Trillian: An Animal Rescue Adventure

Aug 30, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Animal Rescue Adventures

by Carola Dunn

Mystery writer Carola Dunn shares with us the story of her rescue dog Trillian.

The first time I saw Trillian, she was cowering in the quarantine section of the county shelter. She had been picked up running loose in the street, without collar let alone tags, emaciated, flea-ridden and scared of everyone and everything.


Trillian when first came home

My Willow had died eight months earlier. For a while I couldn’t bear the thought of another dog and then I reached the point when I couldn’t live without one. With mixed memories of Willow as a puppy, 13 years before, I decided I wanted an adult. I considered fostering. The shelter always needs foster parents, so I went to ask about their fostering program. And of course I went to look at the dogs. I passed cage after cage of barking dogs, none of which particularly drew my attention. Then I came to the rope marking the quarantine section. In the nearest cage sat quietly a forlorn, black, border-collie-ish dog. She hadn’t even been given a name, just a number.

The moment I started to talk to her, she fled through the hole to the outside run. I went on talking quietly. Inch by inch she returned, until she was sitting and listening to me. I went to ask the staff about her. I was told she had been there ten days, but they still hadn’t had her spayed or given her shots because she was so frightened. There was no question for the moment of her being fostered out, far less put up for adoption. Sadly I went home.

But the next day I went back. I asked if they could let me see her in the big outdoor “audition” run. They brought her there, pulling backwards against the leash all the way. She didn’t come near me, but I could see how horribly matted her long fur was, so I asked for a brush. I sat on the ground and talked, just quietly kept on talking. She wandered around the run, sniffing where other dogs had peed, but looking at me now and then. In the end she came and sat beside me. After a while, she let me pet her, and then she let me brush her.


Trillian now

I wanted her, but I knew I mustn’t decide without thinking calmly about it. I knew I wasn’t going to lose her to someone else, as she had to be spayed. All the same, I put a “hold” on her and said I’d return next day with a decision.

When I arrived, they told me she had been taken for spaying. I was pretty annoyed, as I’d wanted to see her again before making it final and the hold only lasted for a single day. In the circumstances they extended the hold. So back I went the following day. By then they had named her–Brilliance. On the way over, I had come up with my own name for her–Trillian (after the only wholly sane, competent, and intelligent character in the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy). She hadn’t had time to get used to Brilliance, of course, but I was glad my choice sounded similar. I paid the fees, signed on the dotted line and took her home.

Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. Though she came out of the building with me willingly, when I opened the car door, she freaked out. No way could I get her in and with a two-door car it isn’t easy to lift a middle-sized dog into the back seat!

We trailed back inside. The shelter boss, a large man, came out with us. Even with me pulling on one side of the car and him pushing on the other, it was quite a struggle to get Trillian inside. She sat on the back seat shaking all over. dog

It took a month to persuade her that the car wasn’t such a terrifying object. With a combination of treats and pushing I could get her in, but she didn’t climb in willing until I borrowed a neighbor’s dog, by then her new friend and he bounded in, thrilled to be going somewhere, anywhere. She followed him. Problem solved!

A full professional grooming, flea treatment and good food completed the transformation. My skinny, scared waif is now a glossy, confident dog who gets on with most other dogs (there are exceptions), likes children, and even, five years later, tolerates men she doesn’t know. She walks me each day, with excellent leash manners and guards me every night. She doesn’t eat until I say “okay,” and she stops walking when I say “wait.”

Now if I can just persuade her to come when I call…

As for brilliance, it took her two days to figure out how to open my new gate. I got a call from the neighbor whose dog taught her not to fear the car: “Do you know where Trillian is? In my living room!”

You can find more animal rescue, therapy animal, and other pet related articles in our pet section.

Carola Dunn was born and grew up in England. Though now living in Oregon, she writes historical fiction set mostly in the UK, including 21 Daisy Dalrymple mysteries (1920s), 3 Cornish mysteries, and 32 Regencies. She likes to read, garden, listen to classical music, and especially to walk Trillian by the beautiful Willamette River. You can learn more about her and her books on her website.


  1. Well, that put a lump in my throat! So nice to read the history and happy up-to-now. 🙂

  2. Dunn has done it again. She’s tops with me.

  3. Bless you for working with a scared dog. I have shelter dogs that are border collie crosses – they are so darned smart and such good dogs.

  4. I have two rescued Boxers. Years ago, when they first came home with me, they could not lay down anywhere except next to a wall, and the sound of opening a plastic bag for the trash can made them both run and hide. There were many other issues, but eventually they became the spoiled, obnoxious, wonderful girls they are today. I am blessed to have them, and Trillian is blessed to have you. Thank you for allowing us to meet both of you.

  5. Coming from ‘across the pond’, I never cease to be amazed at how alike people are, wherever they are from. I think it reflects badly on our society that there is so much cruelty to those animals whose ancestors we persuaded to become so much a part of human life that we have them live in our homes, – equally it is a delight to find another parallel in our lives, the need to rescue and bring security and a loving home to the lost. I am so glad Carola and Trillion found each other and I hope their relationship is a long and happy one. Our last dog, Zehna, passed away at the age of 15 and we were in no rush to find another – then 12 years ago I contracted a nasty form of bacterial arthritis and my dog walking days were over. However, in the UK we have a charity called ‘The Dog’s Trust’ which rescues dogs and where possible rehomes them, but they also provide a loving, safe home for those that cannot, for various reasons, be rehomed – their pledge is that they will never ‘put to sleep’ any dog except to give a dignified end when incurable illness and pain would otherwise accompany their final days. And through them we now have three dogs, one each – self, husband & daughter, through their adoption scheme which provides for those needing the permanent residential care they provide. Thank you Carola, for sending me the link and for the life and love you have given Trillian – but would I expect anything less from the person who has given us the delightful Daisy!

  6. What a wonderful job at socializing your Trillian girl!! She is one lucky pup, especially so since she has a black coat, and you still chose her! Many people “overlook” black dogs in shelters.. I personally love them, and have two black pups myself 🙂

  7. We are lucky in Eugene to have a Humane Society shelter and a county pound (run by the Humane Society under contract) that both do their utmost to find homes and avoid having to put dogs down. The county shelter fosters out dogs that are not ready for adoption so that they learn and are ready for a forever home.


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