In January 2001 I started looking for a female Jack Russell puppy. Back then Jack Russell terriers weren’t registered with the Kennel Club and therefore couldn’t be sold as pedigree dogs. Instead, they were bred in rural communities to kill mice and rats – and unlike pedigree dogs, who are bred from a small gene pool, retain their character, instincts and hunting skills. They are also good at foraging for food just as their ancient wolf ancestors would have done thousands of years ago. And as the breed hadn’t been standardised the dogs came in all different shapes and sizes. Once I’d decided what I wanted it was just a matter of finding her.
Being January there weren’t a lot of puppies for sale on Salt Spring Island – and frustratingly, no Jack Russells. I was told to wait until spring, but even though it was January I had this strong feeling she would be coming into my life soon; that she was out there, somewhere, manifesting in the ether. I just needed to find her. One Saturday morning in May I planned to go into town and watch the annual Salt Spring Sea Festival. It began with a parade lead by a group of Jack Russells and their owners followed by a lot of organised activities that lasted all day. My plan was get there early enough to talk to some of the Jack Russell owners and ask about puppies, but I slept in that day and by the time I drove into town the parade was over and people were migrating into the local cafes, shops, restaurants, and nearby park where local bands were playing. I grabbed a cup of take-away coffee and walked over to the park. It was such a beautiful sunny day and the atmosphere was laid back and friendly. Lisa, a friend of mine called me over and we chatted for a while before she asked me if I’d seen that man pushing a litter of Jack Russell puppies in a wheelbarrow? She said they were leading the parade. Trying not to choke on my coffee I asked her if she knew who it was, and she said she thought it was John, the lawyer.
It turned out she was talking about John Davies, someone I knew quite well from the Texada logging days, when we were fighting to save 6000 hectares of land from the chainsaws. Lisa and I did a quick walk around town looking for John and his wheelbarrow, but couldn’t find him. At that point I decided to go home and call him.
I probably drove home faster than I should have and worried John had already all sold all the puppies, including Lily – the name I had chosen for her.
As soon as I got through the front door I ran to the phone and called John’s number and he answered right away. It was so good to hear his voice. I asked him about the puppies and he told me they were all still for sale. With a sigh of relief I then asked him if he had any females and he said “Just one”. I felt a strange tingling sensation.
We agreed that I would go to his house the following morning. I walked into his house and found a litter of tiny pups sleeping on a big, soft blanket- all except one. This lone, independent puppy was standing up – nose to the ground, tail up in the air, sniffing around very intently. If he or she wanted to get my attention, it worked. I walked over to see if it was girl or a boy and then I picked her up and said “I’m so glad I’ve finally found you!”
I noticed how comfortable she felt in my arms – as if she had always been there. I expected to take her home with me, as she was eight weeks old, but John explained that his family were ‘hand rearing them’ (socializing them) and wanted to wait until they were three months old and properly weaned. My heart sunk at the thought of leaving her behind.
Two weeks later I called John and he agreed to let me come and collect her.
I carried Lily outside and placed her in the dog bed at the rear of my car and then drove away. She didn’t whine or scratch to get out – she didn’t look worried at all – she seemed perfectly happy to be with me.
When we reached the edge of town I realised I needed to pick up some groceries and pulled into the supermarket car park.
I knew Lily wouldn’t be allowed inside and I didn’t want to leave her in the car alone so I decided to take her in with me. I sat her in the front of the trolley and put a small white towel over her head. She didn’t move – she just sat there and played along with me. I couldn’t help smiling at this little ‘ham’ as I pushed her through the sliding doors and around the aisles. We were perfect ‘partners in crime’.
On the drive back home I realised that without Lisa I might never have found Lily. But then I remembered what my friend Doreen used to say to me : “What’s for you, won’t go by you” and she was right.