by Joyce Brandon
Joyce is a part of Animal Compassion Team, an animal rescue in Fresno.
My family was adopted by a dog. Yes, you read that right, we didn’t adopt this dog–he adopted us! Long before I formally became involved in animal rescue I had the privilege of saving a few on my own, but I can’t really take credit for saving this guy however, he pretty much saved himself.
Like many, I believed at one time that the SPCA was the organization responsible for saving homeless pets. Had I known then what I know now I never would have called them, but I did call them out when this stray dog appeared at my place about eight years ago.
I could tell from afar that he was a fairly young dog. He appeared out of nowhere and enjoyed hanging out with my dogs. We couldn’t get near him so an animal control officer came out and set a trap for him. After several days it was apparent he was a little too intelligent to walk into a cage, so the trap was picked up and I was told they would have to come back and dart him. Well, they never came back and I never called them back. Tramp became a part of the landscape and he really wasn’t a problem. He learned to let himself in and out of the yard by jumping the fence. He stayed in the yard, hanging with the other dogs until we walked out, then he would jump the fence and watch us from the other side. I figured that one day we would catch him and take him to the shelter. I am so glad we never caught him. My ignorance would have cost him his life. We named him Tramp.
Eight years later, we still have not caught Tramp. Tramp still lets himself in and out of the yard and still loves the company of the other dogs. He has never lain at our feet, never had a bath, never known the touch of a human hand, yet he is one of my favorite “pets.” We tried on several occasions to trap him. I remember one night we made a trap out of a six by six kennel. I sat in my car watching, my husband was in the house with a rope we attached to the kennel door and had run through a window. Like a couple of commandos we waited for Tramp to enter the kennel. He did! I watched him enter and told Jim “NOW!” I watched the door slam shut. It worked for about 30 seconds. Tramp pushed his way right through the wire we thought we had secured to the top of the kennel. He was captive for about 30 seconds and never again did he enter that kennel.
I touched him once. Tramp is afraid of loud noises like thunder and gun shots. I feel really bad for him during electrical storms. You can see the big guy tremble with each explosion of thunder. He usually huddles by the back door during a storm and once or twice he has run into the house only to run right back out. One day I was in the backyard when a neighbor started shooting. After the third shot, Tramp just couldn’t stand it and ran to me for protection. He stood behind me for a moment, brushing my leg with his body he looked me straight in the eyes, looked away, looked at me again, and then he decided that I was more frightening than the gunfire. He bolted over the fence and found a new place to hide. I was thrilled that if for only a moment, he ran to me for protection.
I have learned through the years to admire his free spirit. Tramp refused to be molded into what humans believe a dog with value should be: obedient, complacent, and under our control at all times. Instead, he has been allowed to live his life under his own terms and we have been rewarded for it.
I enjoy watching him patrol our place. He considers it his job and he does it well. We live in the foothills where coyotes abound. Behind our house is a cattle ranch where the coyotes roam freely and Tramp keeps them at bay by his presence. He has a well-worn path around the house that he travels at least a dozen times a day. He is proud of the job he does as you can tell by the way her carries himself. I appreciate the feeling of security we have knowing Tramp is “on the job.” He has kept more than one stranger in their car as he stands and stares at them. They have no way of knowing how scared he is of them and he is rather imposing looking.
Recently, my husband and I were discussing the possibility of relocating to town. The commute is expensive and time consuming, but as we were exploring possibilities I abruptly stopped the conversation and said, “We can’t move. Who would take care of Tramp?” There is no way to move this dog and I can’t trust anyone else to look out for his best interests, so until he is gone we will stay and take care of him the way he has taken care of us all these years.
Video of Tramp:
Tramp really has a great life. He is free to do what he likes, he has a heated dog house that he uses in the winter and gets to sleep out under the stars in the summer. He has lots of friends to play with or he can decide for a little solitude and hop the fence for some down time. He has a job that makes him feel important and he has a family that loves him. He is fed and cared for without fail. As long as he lives he has a home with us and a special place in my heart.
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