Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Barking Bus

Barking bus crew. English shepherds inside may vary from those portrayed.
Barking Bus interior -- beats the hell out of United, Delta, US Airways for comfort and service from Billings to Anywhere.
Twenty-four dogs and three humans left Billings, Montana for points east at O' crack-sparrowfart Tuesday morning -- all aboard a delightfully disreputable half-gutted retired school bus.

The dogs were all bound for their adoptive or foster homes.

The humans were bound on a punch-drunk odyssey of rest-stop hand-offs, construction zones, odd smells and two-hour potty breaks. (Done the hard way -- one dog at a time.)

Friday night at 2:30 they got to my house, for a layover featuring a chicken dinner, laundry, hot showers, cold beer and clean sheets for the humans, entertaining walks in the pasture and some running time behind the new foster fence for the canine-Americans.

I met Rick, Jan, Nancy and the fourteen remaining canine passengers at the fire substation on Route 19 so I could pilot the Barking Bus* through the destruction zone that currently dominates the labyrinth lanes of the village -- not to mention our alternate access across the hayfield, courtesy of August's driveway washout.

Professor Chaos, grumbling, stayed up past his bedtime in order to feed this contingent of my White Hoodlum Friends.

Jan and Nancy are NESR personnel; I've known Jan, the founder of NESR, for over a decade, own one of her grandpuppies (though that is inadvertent, and a long story), and we've seen and met one another's dogs. Nancy and I worked together in Montana last month, where my training partner Douglas and I delighted in pushing her middle-school-teacher buttons; she owns a cousin of Moe's who is in love with Rosie's brother Audie.

The English shepherd world remains a small one, even if we are spread out over the continent.

Rick, the volunteer poobah of the soon-to-be vacant Operation New Beginnings Puppy Barn, got to meet some adult English shepherds who have never believed that people will most likely kill them in the morning. (Translation: Moe wouldn't get out of his lap.) And he got a happy reunion with former puppy-barn denizen Cole, my ONB foster #1, who rode shot-puke with me from Montana two weeks ago.

The second of those weeks has been spent preparing for two more fosters. I've made our pole barn dog-tight, installing two runs, a "living room," and an outdoor run for the special-needs dogs who will require plenty of R&R and training in order to become ready for forever homes. In other words, I ran to the hardware store every half hour for six days.

I ended up taking in Max, slave name Mack -- who is going to get an entirely new name soon -- and Dakota the half-Lab. More on them in later posts.

Here are the two dogs that Jan is fostering (the little one) or adopting (the big one):

Marty, the black and tan guy, was known as Fred at ONB, and his slave name is Barney. (Creepy, huh?) He was a "foundation" dog -- one that Linda Kapsa bought from a breeder who had not taken the precaution of a written puppy contract. He is a medium-sized ES male. He is my Rosie's uncle. He is a grandson of Jan's dog Toast. He is going home.

Keeper was a four or five month-old puppy at the seizure in December. He is done growing. He is one of hundreds of exhibits attesting to the importance of perinatal nutrition. No, it isn't inbreeding depression that stunted him. The pups born in custody -- the ones whose dams were fed during late pregnancy and nursing, and who were fed themselves as babies -- are normal-sized English shepherds.
Before breakfast we walked all the dogs while Rick broke down crates and freed up space for humans to stretch out. The dogs were all neutral towards my free-range chickens and nebby turkeys.

Nancy and Stan the Man, leaving kennel stress behind.
We settled my two new fosters into their transitional space, reloaded the dogs bound for points further east, fed the humans, and paid a visit to the world-famous Dale, fattest pullet in the laying flock.

Jan and Nancy can now attest that Dale remains robustly alive and grunting (she tries to cluck), if a bit behind of the rent (that's Dale's excuse for an egg that Jan is holding.)

At 11 in the morning I watched the Barking Bus drive up through my hayfield and away, conveying the rest of the hairy passengers to their new lives.

At last count, there were in the neighborhood of a dozen Operation New Beginnings dogs left to place into foster or adoptive homes -- about 95% are in homes or spoken for.

* Jan's coinage, and it delighted me in the same way the Whomping Willow does. It certainly felt very Hogwartsian, standing in the fog outside the fire house in the small hours to flag down this strange vehicle with its stranger contents.


  1. That black and tan really has a "retriever" look.

  2. Marty/Barney is Dandelion's cousin. I'm so glad he's going home.

    Three cheers for the Barking Bus, and all who support her!

  3. more pictures from The Adventures of the Barking Bus are at:

    jan (from somewhere just west of Chicago and running hard for Montana!)

  4. Could this be Marty? (dog on the left):

  5. I love those black/tan ESes. Heck, I just love black/tan anythings. Hooray for dogs on their way home!


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