet, black lab. Adorable. His tag said Clifford but I started calling him Rufus, for what reason I don't know. It just seemed to fit. 

We tried to get Rufus to go home over the course of many days, actually, as it turned out, the entire month of May.The address on his tag located his home at 1/2 mile up the road, last house on our cul-de-sac, well, out here in the country it's just a plain old dead end road. Rufus seemed to have decided that he preferred spending time with us and our two dogs, Maggie and Lucy, both of whom are "fixed". He simply appeared to enjoy their company.

My main concern in the beginning was he had no idea about horses. He barked at them. He went out into the field with them. They charged him. My guys do not care for dogs in their field. I was concerned the horses would run him down. I sure didn't want an injured, or worse, dead, neighbor dog on my hands. His people didn't show up all day. I figured such a nice dog, with a collar and tag, someone would be missing him. My husband, son, daughter-in-law and I even drove the UV up into the valley to shoot pistols that first afternoon. Now, our dogs scatter when they see us with our pistols and realize we'll be shooting targets. They disappeared. Rufus?  Nope, the silly boy followed us up the valley and sat with us the whole time we were shooting! We were all amazed. The gunfire didn't faze him one bit. 

Eventually that day I decided I should call the phone number on the tag. Got a machine. I left a message. No one ever called me back. The next day when Hubby and I were out grooming the horses, the kids from Rufus's family came riding their bikes down the road, calling to him, and he loped like the big footed pup he is out to meet them. He followed them up the road. I figured that was probably the end of it. Not so fast.

A couple days later, Rufus showed up again. Happy and bouncing all over the place appearing very thrilled to see me, or maybe just a person in general, not sure. As I went into the corral area to groom the horses before letting them out into the field for the afternoon, Rufus decided to follow me. Maggie and Lucy stood back with concerned faces. If they were verbal, I'm sure they were saying things like "Dude, you'd better get yourself out of there...Man, Lucy, you see what he's doing?" "Oh yeah. He ain't coming back out alive if he goes any closer."  Well, that's what I think they'd be saying.

About the time I turned to brush Bo, Spirit reared up, which he never does when I'm right there with him. He never had in the past. Looking behind him, I see Rufus. Spirit pivoted and with both front feet flailing nearly clocked Rufus on the head but the dog scrambled out under the fence quickly. I can imagine Maggie telling him, "You know kid. if you'd listened to us in the first place...." It was at that moment I decided if Rufus was going to hang around, he was going to have to learn my rules. No barking at the horses. Dogs stay outside of the fence. And, I was going to call the owners one more time. Funny, his tag was now missing but fortunately I had written the number down near the phone in the house. Again the machine. Again, no one called me back to claim their dog. Later that evening his family stopped in front of our house in their vehicle and yelled for "Clifford". The woman yelled out to me, "Sorry!" and they were off down the road.

This pattern continued through May although sometimes Rufus's family didn't come fetch him, or at least I never saw them. In the mean time I taught Rufus to stay outside the fence when I went in with the horses. I learned, he's actually a smart pup. He sits and waits for me to come back out whenever I'm feeding or letting the horses out into the field. I'm impressed. I pat him on the head and tell him "good boy". He seems happy to have that little bit of attention and proudly follows me back to the house. For the most part, Maggie and Lucy seem annoyed by the intruder and spend much of their time moving away from him when he tried to lay down near them. It was comical.Whenever I'm outside, Rufus was my shadow.

OK, it was looking on the surface like maybe the family didn't really want their dog or I had dialed the wrong number.The next to the last weekend in May, Rufus was at our house continuously from Friday until Monday evening. Hubby and I were discussing the possibility of another dog in our family but Hubby was honest, and said he didn't really want a third dog. So, I decided to drive the UV up to Rufus's family's house and see if I could talk to anyone personally, since they weren't returning my calls. 

When I get there I'm finally able to talk to an owner. She told me they'd been looking for "Clifford" all weekend. Calling to him down the road, in front of our house, but he never came to them. Our house does sit a good distance from the road and we have fencing along our property line. But, I honestly don't know how they missed him. I told her he'd been camped out on our back patio and porch, but I have an idea she thought we might have been keeping the dog in our house. She told me that last winter Clifford ran away with their other dog, ended up a few roads over. The woman who found Clifford kept him in the house and wouldn't give him back. Somehow in the story, the pup ended up in Springfield, Ohio, which is about three hours away. I assured her we were not keeping Clifford in the house and that I wanted him to be with his rightful family especially since there are kids who seem to love him. She apologized and said they'd try to keep him home. I explained about the horses and told her Rufus, um, Clifford, had really been no problem but again, I wanted him to be with his own family I stressed we really didn't want another dog. I was relieved to see his family did want him, they were just having a hard time keeping him home and were going to work something else out. 

I also discovered why poor Rufus was scared at night and barked...A LOT! He stayed inside with the kids at night at his house. At our house, he was outside. It was apparent he was scared of lots of things. When he wasn't barking he was laying near our dogs or at our sliding glass back door looking in at us.

Rufus is just a pup, maybe not quite a year old. He jumps and chases butterflies! How could you be mad at that? I didn't mind so much having him around but he did add some chaos to our little pack. He chased Buddy, the cat, which is not acceptable. Buddy soon learned to make himself scarce or stay indoors. You could feel the disturbance in the calmness of our own little pack when Rufus was around. They knew Rufus didn't really belong here. When he was gone, calmness returned.

Rufus was back yesterday for the day. I just accepted him like a neighbor kid who decided he wanted to spend the day at the neighbor house because there was someone to play with and someone to pay attention to him.There's only one other house between our place and his place. He seems to end up down here after his people leave for work in the mornings. When I went outside, Maggie looked at me as if to say "Not again."  But all three went running up in the woods in the morning. Then spent the afternoon under the deck where it was cool. Some time in the late afternoon Rufus's family must have stopped by to pick him up because he was gone. Haven't seen him today. As long as the little guy minds his p's & q's around here, and has manners, which, for the most part he does, I don't mind him visiting. I just hope his family realizes what a sweetheart of a dog Rufus, aka Clifford, is because he deserves a good family. 

Yes, I've become attached to the adorable pup. What can I say?

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