If Only You Could Talk...
Sometimes when I look at my chocolate lab Gilly, I think, "Boy, the tales you could tell if you could talk."
For reasons only he could tell, three years ago this animated, ball-loving, adventurous dog was a stray living on the streets of a remote town in Alabama. Now he is a well-seasoned Adirondack dog who has fun in the winter, spring, summer, and fall.
After roaming the streets, Gilly was eventually corralled into a high-kill shelter, and was then thankfully rescued by two retirees named Lou and Randy, who have big hearts and have made a second career out of finding stray pets homes.
After searching for a dog like Gilly for a few weeks on Pet Finder, I was connected with Lou and Randy. We began our correspondence via e-mail and then progressed to phone interviews and updates, and before I knew it, I was set to officially adopt Gilly. In a couple of short weeks I would be able to pick him up when he and a variety of other dogs were transported north via a trailer attached to a Ford 350 pickup truck.
All Lou and Randy really knew about Gilly was that when they rescued him he weighed 30 pounds (for comparison, he weighs 75 pounds now) and his hair was falling out in clumps, but he had a heart of gold and a clear will to live. He had no signs of abuse, but he had definitely spent time on the streets doing what he could to survive, scrounging meals where he could, and sleeping here and there. After a few months of living with Lou and Randy, Gilly was rehabbed back to fighting weight and slowly but surely his fur was coming back to its shiny, silky, natural condition, and he was ready to make his way to his forever home.
On a Sunday morning in September, my mom and I made a trip to a Regal Cinema Parking lot in Fishkill, outside of Poughkeepsie, where Gilly was to arrive. Lou and Randy sent me a Google doc that was updated after each pick-up spot on the route was reached, so I hit refresh several times Saturday night and again on Sunday to make sure that we made it to the spot on time.
Since it was a Sunday morning, the parking lot was pretty barren, except for a few stray vehicles scattered throughout the large lot. However, when the white Ford pickup with the trailer in tow made its way around the corner and into the parking lot, several people emerged from their vehicles with huge smiles on their faces.
There were about ten of us and we all surrounded the truck and then formed a line. Once you reached the front of the line, the man on the trailer collected the required paperwork and then asked for the name of the animal you were there to pick-up. Ahead of me and my mom was a family of five, with three kids under the age of 10, who were all anxiously awaiting the chance to meet their first dog. The kids were thrilled, and it made me that much more excited to see Gilly come around the corner. Once I was up, I handed over the stack of signed papers, and the man went back into the belly of the trailer, only to return less than a minute later with Gilly by his side. It was such a neat moment to see his cute face take in all that was before him, and being a lab, the site of people was enough to put him over the moon.
After we got him settled, we made the long trek upstate, where Gilly made the transition from a Southern boy to a four-season Adirondack guy.
An Adirondack Dog
Transitioning to any new home is a challenge, but add in transitioning to a new climate, and it is a little trickier. Over the past three years, it has been a lot of fun seeing Gilly transition into a mountain climbing, lake and river swimming, and cross-country skiing dog. The first time that I brought him swimming was a real testament of the adjustments he'd have to make to his new home.
He loves to play fetch, so if you're willing to throw a stick, a ball, a Frisbee, or anything really, he'll chase after it and return it with a look of pure bliss. One of the first weekends after I brought him home, I took him for a hike into Sergeants Pond in Long Lake. It's a couple miles into the pond and it was a pretty warm day, so once we reached the pond I thought he'd jump right in the water, but instead he acted like he didn't know what to do. To try and encourage him to get in the water, I threw his ball a little way out, thinking that he'd go right after it. Instead of diving in after it, he clawed at the beach, he cried, he paced, and just about panicked because he desperately wanted the ball; but for whatever reason, he wanted nothing to do with the water. After about a minute of his uneasiness, he finally left his fear behind and charged into the water, and boy it wasn't pretty. His paws thrashed at the water and he had no rhythm whatsoever. Although he got no points for style, he got a whole lot of points for pure grit. He got that ball, and by grabbing on to it and bringing it back to shore, he crossed a major hurtle in his transition to becoming a seasoned Adirondack dog.
After that first swim, there's been a lot of rites of passage for Gilly, including:
- His first romp in the first snow of the season
- Driving around in a plow truck for hours
- Soaking in the heat of a woodstove after a long cross-country ski
- Roaming shorelines and playing endless games of fetch while camping
- Warming up by a campfire
- Taking boat rides and then swimming at beautiful beaches
- Getting whacked in the face by a baby porcupine
- Watching deer and turkeys from the window
- Hiking Adirondack High Peaks
- Wearing an orange vest in the late fall
- Running off-leash on countless trails in all seasons
Over the past year, it has been a blast seeing Gilly enjoy new experiences, seasons, and his overall new life. He has a special twinkle in his eye that makes it clear how grateful he is to have been given a second chance. He also conveniently flashes this twinkle after he's gotten into the garbage, but we're still working on breaking that habit!
Here are some shots of Gilly enjoying his new life in the beautiful Adirondacks.